I am not a basketball fan. I do not follow the NBA and only pay attention to college basketball in March. Yet, I am keeping a keen eye on recent developments with the Seattle SuperSonics’ potential move to Oklahoma City.
Already I am hoping against hope that I can go to games with friends and family, even going so far as to buy multi-game packages or season tickets. Why this bout of roundball fever?
I know many will scoff, but supporting the Sonics, should they move here, is a matter of civic pride. Like that of the ancient Greeks before us, ours is a sports-mad culture. Some lament this fact; I embrace it. In an age where obesity is a greater danger than hunger and individual isolation results from community breakdown, sports encourage activity and togetherness. This is the case for participators more than spectators, obviously, but the two feed off of each other. I watched basketball more in college when I played for an intramural team and likewise followed Major League Baseball more closely in law school when I played on a softball team.
With professional sports, though, fandom has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Free agency has killed the old norm of attachment to a core set of players who last for an entire childhood. Unlike previous generations, people my age could not count on their heroes staying with their teams for any discernible period of time. Jerry Seinfeld says that we therefore end up rooting for nothing but uniforms. I beg to differ. In college sports (where player tenure is limited by graduation and the draft), we root for an institution to which we owe some form of allegiance. I attended the Universities of Oklahoma and Notre Dame (hey, if I do not claim it in this year of troubles, I have no right to at all) and root for each heartily. In the next level, the allegiance is geographical.
Teams take on the personalities of their cities or regions and are associated with the reputations of their fans. The introduction of our own professional team in one of the big four sports (sorry, soccer, you are not there yet), will create an image of OKC in the national consciousness. It is incumbent upon us at that time to ensure that it is a good image. A city that welcomes its new team and gains a reputation for decent fans (a bare minimum is good attendance and refraining from physically assaulting visiting teams) shows that it is ready for greatness in other fields of endeavor, as well. How many people know facts like Oklahoma City is arguably the largest city of the Plains states? More would when they read their box scores in the paper.
A few miscellaneous thoughts: Keeping the name “SuperSonics” makes sense given our metro-area Air Force base and burger establishment. It is not like, say, a team named the “Jazz” moving from New Orleans where the name made sense to a place like Utah and keeping the moniker. Bridging the red-orange divide with a green team makes sense, especially given the fact that our state colors are green and white. Like the revitalization of Bricktown and the construction of the Capitol dome, the Sonics could be another sign that OKC is ready for greatness.
Reese is an attorney who lives with his wife and son in Oklahoma City.