Pig what? (Basketball and the decline of empires)

The decline of an empire is something that, in history, seems very apparent. Few if any omens have been persuasive enough to shake the people awake. Rome still fell. And life goes on.

    Argument One: The Seattle SuperSonics are preparing to leave town and it is only, really, after it is too late to do anything substantive and dignified about it that people are starting to panic. 

    Argument Two: People are starting to panic.

    Argument Three: The lawsuit attempting to keep the team in Seattle through the end of its lease is already a disaster, involving accusations of bad faith and suspicions of Machiavellian cabals.

    Argument Four: The current owners of the basketball team have filed a motion asking that two witnesses—radio host Mitch Levy and author Sherman Alexie—be barred from testifying.

"They just explain me without me ever having to say a word," said Sonics center Robert Swift of his tattoos.  (Photo by Dean Ruiz)Now, let’s be clear: I’m not much of a fan of professional basketball. Life goes on. But I would like to see the team stay in Seattle. I just wonder why, if it is so important to people now, it wasn’t then? The fact is that the sale of the team to a disreputable crew in Oklahoma went through in the first place. Apparently, nobody wanted badly enough to keep the team around to prevent the question from coming up.

Maybe that is expected of someone who, like me, hasn’t been paying close attention. To the other, though, I believe in playing to the buzzer, so to speak, and I do hope some resolution keeping the NBA in Seattle can be found.

But still, it’s a basketball team. Forty-eight million dollars in payroll? I mean, I’m not even going to bag on the 20-62 record. This is, after all, Seattle. Look, I know teams have symbolic value. I know they have community impact. I know.

And that’s part of my point: It’s a goddamn basketball team.

Think of it this way: Growing up as part of a generation that heard about starving children in India, Ethiopia, Cambodia, or some other crisis zone every time we didn’t want to eat the repugnant vegetable that, for some reason, our mothers insisted we liked, every once in a while we’re possessed by an urge to throttle someone and shout, “There are how many dead Iraqis, and you are oppressed because some two-bit prig from Oklahoma bought your favorite basketball team?”

But it would accomplish no good. These things are what they are. Professional sports teams are really important to some people. Life goes on.

To check in with Greg Johns of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

The city’s lawyers previously indicated Levy would testify concerning his knowledge of the Sonics before and after they were purchased by Clay Bennett’s Oklahoma-based ownership group, as well as fan interest.

Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian and Seattle resident, is scheduled to testify on the “Sonics’ role in the Seattle metropolitan community from the perspective of a season ticket holder, the diverse nature of the Sonics’ crowds, the impact of the Sonics on minority communities and the impact of sports on family relationships.”

Tuesday’s motion, filed by attorney Paul Taylor, identified Alexie as a “writer known for his profanity-laced columns about the Sonics.” Levy, who hosts KJR’s morning show, is “an entertainer” who “mixes sports and other topics apparently believed to appeal to his target audience” of men 25-43.

The motion refers to Levy’s annual contest that asks listeners to determine the most attractive woman in the country, as well as a wager made with Storm star Sue Bird in which he hoped to spank her if she lost the bet.

“As to the Sonics’ fan interest, Mr. Levy apparently has not performed any admissible survey of community interest in the Sonics,” the motion says. “His knowledge, if any, of fan interest in the Sonics will presumably be based on input from the demographic attracted to his particular brand of entertainment. That adds nothing to this case.

“Additionally, this case is already a media circus. Giving Mr. Levy a speaking role in the trial will not help.”

As for Alexie, the motion says “other than being a season ticket holder, it is unclear what foundation or testimonial knowledge” he would bring. What is clear are his biased, profanity-laden views about the PBC (Bennett’s Professional Basketball Club).”

The motion then quotes from several colorful Alexie writings in which he expresses hostility toward Bennett, Howard Schultz, Nick Licata and anyone who feels happy about the Sonics’ potential departure, punctuated with expressions not used in most family newspapers.

Sherman Alexie reads from Ten Little Indians, Seattle, June, 2003.  (Photo by Rob Casey)Reading through Alexie’s “Sonics Death Watch” column for The Stranger, it becomes fairly easy to see why Bennett and the Professional Basketball Club are so afraid of him. Like this reflection from Chapter XIX

Yes, I have always been a lonely, frightened, homesick bastard.

So during my recent trip to France, when I returned to my hotel room at the end of each working day, I turned on CNN International for comfort and heard endless reports about the upcoming European Cup championship soccer match between Manchester United and Chelsea. This match between two venerable British franchises was to be played in Moscow, Russia.

This match was expected to be so passionate, and its fans so crazed and potentially riotous, that the Russians were curtailing alcohol sales. You read that correctly. Russians were worrying about the negative effects of inebriation.

I don’t drink, and I’m not violent, but I love my Sonics with passionate intensity. Many crazy and contradictory British folks are traveling to Russia so they can watch the game on Moscow sports bar televisions. Will I have to ignore my fear of flying and hatred of right-wing billionaires and make a few crazy and contradictory trips to watch Kevin Durant lead the Oklahoma City Whatevers?

Or Chapter IX:

I want to kidnap a basketball hater. I want to drive him to a high-school gym in Reardan or Wellpinit, my hometowns. I want to sit my hostage in the bleachers and point out the grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins, and townspeople who have gathered to cheer for their team, for their families.

I want my hostage to understand that when I cheer for the Sonics, I am cheering for the city of Seattle. I’m a small-town kid who, through his basketball love, has changed this metropolis into my community. You are my family.

This is a love story, damn it.

Once, in KeyArena, after a big Sonics win, I hugged a stranger and he hugged me back. We were men crying in each other’s arms.

Can’t you see the beauty in that?

The Stranger, the Seattle weekly newspaper that carries Alexie’s “Sonics Death Watch” column, has, of course, responded. Er … um, yeah.

Dear Honorable Judge Marsha Pechman,

I can’t fucking believe the recent motion filed by attorney Paul R. Taylor in the case of City of Seattle vs. The Professional Basketball Club, LLC. (No. C07-1620MJP), and I am writing to lodge an objection to the way in which that fucktard lawyer characterized esteemed author and award-winning Stranger columnist Sherman Alexie. Mr. Taylor’s motion was a piss-ant ploy to have Mr. Alexie’s freedom of speech silenced in your court and it should not be allowed to succeed.

Mr. Taylor claims that Mr. Alexie lacks “any relevant testimonial knowledge about the Sonics while at the same time, in the very same motion, he acknowledges that Mr. Alexie holds season tickets to see the team and also writes the weekly column “Sonics Death Watch” for my client, The Stranger (America’s Hometown Newspaper™). As such, it’s pig-fuckingly clear that the facts undercut Mr. Taylor’s contention that Mr. Alexie is irrelevant to this case. Clearly, Mr. Alexie has an informed, widely respected, and internationally published (on the web) perspective that is in fact highly relevant to Seattle’s basketball team and the extremely important proceedings underway in your esteemed court ….

Yeah, actually, I would like to see that letter on the public record. Just so it can be said that a judge has been told something is “pig-fuckingly clear”. I mean, preponderance of evidence? Why bother trying, if it’s pig-fuckingly clear.

Anyway, I’m just saying ….

The decline of empires.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s