Rebound Relationship

Jilted Sonics fans may well turn their adoration to the Blazers this season. Help them make the transition.

By Benjamin Golliver May 19, 2009 Published in the October 2008 issue of Portland Monthly

Image: David Wong

IF THE ICONIC 1996 film Swingers taught us anything, it was this: When abandoned by their significant others, men transform into moping, unshaven, pathetic messes. Such is life for fans of the Seattle SuperSonics, who, this summer, watched their beloved team elope to Oklahoma City with new owner Clay Bennett, leaving the city without an NBA team for the first time in four decades. We can still hear the whining. She was the one. Remember 1979?  The title? Life is meaningless now. Still, as the NBA season kicks off, it’s inevitable that many Seattle fans will be looking to rebound with the Trail Blazers. (After all, Portland’s roster is loaded with promising young talent and a front office committed to a steady, long-term relationship with its fans.) We need to be ready to accept them. So here we offer a few tips for how to tread gently around Sonics ex-pats as they swallow their pride and learn to love again.

TIP NO. 1 “I can’t believe I’m rooting for the enemy!” will be a typical knee-jerk response from Seattle supporters. Let it go. Do not mention the fact that Blazers fans never really considered the subpar Sonics our rivals anyway. This will only spur indignation. Instead, deflect their rage by reminding them of our shared hatred of the Lakers. Such communal loathing is the first step to a real bonding experience.

TIP NO. 2 After the initial shock of crossing party lines wears off, you’ll probably hear: “Wow, this team is actually good.” Given the Sonics’ woeful 20-62 record last year, good basketball will surely be disorienting to their fans, so help them find balance by reminding them of familiar things, like owner Paul Allen, coach Nate McMillan, and all-star Brandon Roy, all of whom have lived in the Seattle area.

TIP NO. 3 Confusion is one thing; terror is quite another. Center Greg Oden can be flat-out intimidating to the uninitiated. Basketball rims wilt in the presence of his ferocious, 7-foot, 290-pound frame. Calm Seattleites’ nerves by reverting to helpful metaphors: Just imagine that he’s a Space Needle who can dunk.

TIP NO. 4 Explain that Sea-towners needn’t distrust ownership anymore. General manager Kevin Pritchard has built a team full of quality players, and he’s done so with plenty of splashy trades, draft picks, and creative accounting. He’s even spawned a verb: “Pritchslap.” As in, “We totally Pritchslapped the Sonics with that Oden pick, didn’t we?” Whoops, sorry.

TIP NO. 5 Even after you think you’ve won over a Sonics fan, one question may remain: “What’s the deal with the mascot?” Unfortunately, no one has a clue what a “Trail Cat” is. Or what its connection is to the Portland area. On this count, Portlanders and Seattleites can stand side by side, dumbstruck by a nonsensical creation—kind of like the Starbucks mermaid. Seattle fans should feel right at home.

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