Friday, March 28, 2008

Sherman Alexie - Sonics Death Watch


For those not paying attention, and few outside of Seattle are, the Seattle Sonics NBA basketball team was sold to some guy in Oklahoma City a while back, and now it looks likes he is moving the team out of Seattle. It's a sad truth at the end of a sad season. I remember when the Sonics were challenging for the NBA title -- I actually cared about the NBA back then. I loved going to games.

Sherman Alexie, a big-time basketball fan and devoted Sonics fan, has been documenting his reaction to the impending end of basketball in Seattle in a series of articles for The Stranger. The writing is as funny and crisp as anything he has done (and he is one of my favorite poets and short-story writers). Here are a few of the columns, filled with social and political commentary as much as they are with basketball.

Sonics Death Watch

Vol. I Before Sonics games, I listen to the pregame broadcast on KTTH 770. But if I turn on the radio early, I sometimes hear the right-wing insanity of Michael Savage, who believes that the U.S. should build a fence along key points of the Mexican border. Whenever I imagine that epic fence, I also imagine a pair of border agents, one with binoculars, standing on a nearby bluff.

"Hey, man, do you see anything?"

"Yeah, a bunch of Mexicans. They're carrying something."

"What is it?"

"A big ladder."

Jesus, there are certain murderous right wingers who believe that border fence should be electrified. Double Jesus, I have to listen to their right-wing radio station in order to hear my beloved Sonics lose again. Triple Jesus, I am a leftist bastard who hopes that some wealthy right-wing local bastards buy the Sonics from those right-wing Oklahoma bastards and keep the team in Seattle. Exponential Jesus, I am an Indian boy who prays that white politicians will save him by saving the sport he loves. Instead of Hangs-Around-the-Fort, I am Hangs-Around-City-Hall.

I just hope massive contradictions don't cause cancer.

* * * * *

Sonics Death Watch

Vol. V Professional basketball fans, by choice and circumstance, celebrate black masculinity. But certain fans celebrate only a less-threatening black masculinity. When it comes to basketball, those fans only admire black hoopsters who play the game "the right way."

And, yes, I too love the pick-and-roll, help defense, and the midrange jump shot. If this were poetry, we'd refer to those basics as rhyme and meter.

But in the professional game, the best players also create in free verse. They are improvisational geniuses. They play beyond the boundaries of the game. They are dangerous.

If Barack Hussein Obama wins the Democratic presidential nomination, we're going to find out what kind of hoopster poet he is. And I refer to Obama by his full name because the right-wingers will create campaign ads that fill our airwaves with that scary middle name. They'll show blurry photos of Muslim men, potential terrorists, who may have once shared a classroom with Obama. Netflix will have to order 10,000 more copies of The Manchurian Candidate to fill the requests of conservative cinemaniacs.

White liberals love Obama because he's not dangerous; white conservatives want to make him dangerous. Let's see who wins.

* * * * *

Sonics Death Watch

Vol. XI Recently, during a home game against Phoenix, the Suns fans outnumbered Sonics fans. There were thousands of desert-orange T-shirts and replica jerseys in KeyArena.

"My only consolation," I said to my friend sitting beside me, "is that orange is a bad color on almost everybody."

But there was a pretty Suns fan sitting in front of us who looked great in orange. She loudly cheered for Steve Nash, the point guard from Victoria, BC.

"Hey," I asked her. "Are you Canadian?"

"Yes," she said. "Are you a Sonics fan?"

With all the tenderness and trepidation in her voice, she might as well have asked me if I had scrotum cancer.

"Last 12 years, I've seen about 300 Sonics game in person," I said.

"Do you think they're really going to Oklahoma?" she asked.

She wanted an honest answer. And for the first time, I honestly answer that particular question.

"Yes," I said. "They're gone."

She looked at my friend sitting beside me. He was a Sonics ball boy in their inaugural year of 1967.

"Yes," my friend said to her. "I think I'm watching my last Sonics game."

"I'm sorry," she said. She was lovely and compassionate. She understood our pain.

Thank you, O, thank you, Canada.

You can find all eleven columns here.


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