I attended last week's rally for a new Sonics arena thinking I would blog about how much ready-to-love-again fans are excited at the prospect of their NBA team returning.
At least that was the plan until I had drinks and a conversation afterward.
Media reports estimate between 4,000 and 6,000 green-and-gold-clad fans converged on Seattle's Occidental Park last Thursday. They chanted "Soo-per Sonics," held "Bring 'Em Back" signs and went berzerk when local icons such as Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf took stage.
Of course, the loudest ovation was for Chris Hansen, the Seattle native who's leading the charge - both financially and in spirit - to bring back the Supes.
(Click on the media gallery to view some pics I took from the crowd. They're not the greatest, but hey, you can't do much when shoulder-to-shoulder with people)
The rally was great and all, but I want to blog about something I heard after the rally, when Mrs. Patch Editor and I met up with some friends for a drink. Understandably, I was still full of Supersonics pep. Maybe that's why I was almost floored when one of our guests stated the following quite emphatically:
"I just don't think Seattle is a basketball town."
What? I'm sorry? Did I hear you correctly?
Our guest repeated himself, saying that growing up on the other side of the state, he never got the sense that Seattle or the Northwest were ever excited about basketball.
But the Sonics? Nothing.
My response, again: What?!? Are you serious? Did you forget that the Sonics won the region's only title in professional basketball (not counting the women's team), football or baseball?
That was back in 1979, our guest argues. Resisting the urge to slap my forehead and yell an obscenity, I explain that just because the team didn't win a title after its championship run doesn't mean it lacked support.
Every year, I and countless other fans watched almost every game. In the 80's, the X-man and Dale Ellis helped get us through the dreary Northwest winters. In the 90's, it was Payton and Kemp. Before a certain owner hijacked the team for dustier pastures, it was Ray and Rashard.
I can't tell you how many seasons that the Seahawks were out of playoff contention by November or October. M's-watching season didn't used to start until the Sonics were eliminated (and in many seasons ended shortly thereafter).
For most of the year, the Sonics owned this town, this region.
Call me fairweather on football and baseball if you want, but basketball had my heart. We couldn't afford tickets and a trip to the arena when I was kid growing up across the water, so I watched Sonics games loyally on television. When I finally saved up enough money to go in person, it was insane.
Key Arena was full. When Seattle had to renovate it, fans in the South Sound supported the team in the Tacoma Dome.
Not a basketball town? The sea of supporters who honked their horns and waved foam fingers outside Key Arena after Seattle's 108-75 dismantling of defending champion Houston in the 1996 Western Conference Semifinals might have something to say about that. My ears rang for about two days.
Of course, someone wearing OKC blue-colored glasses would argue that all the aforementioned support disappeared when it really counted, i.e., right before the Sonics left for Oklahoma.
Really? That's the line you were fed? That lack of support had nothing to do with a certain owner asking taxpayers to pay a Trump-ish amount for a new arena, gutting the team, severing all of its ties to the community and pushing for the team's departure to his hometown shortly after he bought it, right? I mean, why wouldn't anyone want to go see them play? That assertion is OKC absurd.
Look, if you're against the proposed $500 million arena because of the public's initial fronting of less than half the cost and you don't like sports, fine. If you think it will cause traffic havoc in industrial Seattle, OK. If you argue the Northwest has too many professional teams as is, great.
You have a right to your opinion, and I reserve the right to vehemently debate if you ask me what I think of it.
But don't argue that Seattle isn't a basketball town, or that the Puget Sound isn't a basketball region. If you do, you're wrong.
There are 41 years of proven history and hundreds of thousands of fans who would agree with me.