Inevitability has never felt this jarring. For months, this day loomed on the calendar, the result loomed as a certainty, and sadness loomed...
Still, when Friday’s verdict arrived, when the NBA Board of Governors approved the Oklahoma Raiders’ request to move the Sonics, it felt shocking.
A jab that we could see coming for nearly two years seemed more like a roundhouse to the back of the head.
And it hurts, hurts more thoroughly than anticipated.
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The Raiders aren’t halfway out of the door with our team. They’re halfway out of the time zone. Now that the NBA has made this foolish and shortsighted decision, the major lingering question is how long Seattle wants to delay its misery.
Actually, even the present is miserable. The city is suing to keep the Raiders in their KeyArena lease for two more years, but if it wins, it means two excruciating lame-duck seasons, with only scant hope that the bought time will lead to a miracle rescue.
Our next-best hope: Another lawsuit, this one by former owner Howard Schultz, who wants the team back because he claims the Raiders conned him.
Maybe I should sue Clay Bennett because he glared at me once.
At the end, all we have left is nuisance litigation.
It should remind us why we’re approaching this bitter conclusion. From the beginning of this threat, most of our elected leaders, especially in the State Legislature, have put up a lame effort to defend the city’s professional basketball legacy. And so it’s only fitting that we’re throwing up wild, desperate heaves in the final seconds.
Our leaders made it easy for the Raiders to quit pretending like they wanted to keep the team here. State lawmakers squashed the late-save attempt by Steve Ballmer’s group, claiming the move was tardy, when the group had been talking to several state officials for quite some time. When unity was required, our leaders remained disjointed. When thoughtful discourse was appropriate, they carried on with a mindless disregard for a solution.
Because the Raiders are the most dangerous characters in this process, the focus always stays on them. It has taken heat off the failings of our own leadership. But on Friday, while listening to the ramblings of NBA commissioner David Stern and the lies of Bennett, it no longer seemed like evil was prevailing over good.
It was the organized beating the disorganized.
Many of us believe Stern and the Raiders conspired to steal the Sonics. Well, if it was a conspiracy, they had an excellent plan and executed it without fail. On the other side, we fought with nothing but fan hope and political posturing.
So it’s no surprise who won this battle.
Many thanks to Paul Allen for voting no to the move and standing up for his city, but the owners passed the relocation request by a 28-2 margin.
While we were forced to listen to City Councilmember Nick Licata say the Sonics had no cultural value, the Raiders struck.
While we were forced to watch House Speaker Frank Chopp stomp on every proposal, the Raiders persisted.
While we were forced to watch Gov. Christine Gregoire stop trying far too early, the Raiders loaded up everything but Squatch in their U-Hauls.
They’re on the road now. They’re rolling. They’re nearly unstoppable.
Until that first game in Oklahoma City, we must hold out hope for a miracle. Even if it’s foolish, what’s the harm? In between the sulking, we must have some activity to keep us occupied.
But, really, we have already lost the fight. We need Rocky Balboa to help us come back from this one.
It’s sad that, to be such a sophisticated city, Seattle always requires last-second saves for its sports franchises. The miracle of 1995 saved the Mariners. The miracle of Paul Allen’s bank account saved the Seahawks. But how many miracles can one town have?
At some point, a city — and a state — has to truly commit to the responsibilities of housing pro sports. It is a costly endeavor, but it is worthwhile. It brands a city. These new arenas or stadiums can spur a local economy, if planned correctly.
But losing a team hurts both the perception and entertainment value of a city. The most painful comment Friday came after a reporter asked Stern what it says to other NBA cities that Seattle is about to lose its team.
“Well, I guess since most of our cities, the great majority, have state-of-the-art facilities that enable their teams to compete in our league, I think it says congratulations to them,” Stern said smugly.
In other words: Ha-ha, Seattle, you just lost your mojo to Oklahoma City.
Instead of a miracle, we watched Bennett strip the Sonics down to two rookies, throw a Francisco Elson on the floor and bide time for one of the most well-orchestrated heists in sports history. Meanwhile, our leaders tried to stop him by shooting pebbles out of slingshots.
Unfortunately, we must give Bennett credit for one thing. He picked the right city to rob.