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A Family Divided?

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The rhetoric has gotten out of hand.

Most readers of this site probably do not know Craig Kinzer’s name, but they should.

Kinzer, a former Sonics owner, is one of the region’s premier experts on complicated real estate projects. Among other things he specializes in complex municipal projects including stadium and arena development.

Craig is extremely influential, and was recently described by the Puget Sound Business Journal as “Seattle’s super broker, and top real estate rainmaker” The article goes on to say “He is also a real estate and tax attorney, CPA, and business and real estate consultant to corporate clients. Among his biggest projects are the F5 Tower, Starbucks headquarters, Safeco Field, Russell Tower and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters.

More important to me, and perhaps other readers of this site is the fact that five years ago Craig very graciously lent his name to our ArenaSolution Advisory Committee, supporting Chris Hansen’s Sodo arena project in their successful MOU campaign. In addition to being one of the higher profile names on our list he was also active, hosting a critical high level meeting and contributing his time and influence to a project that he was not personally involved with simply because he cared so much about bringing the Sonics back.

Given his strong support for the Sodo funding package many people were surprised recently when Kinzer, who also served as a member of the Stadium Public Facilities District, went on record with his opposition to the lease extension recently proposed by the Mariners.

Kinzer supports both the concept of public private partnerships, telling the Seattle Times Danny Westneat “I don’t have a problem with public money going into that stadium — in fact I’m a huge proponent of it,” He goes on to add “The Mariners have great owner leadership, This isn’t a Mariners bashing. But this is a contract for 25 years. It needs to better protect the public.

However Kinzer, who voted against the lease extension reportedly told the PDF “I’ve never seen such a poorly managed negotiation of a deal of this size in my 35-year career,

In response to these comments Westneat asks:

As for his many friends in politics and the pro sports business community, Do they now see you as a traitor?

Whoa....Hold on now...

TRAITOR?

Did our region’s largest paper really just publish an article introducing that very charged and divisive word?

One of the most obvious tricks in journalism is to pose something in the form of a question as a way of suggesting that there is validity to the idea. For example if I wrote “As for Sonics fans, should we assume that the Mariners still have a lot of influence over the Seattle Times editorial process? everybody would know that it wasn’t really a question right? Just reverse the order of “should” and “we” and you’ll get my real meaning.

While these types of accusations have existed in the message boards and on social media for a while it is disturbing to see language of this type inserted into the mainstream discussion by a respected journalist and our regions largest newspaper.

This has gone too far.

We need to find a way to reign it in.

Lets start by acknowledging that the community of fans is a diverse family. We have no control over the people that wind up in that circle and have to accept, or at least tolerate, individuals with values, opinions and actions that often do not align with our own. The fact that we do not always agree with each other does not make anyone traitorous, mean they have bad intentions or even that we dislike each other. Disagreement does not make people the enemy.

Like any family we usually keep these disputes out of sight and between the individuals. We avoid having them erupt into broader conflict or disrupt celebratory events because, after all, nobody wins when a loud argument breaks out at the Thanksgiving dinner table. In this case however we fans have been involved in a loud and disruptive dinner table argument for so long that yelling at each other and making accusations seems to have become the norm. Somehow we’ve gotten to the point where use of the word “traitor” doesn’t really stand out the way it should.

I had a very positive talk over beers with Sonics fan Josh Shea recently and he suggested that because we’ve been at this fight so long many of us have developed the habit of spending too much time explaining the context of our position, airing past grievances, real or imagined even when that context serves no purpose. We discussed the fact that we both ultimately just want the Sonics back and that anyone working to that end should be supported.

This situation reminds me of some advice a mentor offered shortly before I got married. “Holding a family together is often about acceptance, not agreement.” He said. “If you insist on winning all the arguments you may wind up losing the marriage.

That is sound advice for the family of sports fans. There is no victory when fighting among ourselves and we need to find a way to call a truce, end the accusations and get back to talking about box scores. We would be well served if everybody (including myself and our local newspaper) stopped participating in divisive rhetoric to boost readership, drive commentary or demand agreement.

I’m going to take Josh’s advice that perhaps everybody would get along better if we all set that history aside and keep things simple, supporting options cleanly, without so much posturing or extra explanatory language added on to the back end of every statement. Instead I will do my best to resist the urge to fight and win in favor of stating my positions and being comfortable allowing others to disagree. I hope that he and others will join me in that effort.

So here’s where I stand:

  • Craig Kinzer is a fan and champion of the sports community.
  • I do not support the use of attack language in these debates.
  • Everybody involved wants the Sonics to come back.
  • I support the Mariners organization and hope they are successful both on the field and in negotiating a reasonable lease extension.
  • I support OVG and want them to get their building under construction on schedule.
  • I support Chris Hansen and want his street vacation to be approved.
  • I support NHL Seattle and want them to have the most successful expansion franchise in the history of Sports.

It’s as simple as that. If you ask me about those subjects in the future expect brief answers.