You could say that I am a sore loser, but I really come to this topic as a citizen who sees the importance of local economies staying local. I am also a fan who has seen the darkness that the NBA -- and its teams' owners -- can dispense on us loyal dorks … you know, the ones who buy tickets, jerseys, beer and parking. But sometimes, that is just not enough.
Sacramento Kings fans, I know what you must be going through right now. I am a Seattleite. Our Sonics used to go to war with your team. I know how ardent and gnarly the average Kings fan is. Seattle is a great basketball city too. And we could not foresee -- or at least hid our eyes from the fact -- that once the Sonics' owner, Howard Schultz, had decided to sell the team to an outsider, Clay Bennett, our team was lost. We should have fought harder.
This economic recession has been hard enough for all of us, but to subtract an NBA team from your city, can and will wreak havoc on the arena and its surrounding area … big time. Just go visit the neighborhood around Seattle's KeyArena. It's a damn ghost town. Where there was once a vibrant and safe night life, there are closed restaurants and a seeming crush of unrestricted crack hoodlums. Maybe these thugs were there before, but without a constant police presence around for the Sonics games it now seems unchecked. (And, really, crack is so '90s.)
And what about the people directly employed by the KeyArena? I guess they were told a bunch of new events would be coming to the Key. You don't just fill up 41 whole dates with puppet shows and Miley Cyrus. Nope, the arena sits empty for most parts of the year. Dark. Empty. Depressing. Bummer.
It seems the Maloof brothers, the Kings' owners, have found a more lucrative partner in the form of the city of Anaheim, Calif. And yes, while capitalism is the best form of economics that we know of on this planet thus far, it doesn't give a fan a chance for any sort of fair competition. We fans cannot compete with billion-dollar owners and nincompoop mayors and city councils.
All of this Kings-move-to-Anaheim stuff is still just founded on shreds of rumor and hearsay. We Sonics fans went through the same stage. We thought there was no way Clay Bennett would have moved our team from our city. I mean, at first he said his ownership group didn't have the intention to move the team, claiming it was a priority to stay put. I feel naive and dumb now for trusting one of "them." If you are a Sacramento Kings fan and want your team to stay, you might want to raise a lot of hell now -- before it's too late.
I'm not sure about law when it comes to this sort of thing, but wouldn't it seem right for the collective of a fandom to have a right in these types of things. How about this: If an ownership group wants to move a franchise to a certain city, then maybe that fan base should get a majority vote in things that pertain to a move. Fans have and will, after all, invest a majority of the money into the team. Make sense?
OK, maybe a majority vote for us fans is being a little irrational and wouldn't pass muster when a team is losing money (we fans don't think straight and clear sometimes, especially when we feel rooked). But in Bennett's case, there was a promise of a "good faith effort" to keep the team in Seattle if a deal on the construction of a new arena could be reached within 12 months of the team's purchase. If not, then Bennett would explore relocation, which as we all know he did after new arena plans went nowhere.
That sucks and is just not fair in some dark way, because the move wasn't caused by fan apathy or a lack of fan support. Attendance was maybe down a tad, but people were coming back. Seattle had a proven track-record with great and stellar attendance when the team showed promise or even just the hint that ownership was making good moves for the future.
There are cities such as New Orleans that, after a cataclysmic event like Hurricane Katrina, cannot reasonably support more than one major sports franchise. In the case of the dwindling number of the Hornets fans, the NBA stepped in and bought the team. But fan attendance isn't really the issue with Sacramento. Well, the intent of the fans there is still good. To be honest, the Maloofs haven't given the Kings fans much of a team, as of late, to get excited about. The Sacramento fan is still there, and hasn't moved away because his house was swept off by floodwaters.
Anaheim would probably be a great place for a team. Attendance for Angels baseball games is stellar. But maybe it is time for the NBA to stop considering moving teams away from places. Maybe it is time for expansion. We Sonics fans will take our Kevin Durant-led team back. Oklahoma City and Anaheim can get brand-new teams. Those poor, suffering current owners get more revenue from expansion fees. Our urban centers can be restored or kept vibrant.
I know this won't happen in the case of Seattle, but Sacramento Kings fans? Keep up the good fight. And even for the non-fan there who thinks none of this stuff matters; wait until you feel the full economic brunt of an NBA team moving out of your neighborhood.
Musician Duff McKagan, who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and is finishing his autobiography, writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com.