By Jeffrey Carl
Bloggers To Be Named Later was Paul Caputo’s fabulous sports-blogging empire of the mid-2010s. My role in the enterprise was to promise to write humor articles and then not do that, or at least not remotely on time. Ultimately, after a flirtation with viral Internets fame, the site basically turned into an excuse for Paul to get free baseball tickets, which is actually about the only good reason to run a blog of any sort. After the BTBNL site wound down, I realized that I hadn’t kept local copies of most of the stories I had written, so I ended up scouring through The Internet Archive to find as many as I could in order to prevent a tragic loss to the world’s cultural canon of blog posts complaining about the Seattle Mariners. You’re welcome.
Sometimes I will tell a friend how February and March are my least favorite months of the year because there are no professional sports to watch. They will say, “but what about the NHL?” And we will both laugh and laugh and laugh.
After a few minutes of convulsive laughter, though, we pick ourselves up off the floor and they will follow up:
Friend: Seriously, what about professional basketball?
Me: I don’t think the WNBA season starts until September. Or maybe that’s the Curling Premier League.
Friend: No, I mean men’s professional basketball.
Me: I don’t know what cable package you have, but mine definitely doesn’t include the Italian-Serbian All Stars League.
Friend: No, the NBA.
That’s right, the NBA has been on the official Jeff Carl Dead To Me List since July 2nd 2008 when the Seattle Supersonics officially left town to become the Oklahoma City Ford F-250 With Optional Towing Packages or the Oklahoma City Trailer Park Tornado Debris Scavengers or whatever they are now.
Please understand that this was not an ill-considered or capricious decision to add the League Who Must Not Be Named to my highly select Dead To Me List. After spending 10 years in Washington DC subjected to the “basketball” practiced by the Washington Wizards, I was already pretty disposed to stop caring about the NBA. To me, NBA players seemed like little more than a horde of spoiled prima donnas and feckless thugs who starred in terrible genie-themed movies and occasionally had NRA-sponsored gun shows in the locker room.
But the factor that pushed me over the edge to permanently “un-friend” the NBA was an issue that I call Seattle Sports Insecurity Syndrome.
Seattle sports fans have a chronic insecurity problem. Despite the facts that Seattle is the 13th largest media market in the country, a thriving technology industry growth area and inarguably the most naturally beautiful major city in the nation, its sports teams seem to be perpetual also-rans or transplant candidates.
This is due to a variety of factors. Sure, Seattle does have some disadvantages in attracting sports teams: we have one rain shower a year (it starts on November 15th and ends in late May); the looming threat of multiple nearby volcanoes seems to turn off a few timid souls; and some people get jittery after their 14th cup of coffee in the afternoon. I have even heard a local sports radio host suggest that Seattle fans don’t have the same rabid sports interest seen in other cities because “people in Seattle have actual things to do besides watching sports.” (I think he was talking about you, Cleveland.) But none of these can adequately explain how Seattle and its teams are forever outside the “cool kids club” of the professional sports world.
This first hit home for me when I was watching a Fox NFL pre-game show in 2005 and Jimmy Johnson was discussing why the Seahawks’ running back Shaun Alexander wasn’t a national media star despite the fact that he was on pace for a 2,000-yard rushing season. “I think,” said Mr. Bob’s Big Boy Hair, “that it has something to do with the fact that he plays in Southeast Alaska.” TRUE FACT.*
In fact, Seattle sports teams have an unfortunate history of frequently being on the brink of moving out of town. The first major league sports franchise in Seattle, the MLB Seattle Pilots, left town after one season in 1969 to become the Milwaukee Brewers. Their replacement, the Seattle Mariners, were almost moved to St. Petersburg Florida in 1993, before the team was sold to a Japanese ownership group led by Super Mario, the chick from Metroid and Godzilla. The Seattle Seahawks were almost moved to Los Angeles in 1996 (just like every other team in the NFL that has wanted a new stadium).
That was bad enough to give Seattle sports fans a permanent case of the relocation jitters. But then, to top it all off, in 2006 the SuperSonics were sold to an ownership group led by Tom Joad or whoever the hell lives in Oklahoma. This was especially galling since the Sonics were Seattle’s only championship-winning team.** (The city came close twice when the Mariners lost the 2001 ALCS to the Yankees and the Seahawks lost Super Bowl XL in 2006 to the referees.)
The city of Seattle had a strong case against the NBA and the Sonics’ new carpetbagger ownership for breaking their lease. But Seattle’s doofus elected officials fumbled the trial strategy, and ultimately let the team go for a $45 million lease termination payment and a vague promise from NBA commissioner David Stern that Seattle might get a team again someday once they had filled up all the long-time proven basketball markets. You know, like Toronto and Charlotte.
Seriously, the team left for Oklahoma City. I’m sure it’s lovely there and crap like that, but… really? Oklahoma City? That’s a little like having the following conversation with your girlfriend:
Girlfriend: We have to break up, I’m leaving you for another guy.
You: What? Is it the tall blond jet fighter pilot I saw you talking with earlier?
Now Ex-Girlfriend: No… it was the guy next to him.
You: The brilliant wealthy neurosurgeon?
Ex-Girlfriend: No… the guy on the other side.
You: The little kid with a backpack?
Ex-Girlfriend: He’s not a little kid, he’s 4’2″. And that’s not a backpack, it’s a hump.
The point of all this being that until such time as the “Why Does Anyone Care What Team Juwan Howard Wants To Play For?” league returns to Seattle, they are on the official Jeff Carl Dead To Me list. Until then, I will know Kobe Bryant only as “that guy who’s in the commercials with Tom from Parks and Recreation” and February/March will be the Months Without Professional Sports.
Except for the NHL.
* P.S. Screw you, Jimmy Johnson.
** Yes, Seattle has an actual championship-winning pro sports team, the WNBA Seattle Storm. They are awesome and deserve mad props and lots of fans, but it ruins the narrative of my rant. Go Storm.