Monday, April 21, 2008

Major League

Last Friday, the NBA Board of Governors did the expected, and voted by a 28-2 margin to approve the move of the Seattle Supersonics to my hometown of Oklahoma City. All that now stands in the way of the Sonics’ move are a couple of legal proceedings: a suit by former owner Howard Schultz to get his team back (doubtful), and an attempt by the city of Seattle to hold the Sonics to the last two years of their lease at KeyArena. By doing this, Seattle would put themselves in danger of not getting a replacement franchise from an unhappy NBA.

Oklahoma City proved itself as a major league city during the last two years when it babysat the flood-stricken New Orleans Hornets. The people of Oklahoma consistently sold out an arena and brought a lot of corporate support to the table for what was then an awful team. The infusion of money and relative success in Oklahoma City laid the foundation for a great season in this year’s return to New Orleans. OKC, meanwhile, earned lots of brownie points with the NBA for temporarily hosting the franchise, placing itself at the top of the list for franchise relocations.

I take no joy in Seattle’s loss of their team. The people of Puget Sound supported their team for 41 years. The issues were not with the fans, but with the arena deal. The city remodeled the former Seattle Center Coliseum into KeyArena in 1995. The arena became obsolete just ten years later, due to a lack of luxury suites and a not-so-favorable lease to the Sonics. Both the Seahawks and Mariners received taxpayer-assisted stadiums in the last decade, and the politicians in Seattle were not receiving a groundswell of support for help for the Sonics.

Enter Oklahoma City. A group of Oklahoma City businessmen bought the Sonics in 2006, and gave Seattle over a year to come up with a new arena, just as the previous local owner had done. The folks in the Northwest couldn’t get a deal done. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City passed the continuation of an expiring temporary sales tax, approving the use of proceeds to upgrade the six-year-old Ford Center to a first-class NBA arena. So, the NBA approved an imminent move of the Sonics to Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City has come a long way. It was once destined to be an eternal minor league town, not ready for prime time. There are a lot of good and proud people in Oklahoma. They are survivors of the Dust Bowl and the worst act of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States. They took a land that no one else wanted and made something out of it. Now, the city is taking advantage of its renaissance and placing itself on the list of cities with major league teams. It'll be a little weird to see box scores with "New York" and "Oklahoma City" next to each other.

Once this move comes to fruition, I will have a new favorite NBA team. Blood is thicker than water. Sooner born and Sooner bred...