“Today we spell redemption R-O-N.”
- Wes Mantooth, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
- Luigi Bertini, Via Text Message Earlier Today
The problem with writing a reflective piece about an event as it’s actually happening is that you’re never really allowed time to contextualize. Alternatively if you wait to contextualize your reflections may have all the relevance of an According to Jim joke. It may take days, weeks, months, years before we fully understand what today’s Ron Burkle related revelation means to the city of Sacramento and its sports franchise long-term. In the short-term, however, we know exactly what it means, relief, hope, and vindication.
Sacramento is a city of two distinctly different identities that never really comfortably syncopated, despite much of its population suffering from the split personality. On the one hand there is the city best known both at home and abroad as the cowbell clinging hinterland of California. A city much more closely aligned to the sturdy values of the Midwest than the wild free spiritedness of the left coast. A place of people with big hearts and bad fashion sense. We have, perhaps to our detriment, appropriately, affectionately and unapologetically embraced this image. If these last few months have shown us anything it is that despite our disappointment at effectively being told we are no longer good enough as a city to have a professional sports franchise we collectively never exhibited an inferiority complex. It is laudable.
Admittedly I secretly had an inferiority complex. It bothered me a bit that much of the mainstream media did not seem nearly as interested in the Kings departure as they did that of the Sonics. Now to be sure most of this was owed to the manner by which the Sonics were stolen from Seattle. But some of this I probably irrationally suspect comes from people’s perception of Sacramento. The idea of moving your team from one of the country’s most beautiful, culturally diverse city’s seems blasphemous. Moving your team from Sacramento to Orange County, alternatively, seems inarguably logical. An upgrade in almost every sense; geographically, financially, culturally.
Sacramento is considered a working class town. And it is. But it is a white collar, not blue collar, working class town, and this is an important distinction. Our factory, our big business, is public policy, and as a consequence our city isn’t just populated with civil servants, it’s populated with lobbyists and elected officials and their chiefs of staff and consultants and public relations professionals, the type not customary to cow towns. After Washington D.C., and perhaps New York City, Sacramento is the most important political city in the country. Now yes, many of the people who occupy the aforementioned professions are neither natives nor fulltime residence. But they eat here, drink here, sleep here and think here and they lend to the city an understated, underappreciated, even by its residents, sophistication. This is a town of both sturdy values and wild, free spirited ideas.
The Maloofs never really understood that Sacramento and why should they have? They had no real reason to. They understood Chuck Peterson’s Sacramento. A Sacramento that has more or less ceased to exist in the wake of the real estate bubble burst. They never understood Steve Maviglio’s Sacramento. The resilient, responsive muscle that is forever twitching.
Ron Burkle understands that Sacramento. It’s the only Sacramento he knows. The Sacramento of the capitol and CalPERS and Mercury Consulting. The little city where big decisions are made.
Kevin Johnson also understands that Sacramento. I have never fully agreed with the Mayor’s attempts at making Sacramento a destination city. We will never be a place athletes love visiting during away games, but if Chris Webber’s emotional commentary during Tuesday’s TNT broadcast is any indication it is a city athletes, much to their surprise, love living in, and isn’t that preferable ultimately anyway? However only a person with ambition, with connections, with a mindset that transcends the petty, nimby neighborhood name calling that has for so long handicapped local politics, could pull what Johnson did on Stern. The City Council may not have approved the Mayor’s Strong Mayor bid, but today in Midtown Manhattan, in one moment of transcendental leadership, he proved he is indeed a strong Mayor.
And so it seems poetically appropriate that our fate and faith now is not in the hands of a pair of indifferent brothers, nor other owners with their own agendas, but instead in the hands of two people that understand Sacramento. People that understand that the differences between Sacramento and Anaheim are more than just a more lucrative TV contract and luxury boxes. These are the people we want and need fighting for us. Because these are the only people that can.