I have a confession to make. When the Sonics were stolen from Seattle? I was kind of apathetic about it.
Part of the reason was that the Sonics were in a lengthy phase ranging from mediocrity to sucking. Part of it may have been that even then, I was developing into more of a national sports fan than a local one, or a fan of any particular team. Part of it was the aura of inevitability surrounding the notion of Oklahoma City getting an NBA team after the Hornets’ post-Katrina exile there, even though, of all the teams it could have been, why did it have to be the Sonics? Why couldn’t the Hornets have just stayed there?
Whatever it was, I couldn’t get myself too worked up about what was happening to the Sonics, even though like everyone else I could see it coming.
These days? These days I simply cannot refer to the Western Conference champions directly. The closest I come is to call them the “Sonics-in-exile”. It’s hard for me even to refer to the city they play in.
What changed? Bill Simmons. While Clay Bennett was still holding the city hostage, Simmons started repeatedly harping on the issue in his columns, pointing out what an asshole Bennett was being and how David Stern was falling asleep on the job. After the team moved, Simmons refused to refer to it by name, coming up with a wide variety of euphemisms to refer to it.
But the funny thing is, as time went on, even as Simmons’ outrage was affecting me, he seemed to be becoming less outraged. He regularly referred to the team as “Oklahoma City” with “Zombie Sonics” becoming the only euphemism used. He praised the team, Kevin Durant, the city. And in yesterday’s column, he basically announces he doesn’t hold a grudge against OKC, while noting at the end he still doesn’t like the situation in Seattle (complete with “Thunder” in the title!). I’ve been ginned full of outrage I never felt in the first place by someone who doesn’t feel as much of it himself anymore.
Honestly, even before that column I wasn’t sure how I felt. I wasn’t sure whether I should root against the Sonics-in-exile, because they stole our team, or for them, because… hey, if they win, it’s really the Sonics winning! The general consensus around here seems to be to root against them, and I do already have reason to root for the Heat, and I’m not sure I’m ready to live in a world where the Sonics-in-exile have a championship after leaving Seattle. But if they do, I hope Seattle throws them a faux “championship parade”, if only to give one last reminder to the rest of the country where they came from.