Tag Archives: Downtown Seattle

Playa Hater’s Ball

27 Apr

We typically like to keep things positive here at Dan Swanky’s.  Everyone’s having more fun when the Schlitz is flowing, we’re having some chuckles, and we’re all celebrating the things we love.  But the way we celebrate and enjoy one thing we love – NBA basketball – was abruptly altered in 2008.

A cruel series of events and power players came together about four years ago to wrest away the Seattle SuperSonics from the city, and as lifelong fans of the Green & Gold, we were left with an empty place where our fandom’s passion had once been.  Without a team – and the bastardized former Sonics team that became Oklahoma City is not our team- but still harboring a love for all things NBA, we were faced with an unwanted and difficult decision.

Would we simply turn our gaze to the rest of the league and go shopping for a new team, as if we were looking for a new car?  This is easier said than done.  While there are several likeable franchises out there that would be easy to root for, the deeply felt connection we had with our hometown squad would never be duplicated for a flavor-of-the-month team from across the country.  We would simply be bandwagon fans – tourists who would be unable to remain dedicated or interested for very long.  This would just be an unsatisfying way to lie to ourselves.

So if finding a new team is out, what is the other option?  Where in the NBA landscape do we take the energy from our misplaced passion for the Sonics and the frustrated outrage from their departure?  Well, we find solace and an outlet in the process of actively rooting against other teams and players.  It’s still the only halfway-satisfying way to let our bottled-up, Sonics-less demons be exorcised when the NBA playoffs come around.  We have become sports Haters.

Being a sports Hater, as with being a Hater in other parts of life, is a lot easier if you don’t think about it.  If you just put your blinders on, take everything at face value, never give up grudges, and follow everything those radio hosts squawk, then you can quickly build up some solid irrational animosity towards most of the teams in the league.  And all of a sudden, you have an instant rooting interest against all of those teams.  You’ve got some emotional investment back into the NBA equation.

It seems like problem solved – we’re back to being full-blown NBA fans.  But it’s not that easy.  Since we’re thoughtful fellows at DS, we have to come to grips with the ugliness of our Hater status.  We need to make sure we can separate the personal and non-personal aspects of our feeling towards the game, and always be aware that we are being mostly irrational fans.  That this is just a game.  That the players we are vigorously rooting against are actual people off the court and have their own sets of lives and families.  We have to be able to shut off the the hating when the final buzzer sounds, or else we’ll just be miserable dicks at the end of the day.  So, that is what we strive to do, and our general success at this striving is what allows us to be okay with the negativity we can engender while in full-blown sports Hater mode.

How did it come to this?  Where we’re justifying being irrational sports Haters?  It all starts and ends with the painful theft of our hometown Sonics.  There was how the team left, and then more importantly, there was everything that went with them on their way out of town.

Let’s start with a quick rundown of why we got here, and why so many emotions are involved.  The first source of the anger and the fount of the sports hate comes from the way the whole Sonics move played out.  The guys behind the great documentary “Sonicsgate” do a much more detailed breakdown of the whole sordid ordeal, and we suggest you check them out here for more info.  But basically, trouble started in the form of Howard Schultz.

Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, had owned the team for six uneventful years and like any canny businessman, was looking to unload his investment at a hefty profit.  The problem for Seattle fans was that the highest offer for the team came from Oklahoma businessman Clay Bennett.  Bennett pretty clearly intended to move the team from Seattle to his home state of Oklahoma and Schultz was thus presented with a choice: sell the team to a group of local investors who would keep the Sonics in his Hometown, or go for the big profit and essentially give away the team.

Savvy Mr. Schultz heeded capitalism’s call and sold to Bennett.  And for the next year and a half, Bennett went through the motions of ‘working’ towards keeping the team in Seattle.  It was a total farce.  See, the terms of the deal said that Clay had to make a “good faith effort” to keep the team in Seattle.  So good ol’ boy Clay proceeded to make several empty public promises, and in the process engendered the hatred of pretty much every sports fan in Seattle.  And when fans thought they could turn to the reliable institution of the NBA for some help in keeping our team from the hands of these carpetbaggers, Villain No. 3 reared his jowly face.  Commissioner David Stern made some general announcements about working with Clay’s ownership group to keep the team in Seattle, but in the end that all turned out to be bullshit too.  In emails from the time period that surfaced several months later, David and Clay share glowing pledges of support to each other that literally read like two girls texting friendship affirmations to each other from separate slumber parties.

In the end, the Inevitable finally occurred and Bennett announced he was moving the team to Oklahoma City.  I had pretty much seen the writing on the wall for quite some time, but had still held out a shred of hope, desperate for this infuriating situation to just go away.  The announcement was like a heavy gut punch – not a sharp sudden pain, but one that resonated deeper and hurt for longer.  I was disgusted, angry, and deeply saddened all at the same time.

All of these deeply invested feelings and emotions for a simple sports team, that could never even come close to reciprocating?  Yes.  I don’t expect many to sympathize or understand, but this team meant more than just providing a source of entertainment and distraction.  Which leads me to the second source of the sports Hate flourishing today.  What Schultz, Bennett, Stern & Co. took away from Sonics fans when they stole the team.

Growing up, I hit the impressionistic sports age right when the Sonics were the coolest team in the city.  This age is marked by kids finally being able to be competitive in their rec league sports, while also beginning to identify with those otherworldly athletes seen on TV and in magazines.  At this age, I happened to love playing basketball, and being in Seattle I was able to hear and see the heyday of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp.  In my humble adolescent opinion, these two were the baddest motherfuckers in the sports world.

First up, there was Shawn Kemp, who despite his later troubles was a raw force of dunking power as a young player.  Play-by-play man Kevin Colabro’s gleeful shouts of “The Reign Man with another tomahawk jam!” would echo in my head as I wheeled about and abused the 6 ft. tall Nerf Hoop on the back of my bedroom door.  I definitely rocked the Shawn Kemp shoes to school every day for well over a year, delighting in the deranged zebra-striped style that were an excellent encapsulation of the Reign Man in his prime.

And who fed Shawn the rock before his monstrous dunks?  Gary ‘The Glove’ Payton, the nasty little bundle of stifling D and slick handles who could shit-talk anyone out of the building.  GP was the heart and soul of the Sonics and to this day is a revered figure in Seattle sports legend.  And just as Colabro’s exultations about Kemp still stick in my head, so too does the Key Arena announcer’s introduction of GP:  “You can’t spell Glove without Love.”  And you really couldn’t.

These two stars, along with a rotating cast of memorable supporting players, captivated Seattle sports fans for a long stretch of successful seasons in the 90s.  The team was never able to get all the way to a championship during this run – they reached the ‘96 Finals but met the unstoppable force of Jordan in his prime – yet they were good enough to captivate a budding sports fan like myself.  I can’t count how many times I spun around on the empty backyard hoop, quieting the imagined crowd before re-enacting another Gary Payton or Detlef Schrempf buzzer beater.  And interviewing myself afterwards.  They were my heroes.

Beyond being just another absurdly cool team to root for, the Sonics were also able to take on more meaning to kids like me.  Basketball games were one of the first common interests I could share with my dad growing up, and we quickly developed a routine of going to several Sonics games every year.  For the first few years, this was simply an exciting chance for a young kid to go downtown, eat junk food, catch a free T-shirt, and watch my sports heroes up close.

As the years went on though, these yearly games gained a bit more weight.  It was still great to watch the basketball, but it also became a constant between my dad and I.  Petty parent-kid fights, stresses at school or work, family issues – any life strains that came up couldn’t deter the Sonics games from happening, year after year.  The Sonics were something to be shared, and that’s why they felt like they belonged to me in a way that other sports teams never did.  My team.  And when I moved away to go to school, I could still look forward to following Sonics games and keeping the hometown pride alive from thousands of miles away.  They represented where I came from.

So when I had to watch as smiling executives toyed with and eventually took the team away, it felt like watching someone ransack my valued possessions while I sat tied up and helpless.  The frustration and vitriol that arose in me when the Sonics were moved was probably irrational in a lot of ways.  But it came from a true place.  It came from having to watch a beloved piece of my young life in the city be taken away.  It’s hard for me to fully explain my feelings about the Sonics to other non-Seattle fans without sounding like a bitter, jilted lover.  And that comparison rings true in a lot of ways.  But my fellow Sonics fans can appreciate the rough feelings, and we can still commiserate.  And we can turn the still-raw anger and pain into sports Hatin’, particularly when the NBA Playoffs roll around.

Coming into this year’s postseason, the top of our Hating List is the displaced former Sonics team, that team with an awful name from the most unfortunate state in America.  This team is a virtual representation of the whole sordid saga, and it is a uniquely unpleasant experience to watch them do well in front of an adoring home crowd.  If we’re continuing the jilted lover comparisons, then watching these games is like watching your Ex hook up with someone else, over and over again, while thousands cheer them along.  So as the Playoffs come around, we will be on pins and needles the entire time that OKC is still in contention.  If this team won the Championship, for that city and that owner, I would be legitimately bummed out for quite some time.  We here at Dan Swanky’s may need to shut the lights out and just stare at our vintage Kemp posters in silence for a few days, sighing loudly and often.  This cannot happen.

While OKC will most definitely be getting our unwell wishes, the one thing about sports Hating in the NBA is that once you do it, it’s hard to turn it off.  So we will also be rooting against the preening duo of LeBron and Wade on the Heat, the insufferable underbite scowl of Kobe on the Lakers, and the flailing, flopping histrionics of Parker and Ginobli on the Spurs, among others.

Is this negative?  Yes.  Is it totally unrealistic, unfair, and bitter?  Sure.  But we’ve still got a lot of issues to work out with the NBA, and we’re going to do it this way until we can get another team to fill the basketball-sized hole in Seattle’s heart.  And at the end of the day, having something to cheer for, even if it is for someone to lose, just makes the playoffs that more exciting.  Home team or no, there is a crazy amount of talent on the court this year, and the title race is as unpredictable as it’s ever been.  The Championship is wide-open.  Just please, basketball gods, don’t let OKC get there.  We’re not ready for that.  Just bring on an early round exit this year, so we can dust off the furs and throw another joyous Playa Hater’s Ball.


On Bended Knee: Dirty Secrets

26 Jan

A recent non-scientific poll ranked wedding invitations as the #3 most anticipated piece of mail, right behind Netflix DVD’s and plain brown packages shipped from these 18 states. This fact, combined with the recent lag in movie quality, puts a lot of pressure on the newly engaged to design a visually stunning card.  Here are some pro tips to make sure your invite is the most sought after item since Mitt Romney’s tax returns.

1) Theme. The only thing better than regular nightclubs are themed nightclubs, and the same can be said for wedding invites. Here are some example to get the creativity flowing:

  • Vintage Parisian Hostel
  • Downtown Seattle Alley’s
  • Jurassic Park meets The Ten Commandments
  • Crossing The Border

2) Photo.  A photo isn’t common with invites, but Aunt Maj hasn’t seen your pearly whites since you accidentally texted her that nude picture in high school. Show her that you have matured, and met someone other than your second cousin, with an updated portrait. Just be sure to watch the nip slip.

3) Colors. Regardless of the theme, you can be liberal with your color palette. The only thing that looks better than a black background with a gold glitter overlay is, well, nothing. Flair also goes a long way, so be sure to adorn with sequins, rhinestones, or just a light dusting of beach sand.

4) Font selection. The dangerous world of font design is best left touched with a 3 foot pole. If you majored in font architecture, and are skilled enough to still be in the game, hats off to you. Otherwise, stick to an easy to read cursive font that shows your potential guests you are sophisticated enough to not use Arial Black but you respect them enough not to really care about fonts.