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Saving the Sonics: A Fork in the Road

If I had to offer a couple of pieces of general life advice to people it would be this:

First, listen to others. Second, listen to yourself.

In the case of Save Our Sonics I find myself needing the advice of the SonicsCentral faithful as I attempt to do both.

Early on after the formation of SOS we determined that one of our biggest obstacles would be the dead period between the announcement of the sale and the beginning of the arena battle. This period, devoid of basketball for the first three months and without a lightning rod issue to support or oppose until the unveiling of a new arena proposal left us with an uphill battle to build upon the rush of support we received when the sale was announced in July. Knowing that it would be a real uphill battle we determined that we would first establish ourselves at the few remaining Storm games and would then fight tooth and nail to remain visible during the dead period.

Being aggressive during this period we determined would allow us to accomplish a few goals. First of all we would remain relevant for the 4000 people who had signed up within 30 days of the franchise sale. Surely these people deserved some type of action.

Additionally this period would allow us to demand early attention from important parties such as the Sonics and KJR Sports radio. Obviously both of these organizations cared a great deal about the team’s future. Both offered support immediately but remained extremely cautious about actually committing resources. The big concern on our end was the expectation that SOS founders and members would suddenly be called upon to be a significant part of a major undertaking and that we would fail because we were unprepared and unwilling to put in the enormous hours that likely will be required. Any opportunity to put these hours in early and spread out the commitment is very important to us.

Lastly we knew the message and methods needed refinement. You cannot just step onto the scene and be organized and efficient. Anybody who has worked with us will tell you that our events are sloppy and disorganized. We have actually disappointed many of the volunteers and needed to take the steps to improve our product.

During this entire process a steady message has been delivered to us from people whose opinion I trust. That message is that we must manage our short term expectations and use our energy at the appropriate time, not wasting it right now. From our perspective we acknowledged that perspective but felt that with so many natural forces putting the brakes on this effort at least one organization needed to push the other direction or risk having the whole thing fade away.

Now I find myself thinking that we have accomplished a couple of our initial goals. The message is refined, we stayed alive until Sonics season, and we have established solid relationships with most of the major players on the scene. At this point it would be very appropriate to step back, listen to the advice of others, and perhaps put things on hold to some degree.

Expectations are that Clayton Bennett will release his Arena proposal sometime in Mid-November. That date may signify a major turning point in this issue that requires our attention. Equally likely Bennett will have addressed many of the political issues related to the arena and our presence will not be needed until next October and November as the region prepares for a public vote on the issue. As a tired and battered volunteer I know that I do not have the energy to fight this uphill battle until that time and am ready to concede that a behind the scenes effort is what we can provide right now, not worrying about public visibility as much as our own internal operations.

In addition to listening to others I council that people should listen to themselves. Over the last two months I have been guilty of not doing so. Each and every time I go onto sports radio or make a sales pitch for SOS I stress that the most important thing we can do is really enjoy basketball. Talk about the team and be involved in the wonderful cultural benefits of the sport. Yet over the last month I have found that basketball and the Sonics have become a burden to me. I approached the first home preseason game last night as if it were a chore that I was forced to deal with rather than a great opportunity to help the team and enjoy hoops.

I am going to recommend to my fellow SOS leaders that we scale back our public operations until such a time that they are more relevant. We can use that time to enjoy the season, begin political lobbying, work with local sports bars and establishments, and build friendly relationships with KJR and the Sonics rather than pushing them and being demanding. In some sense I view this as giving up just prior to the season, but in anther I feel that we have made it through the dead time and I have to set aside my own ego and past decisions to listen to the people around me.

Any thoughts or advice are appreciated.