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My Lack of Outrage Over the Supersonics/Thunder Saga

I had a brief conversation with my friend, Zach, yesterday about going to the game tonight. See, Zach is from and lives in Seattle. It's understandable that he's asked me not to attend out of protest for the Thunder's very existence. Paraphrasing his argument, by going to the game, I legitimize the shady process that moved the team to OKC and, therefore, I'm complicit in a crime against his city and him.

However, I'm going to the game. As emotional and personal as the Sonics were to Zach, and as much as I identify those feelings with the Bobcats, there's a large part of me that rejects anger over the whole affair. I reject the notion that a pro sports franchise belongs to fans just because they devote time, money, and energy to it. Consider it my fucked up version of liberated fandom. It's on me to give meaning to the games; it's not on the team to recognize the meaning I assign it. I don't owe them, and they don't owe me.

I go to Bobcats games:
1 -- Because I like basketball, and it's the nearest pro team
2 -- I've become particularly fond of the players I see all the time
and 3 -- Because it ties me closer to this city. I still buy into tribalism enough that I tell anyone who'll listen that San Francisco is the greatest place on earth, but Charlotte is certainly worth inhabiting, too.

However, let's imagine that my three favorite sports teams all up and skipped town. The San Francisco Giants, an entity I've loved for longer than anyone or anything other than the sport of baseball, itself, and my parents: gone to Portland, Oregon. The San Francisco 49ers: gone to Los Angeles. The Charlotte Bobcats: gone to the great basketball court in the sky. Or Las Vegas. Whatever.

San Francisco will still be the greatest place on earth. Charlotte will be a little less worthy of inhabiting, but I won't leave because the Cats did. There's no reason Tim Lincecum, Frank Gore, and Gerald Wallace can't occupy that VIP section of my brain also occupied by Will Clark and Steve Young if they're not playing "home" games in San Francisco or Charlotte. I've been in San Francisco for six days out of the past eighteen months, but that hasn't prevented me from fawning over Lincecum and Matt Cain, or Matt Kemp, for that matter, or Rudy Gay, or the Tampa Bay Rays, or Nnamdi Asomugha, or Kevin Love, or Mike Cameron, or any number of athletes and teams that capture my fancy. I'm already a stranger in a strange land. None of "my" teams can be taken away from me because I'm the one who's afar, perpetually visiting wherever I am. Been that way since the New York days.

Zach plainly articulates his reasons to be angry and bitter and to reject the NBA as a lying cheating whore. He thinks the concept of the Sonics belongs to him, and the league has sullied that concept without regard for someone who cared deeply about its well-being. I love the Bobcats, but should they move elsewhere, that's a decision that has nothing to do with me. Nothing. It's not a judgment of me. They're not firing me from a job. Whether three blocks or three thousand miles away, I am perfectly capable of following these teams.

Teams want people to feel about them the way Zach does about the Sonics, because it's easier to sell them on joining the tribe than it is to sell them on the relatively esoteric joys of well-played basketball, regardless of which uniforms are on the floor. If they move, any anger I generate will be based on a feeling of abandonment by the tribal leaders that I'm not sure I will have earned.

Ultimately, I can't work up the outrage. Just can't do it.