This weekend, we are celebrating our nation's Independence from foreign rule, but on the awful anniversary of the Supersonics' demise, we should also revel in the Twelve Army's independence from fear: The team has had a rough stretch, and that might continue, but the franchise itself isn't going anywhere. This fall Qwest Field will be packed, and the waves of noise will buffet our foes Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. We should all take a moment to remember the dark times when we lacked this security, and reflect on how close we came to meeting the awful fate suffered by thousands of Supersonics loyalists.
It's now been two years since the Sonics skipped town, and while I was never a fan of the Supes, every time I see highlights of Kevin Durant and the Thunder on SportsCenter I feel like punching something (preferably Clay Bennett). They may not have been my team, but the way the NBA treated Seattle and the Supersonics fanbase felt like a personal insult; in part, because the Twelve Army came SOOOO close to disbanding under similar circumstances back in 1996 (If you are old enough, you remember that fat bald interloper Behring actually moving Seahawks mini-camps to California that spring).
In fact, the near-move by the Seahawks down to L.A. in 1996 leads to the most regrettable part of this little story...
In 1996, The Seahawks were at the bottom of the sports pecking order in the Seattle area, and I took that more personally than I should have. I was surrounded by folks decked out in Sonics and Mariners finery, and more than once I was asked directly by them "Why are you a SEAHAWKS fan?" Usually, when they asked this question, it was accompanied by a facial expression like I had just farted in the elevator.
So with the future of my most beloved team in mortal peril, and with my contrarian nature cranked up to 11, I openly rooted for the Bulls in the 1996 NBA Finals. Michael Jordan was my favorite player, but that was secondary to my twisted desire to see the Sonics bandwagon tumble into the gully.
I was going to college at Western, and at the end of my junior year I was still living in the Fairhaven dorms, which held huge viewing parties for those Finals. While everyone else showed up to watch the Sonics battle the Bulls dressed in Kemp, Payton, or Detlef jerseys, there I was in my MJ jersey. I relished playing the villain, and was a total dickbasket about it to boot. I even taunted a female friend's MOM about those finals.
That didn't do anything about my larger problem, though: The Seahawks 1996 season in Seattle could easily be their last. Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen was interested in buying the team, but only on the condition that a new stadium be built for the Seahawks. How bad did things get? I actually started game-planning who my new NFL team would be, because I wasn't going to stick with the franchise in the event they abandoned us for Southern California. The finalists were:
I eventually settled on New England, because I loved Drew Bledsoe and I was already a Red Sox fan. Thankfully it never came to that.
Back then I hosted a weekly political talk show on KUGS-FM called "The Democratic Circus." In the weeks leading up to the special election about building that new football stadium, I was shameless in my support of the measure. Every week I'd exhort my meager lot of listeners to go out and vote yes on Referendum 48. It didn't seem like a very popular position. Remember that in the spring of 1997 the PNW was enjoying the afterglow of the M's 1995 playoff run, and was also still gripped in Supersonics fever... Remember this?
So I felt kinda isolated with my Joey Galloway jersey and my love for a team that hadn't even posted a winning record since 1990. I was terrified that R48 would fail, Paul Allen would bolt, and the team would quickly become the L.A. Blackhawks or something. R48 passed statewide by 51.1% to 48.9%, or by just a hair under 37,000 votes. That was far less than the throngs who packed the Kingdome for M's games back then. I like to think I played a LITTLE part in R48's victory... In Whatcom County (Bellingham), R48 passed by 433 votes. Sure, only about 100 people listened to my show on a GOOD night, but I like to think that a good chunk of that 433 vote margin were folks swayed by my cogent, heartfelt arguments (no matter how improbable that actually is).
We all know that the Sonics fans weren't as fortunate... If you've got two hours to kill, I HIGHLY recommend the documentary film Sonicsgate... in fact, here it is:
I sincerely hope that the NBA comes back to Seattle, and with the history and uniforms of the Sonics. I know that they'd have to share the sports-watching dollar with yet another team now, but I think that the still-growing metro area can support the Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders AND Sonics.
What do you think are the chances of the NBA returning to Seattle? Would you go to the games? What are your memories of the Seahawks near-move back in the mid-90s?
Don't forget to check out my home blog: Dave Krieg's Strike Beard