Sunday, April 20, 2008

Situation in Seattle reopens old wounds

Find out more about: Buffalo, Home of the Braves

Seattle is about to lose its basketball team the Super-Sonics to Oklahoma City of all places. Seattle fans fear the worst and even though the team still has two years remaining on their lease, the odds of the Sonics remaining in Seattle are low. Another owner makes a business decision, another franchise leaves town, fans feel betrayed, and there is likely nothing they can do about it.

The more things change the more they remain the same. The NBA owners voted this week 28-2 to allow the Sonics to move for the start of the 2008-09 season with NBA Commissioner David Stern very much in the fray. 30 years ago Stern negotiated the bizarre deal that swapped the Buffalo Braves franchise with the Boston Celtics and sent what remained to San Diego to become the Clippers.

As much as our nostalgic minds believe that sports weren't dictated by money back in the 70's; they were. The Braves swap/sale/exit from Western New York was all about an out of town owner who sought greener pastures and higher long term revenue.

The Sonics present a situation strangely similar to the Braves prior to their move. An owner from the south purchases the team (Clay Bennett) with the hidden desire to move the team elsewhere (in Bennett's case to his home state of Oklahoma). The out of town owner makes veiled threats and demands of the city to keep the team, when the plan was to move the team from the very beginning.

The unfortunate part for Buffalo is that the fans did fill seats when the product on the court was good and finally threw up their hands with frustration witnessing the revolving door of players that paraded in and out of town that final season.

Who could blame the Buffalo faithful for not investing in season tickets when the John Y. Brown circus was wheeling and dealing away the talents of Moses Malone, Adrian Dantley, Marvin Barnes, and John Shumate? Meanwhile the Buffalo Sabres were building a competitive team with players who would spend most of their careers in Buffalo with a stable local ownership.

The irony of all this is if the Sonics end up in Oklahoma City, a metropolitan region with a population base slightly ahead of Buffalo's. We feel Seattle's pain in an all too familiar way.

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