Sports Opinion & Analysis

Idylls Of The Kings

In NBA on January 10, 2013 at 10:02 am

By Jeff Weyant

Regardless of what some pundits try to spin, Sacramento cares about their Kings.

It’s probably unwise to pontificate about the return of an NBA franchise to Seattle (one that would retain the Sonics moniker) even if the alleged deal between the Maloof family and a group of Seattle investors was confirmed by none other than the unerring Adrian Wojnarowski (who is seemingly always first and never wrong). Because in spite of The Great Woj’s credentials and history, this is the same Maloof family that wept with joy after completing a deal last year to build a new arena in Sacramento, tears that were quickly smeared away just before they rejected the deal a month later for reasons that are either mysterious or incomprehensible or both.

Still, the current situation makes clear something that, for most NBA fans, is more or less incredibly disgusting: When (not if) the Maloof family sells the Sacramento Kings, they’re going to make a lot of money. Considering what they’ve done to the city and the fans of Sacramento (not to mention all of us innocent bystanders), if the Maloofs absconded with $500 million (the supposed sum of the current deal) it would be a lot like the various and sundry Wall Street CEOs who defenestrated themselves from the recent and lingering financial disaster using those fancy golden parachutes we’ve heard so much about.

We Three Jerks.

The Maloof history in Sacramento, accordingly, is replete with all the traditional tropes of any great piece of narrative art: rich v. poor, powerful v. powerless, disinterested v. ardently passionate, mob v. oligarchy, and, what’s become a standard feature of owner-fan relationships, liars v. lied to. In addition, one may discover backstabbing, regrettable fashion choices, last-minute decision-reversing, huge gobs of money, celebrities, and grown men wearing track suits well beyond the point at which it stops being cool.

All of this raises an interesting question, though, which is, to what extent is our emotional outpouring against and because of the Maloof family legitimate and/or justified and/or normal? After all, this is basketball we’re talking about. It’s basically a very long movie that we choose to watch, day in and day out, a movie to which we freely give our time and energy. When I walk out of a Michael Bay flick, it’s my fault if I’m incredibly embarrassed to have paid money to watch it. I’m allowed to get upset and express frustration at Mr. Bay’s poor decision-making but beyond that it’s just whining. Is it the same with what appears to be the universal anger directed towards the Maloof family?

Eerily similar to the signs Sonics fans once held.

I raise the question only because the ire aimed Maloof-ward is at this point beyond typical fan outrage. The wrath of Sacramento has evolved into a full-fledged grassroots effort to save the team and destroy the Maloofs, which, to my knowledge, has to yet to occur with respect to Michael Bay. But similar to movies, we invest our time and energy into them and so if they turn out differently than we’d like, is it reasonable to start throwing rocks and organizing political organizations with the intent to enact change? I mean, it’s a sports franchise, which seems pretty close to the same thing as a big budget film that’s made and remade every year for our special benefit.

Of course, our emotional investment in a sports franchise is a bit different than our emotional investment in a film by a leading Hollywood director. One involves real human beings impersonating made-up human beings and the other involves real human beings being their human selves in a public sphere night after night for all to see and love and hate. Which allows a more solid connection, the kind that lasts years, the kind that inspires all sorts of irrational (yet understandable) behavior.

In addition, as fans, we become actors in the narrative of a sports franchise, in a way that’s not possible with a film. The people buying jerseys and holding signs and balancing four cups of beer become participants in what’s at times a drama, frequently a comedy, and too often a tragedy. So sports are, at their core, entertainment, diversion, escapism, much like cinema or television or video games. But it’s also much more: it’s a lifeblood, a connection between one person and another, a mass of individuals coming together for a common goal, about which there is something ineffably human that I can’t quite shake, even though disinterested reason tells me it’s all just a game.

That is, until they’re Seattle’s Kings. And by that, I mean Sonics.

I’m not a died-in-the-wool Kings fan. Hell, I don’t even watch much Kings basketball. My allegiances lie elsewhere. Nevertheless I grieve for Kings fans, who must feel like they’re on the precipice of losing that longtime neighbor whom they’ve greeted with a “good morning” every year they’ve been alive. And I grieve, too, for Sonics fans, who lost that neighbor already. So in the great drama of sports, in which little is ever resolved, I think three things are firmly established: losing a sports franchise is a hard pill to swallow; the Maloof family is a terrible little cell of unendingly and horrifyingly mean and selfish individuals; and no one will be happy when they walk away from the Sacramento Kings organization $500 million richer.


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