I’ve always liked the analogy of lost love for the Sonics leaving the city of Seattle. It’s how I really view the situation as basketball was my first love and the Sonics, my city’s first NBA team. Just like actual love, its hard to describe the relationship unless you were part of it. Seattle loved the Sonics and had a pretty successful relationship for most of the 41 years they were together.
Since the team left Seattle, time and again we hear Seattle fans described as "being jilted" or "left at the altar", but really its best to describe it as it was, a divorce. Every time I see the Thunder succeeding it feels like watching my ex happily moving on with a new partner. Most of the time I'm able to ignore it, but during the playoffs it's more in my face than other times during the year.
I guess everyone handles a breakup differently. Some move on, some stay angry, hold grudges and vent on social media, some can’t let go and some are just happy for the other party as they continue life without them. For me, it’s always tough this time of year because I have to be reminded that they’re gone and happy somewhere else, with another city, conveniently forgetting that we’re still here and that we haven’t forgotten them.
The process has taken time and I, like many Sonics fans, have gone through the stages of grief for our lost love. Initially, I was in denial that they’d leave. Then, I was angry that they really wanted to leave. I tried to negotiate with them to stay and when it didn’t work, I got depressed. I’m not sure I’ve gotten to the stage of acceptance, but I know that I’m not depressed about it anymore. A lot of this has to do with Chris Hansen’s investment team and the way that they have handled the potential new arena. If anything, throughout the Arena Rally, the flirtation with the Kings, the political process and even the potential street vacation, they have been nothing if not optimistic that they can bring another team to Seattle and call them the Sonics. Pardon the pun, but they tried to demonstrate that we can have the phoenix (not the city) story and see the Sonics Rising. I think everyone will accept, maybe not forget but accept, what has happened and move on, once we have a team again.
Chris Hansen and his investment team have given the City of Seattle and fans like me hope. It has sometimes been a dangerous thing, but it’s better than depression and anger. Can you remember what it was like before the Sonics Rally in Occidental Park? There didn't seem like there was a path for the NBA to return to Seattle at all until Chris Hansen made his proposal and included the whole city in his plans.
Sports teams give people hope, however misguided. Everyone is in first place on opening day. I think basketball fans like me just want to have that hope again every October or November when the weather starts to get dreary. The politicians have to do what they think is best for the city, but they feel it, too. We want our Sonics back, but only if it’s good for us. We’ve been hurt and want to do whatever we can to not feel that heartbreak again even if it may mean never getting into another relationship.
Now you may criticize fans like me for being overly concerned about a business run by billionaires, played by millionaires, and funded (partly depending on the situation) by taxpayers. For caring so much about a sports team. I understand that it's just sports but I would argue that sports teams court that in their cities and play on the nostalgia of our childhoods to encourage fan and brand loyalty. My point is that it’s not a one-way street. We’re supposed to be part of "the team". They ask us to: be their 12th Man, True to the Blue, Give Them Our Full 90 and say Not In Our House. And when they win we have parades with political officials, as well as members of the organization. It really is a public-private partnership. Maybe the public and fans are really the suckers for believing it. I know I’ve felt like a sucker for love many times throughout this situation the last ten years, but sports are an emotional business with the potential to bring a region together in a way that I've rarely seen outside of sports.
These thoughts have been coming up because it's been a long 8 years since the Sonics left and I have an opportunity to see them again. Just like most breakups I’ve seen them around a few times over the years in Portland or LA. Once I was afforded the opportunity to see them in Oklahoma City a few years ago and couldn’t bring myself to go. It was still too soon. I couldn’t watch them be so happy with someone else at the place they’ve built without me. Now, through fate, I happen to be on a business trip in the city where they are traveling at the same time. I happen to have the same night free that they happen to be playing about 20 minutes away from where I’m staying and I'm tempted to pick up the phone and ask to meet up. I’m not sure if I should go. Maybe I should just watch from afar as they continue to be happy and live their life somewhere else. Maybe I should just move on and accept that they’re different. I’m not sure I can ever be happy for them, at least not until I have my replacement. Only then, will I finally move on. Then I can look forward to creating new memories with my new love. It’ll take some time, but I’m sure I’ll be happy even if the time apart hurt. The old cliche seems applicable. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. However, presence makes the heart happy.
Should I accept the signs and agree to meet in a new city? . . . Am I taking this too seriously? . . . Will they even recognize me? . . . What does it all mean?