NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 05: Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett (L) and Miami Heat owner Micky Arison (R) arrive for NBA labor negotiations at Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers on November 5, 2011 in New York City. Players have been seeking 52.5 percent of revenues in their favor but owners want a deal at 53-47 along with a hard sallary cap. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
The Sonics were stolen. It was a huge bummer. But every time jilted Seattle fans wedge themselves in the Thunder's narrative, those of us without a hometown NBA team get just a little less sympathetic.
It's been four years since Seattle Sonics fans got jobbed. And they were jobbed, unquestionably: a firm led by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett bought the team. They were allowed to buy the team because they made a pledge to keep the team in Seattle if at all feasible, but thanks in part to emails leaked after the fact, we know that the claim was, in fact, bullshit, and that they intended to move the franchise to Oklahoma City all along.
The Sonics are now the Thunder, and they are a young, superbly talented team that figures to contend for championships for the rest of this decade. And every time they take another step toward greatness -- most recently, a playoff series win that put them in the NBA Finals -- there are Seattle fans determined to wedge themselves into the narrative. Not all Seattle fans, but some.
If you're one of these fans, I would suggest that you're suffering not from Clay Bennett, or the Thunder's success, or the often-cruel realities of sports business, but from your own sense of entitlement.
For a long time, you lived the dream. On some dreary Tuesday afternoon in February, your friend would pass your desk at work and say, "hey, I've got some tickets for the game tonight. You wanna go?" Maybe your team would be 28-10, or maybe it would be 12-26. Regardless, three hours later you'd be watching your team, live, in the flesh.
Now you belong to the approximate 60-percent majority of Americans who do not have an NBA team in their market. I realize that this statistic doesn't tell the whole story -- many NBA fans are NBA fans because there's a team nearby, and as a consequence there isn't a legion of Cincinnati residents despairing over the lack of an NBA franchise -- but I hope it at least offers a little perspective.
I've lived the majority of my life in 60-percent land. Hell, I've lived the majority of my life in towns that don't have any major pro sports teams, period. I live there now. Welcome! Now please, either get with the program or find another.
I've been a fanatical Kansas City Chiefs fan since I was seven. When I was nine, my family moved out of town, and I was devastated. It's been kind of rough ever since. Around here they're on TV maybe twice a year, three times if they make the playoffs. I've spent far more games cheering at the ticker on the bottom of the screen as the Colts game plays on the rest of it.
And that's how it works. If you're involuntarily separated from your team, that's just the way it goes. Over at Grantland a month ago, Brian Phillips wrote an excellent appeal to jilted Seattle basketball fans:
Complaining about Clay Bennett may be like complaining about the weather — and no one knows better than you how futile that is, Seattleite — but there's got to be some tiny kernel of identification in realizing that we're all basically powerless to affect the forecast. That is, as long as we're choosing to participate in this bullshit economy of sales-tax stadiums and leagues that work for owners and not fans, we're all riding exactly the same roulette wheel.
I'm not special, and you're not special.
There is, to be fair, one pretty major difference between your plight and mine: the ownership. Your team was hijacked by people who lied to you and stole it (it wasn't, of course, stolen, but I won't blame you for feeling that way). There is no way I could ask you to root for Thunder: The Business Property. But do we ever root for [Team]: The Business Property anyway? I'm a Braves fan; should I give a shit about the media conglomerate that owns them? How many Clippers fans choose to disregard the ownership of Donald Sterling for long enough to enjoy a basketball game?
Now, if you aren't interested in trying to separate the guys with sleeves from the guys without sleeves, the only thing I really have left to say is that you should at least consider the possibility. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka never did you wrong. They're immensely talented and really fun to watch. Stop punishing yourself -- again, at this point I'd argue that the only one punishing you is you -- and let yourself enjoy it.
I can sort of already hear the "you don't get it"s already. That's the thing, though. I do get it. The vast majority of my experience of being a sports fan has been one long shitty exercise in getting it. I'll watch two minutes of cut-in to the final minutes of the Chiefs games -- two precious, priceless minutes of television to me -- and I'll see the crowd and wish I was there. Or wish it was here. Or some kind of solution that would allow me to experience it how I'm "supposed" to.
Now, you and I can only watch from far away. I would say, "you get used to it," but it's been a few years and you're still carryin' on like your dog ran away. Maybe you'll get used to it at some point? It's up to you, I guess.