Independance Day in the U.S. celebrates our declaration of freedom from the British Crown and their system of tyranny that viewed American colonialist as second rate citizens. Yesterday, the city of Seattle declared its independence from the NBA, albeit with a whimper. The Sonics were the oldest professional franchise in Seattle, iconic, beloved and had one of the loudest and imposing crowds in sports. There was even this famous and inspiring post made entirely of sports fans hoping to save the team. None of this matters though because apparently sports is about one thing…money.
I am disgusted and completely disillusioned by how this can happen. I understand sports leagues and teams are a business, but should they be able to abandon a community like any other company if they can get a better deal elsewhere? Their very success economically depends on the community embracing the team and taking a personal stake of implied ownership. Its “my team” and “we” won that game and I really like “our” chances next year. Part of fans love for sports is the unique culture of each team, such as the developed rivalries over time. Would the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry exist anymore if the Red Sox departed for South Carolina. I strongly doubt it. Sure the league would try to manufacture it, but it would be fake and would loose the meaning it previously possessed.
We are on a very slippery and dangerous slope with sports in America. Not to long ago a similarly beloved and important franchise in the NFL quit on its city. I speak of course about the Cleveland Browns. Sure Cleveland got its team back and retained its its name and logos, but the fans were betrayed and they also lost out on a Super Bowl winner when the Ravens (former Browns) won in the 2000 season.
Who is at fault. In my mind this is easy, a majority of the blame belongs exclusively to David Stern. His job is to ensure the growth and success of the NBA. First from a pure economic stance, how can switching from the 14th TV market to the 45th a positive? To push for this and suggest that Seattle may not deserve to have a franchise is dumbfounding. Additionally, a commissioner should fight to keep teams in their respective cities as justification for fans league wide that their support is appreciated as well as for the integrity of the league’s historical records and statistics, which has significant importance to the sports fan. Seattle may get another team within five years, but at what cost? It will not be an expansion team, meaning some other city will loose its team. Perhaps the Knicks should move…fan support has waned in the past few years and the last renovation to the Garden was in 1991 making Key Arena look practically brand new(assuming you did not already view it as such). Of course that will never happen (probably), but I hope the point is clear all the same. I need to go take a shower.