The mentality of a sports fan is always a mixed bag.
On one hand it is glorious how fans can embrace hope and sustain belief despite what precedent and facts may tell them. The unwavering belief that things can be pulled out in the end materializes in pretty amazing ways, like when fans in Sacramento really believed that they would be able to save their team despite terribly long initial odds. On the other hand it also creates glaring embarrassments, like Sonics fans continuing to believe that Vin Baker would resurrect his career year after year despite all the historical precedent we could ever need to know that he was not going to recover.
I used to believe that this mentality was limited to the fans but now realize that an overabundance of wishful thinking is not limited to just the fans, but rather it is ingrained in the industry. The coaching staff of the Milwaukee Bucks approaches every game as if they have the chance to turn it around. On draft day every team believes, all the way up to ownership that they are beginning the process of turning their team around.
As a cheerleader for the Sonics movement I'm always concerned by how easily wishful thinking can completely overwhelm common sense, I worry that I, and the people I talk to, will be so blinded by wanting something to happen that we will lose track of the obvious, misread a situation and lose all credibility by misrepresenting something to people who rely on us for information.
As Steve Ballmer meets with, and by all reports is aggressively pursuing ownership of the Clippers I do not know what to make of reports and rumors circulating around the situation. Ballmer is an intensely private individual and I think any reports of his actual wants and intentions need to be taken with a grain of salt. I certainly do not know what he is intending and have come to know that those who claim insight into his intentions are often just speculating or projecting their own interpretation of events onto his actions.
I can say that more than one member of the ownership group as well as sources close to Ballmer have provided assures that the group's commitment to the Seattle project would not end if Ballmer were to be successful in his pursuit of the Clippers organization. He, as an NBA owner would continue to push hard for a Seattle franchise and the ownership group would press on without him.
For a couple of weeks now there have been rumors locally and among national sources that Ballmer was working with the league to help resolve the Sterling situation without the embarrassment of litigation or the spectacle of a drawn out public bidding process. If you were to believe these rumors there would be an assumption that by resolving matters quickly a favor was being done for the league which would ultimately be repaid by resolution of the Seattle situation. In this scenario Ballmer would essentially buy time for the NBA to transition the Clippers to new local ownership group, voluntarily "trading" his ownership of the Clippers for a Seattle franchise at some point before the expiration of our MOU.
If this is not the case it is hard to interpret the loss of Steve Ballmer as anything other than a big blow to the Hansen ownership group. His personal net worth and commitment to the cause over the span of nearly a decade would be difficult to duplicate but, as we saw recently with Victor Coleman's NHL ownership group emerging, a year ago with Vivek Ranadive in Sacramento and just last month in Milwaukee there is no shortage of rich guys we have never heard of wanting to own professional sports teams. Chris Hansen knows a lot of those guys well.
I want to present these rumors without glossing over my concerns that they represent the wishful thinking of those involved as much as they do any reality;
Are people just hoping beyond hope that Steve Ballmer would not walk away from Seattle?
Are these rumors originating from people who are close to the action but deluding themselves about the reality of the situation?
Isn't it just as likely that he really is interested in skipping the hassle of securing a team via expansion or relocation and then having to build that franchise from the ground up?
If there is any opportunity for him to do so it would have to be this one, the up and coming team in the sexiest market out there, chock full of great and exciting talent. It would be hard to resist.
What do you think of these rumors? Wishful thinking or real hope for the fans of Seattle?