Recently, now more than ever I have begun to question myself for continuing to support the Sacramento Kings. Earlier this year, we were blessed with the opportunity to draft Thomas Robinson, the projected second or third pick of the 2012 NBA Draft. It was going to be DeMarcus Cousins all over again, all the other GMs would be slapping their foreheads weeks into the regular season, and Kings fans would be rewarded once again through a fall in the draft. Then, we acquired Aaron Brooks and James Johnson. What I gathered from Brooks was that he was a sharpshooting shot-jacker, the former trait a dire need, the latter not so much. Johnson looked like a burgeoning defensive star, leading the league in blocks per minute in Toronto, last year. Overall, a pretty strong effort compared to last year's offseason. Looking through the boards here early October, I saw optimism, something that springs eternal around these parts. The signs were there. Our main prospects were due to mature, our coach was saying all the right things, and best of all we were winning. Granted, it was the preseason, but damn it we were winning. Our offseason gains were promising, and even the Jimmer made an appearance. I came home from work to look over post-game threads, and couldn't help smiling. I may not post here much, but I read plenty, and a clear narrative was being compiled by hundreds of keyboards that form this ever loyal community.
This time. I thought. This time we'll be better.
Unfortunately, nothing with them ever changes.
My girlfriend curled up onto a queen-sized mattress that lay on the floor, and said "Why do you still watch them? They're terrible. Nobody wants to watch a team lose."
I didn't turn around. I was busy with a nightly ritual, pouring over the box scores of games around the nation, saving my team for last. I had run through the rest of the league, and with a dull thud in my chest, I saw the final score to our game against the flu-riddled Atlanta Hawks. I had done my homework before leaving for work, I knew this team was struggling on the West Coast, and we desperately needed a win after losing three straight. I wondered if they would show the game at work. They didn't. I work at a restaurant with a grand total of eight televisions, and not a single one was showing our Kings, in the middle of November no less.
I poured over the numbers, taking in the highlights by digits on a still screen. Their leading scorer that night was Kyle Korver. Kyle friggin' Korver! Shooting 5/5 from the three point line, he torched our rising defensive star, Evans. Our best effort came from Thompson, who posted an efficient double double alongside an erratic Cousins' line that featured 27% shooting and a near triple-double. I read in the recap the team was in the middle of a players' only meeting. I knew this was the beginning of self-combustion. Coach Smart would be out the door, and the organization would finally begin to make sweeping changes. Then I remembered, these are my Sacramento Kings, and with them nothing ever changes.
I turned to her, and mutter, tone dry. "Because I can."
She's perplexed. "What do you mean?"
"Some day I may not be able to. They could leave."
She responds. "Well, maybe it would hurt less if you left first."
I stiffen. It's an interesting point, perhaps if I distance myself over time their eventual exit won't hurt me? I could save myself weeks and months of pain by doing what this franchise did years ago, stop caring. I've long grown out of my Kings jerseys, and haven't bought one in years. My first game I ever saw them, all the way back in 2001, happened to be my last. My love affair with this team has been almost entirely experienced from afar, but somehow this perpetual embarrassment has buried itself deep into my heart. The Sleep Train Arena falls approximately forty-five minutes away from my doorstep, and I simply never could afford going. I moved away from my family earlier this year, a mere five months after turning eighteen. I knew how to separate myself from those I cared about, this team should be no different. But with this team, nothing ever changes, including my feelings.
I can't leave. It's a brand of Stockholm Syndrome for me. Following the Atlanta game, we lost once again to the Brooklyn Nets -- but this time we were competitive. Something was different, and any feelings of dissent vanished, optimism replacing gloom. Then "Beat LA" reverberated off the walls of our arena, as we trounced a formidable Lakers squad. Beating the Lakers has, and will always be the best feeling I will get as a Kings fan. I fooled myself, humoring desperate hopes that this was us turning a corner, just as last season's opener had been. You know what comes next.
We collapsed. 104-102 Utah comes away with a win.
What happened? How could this happen? How can these Kings be so, so cruel? Directly following a dominant win over a title contender, this very same team turns around and self-destructs down the stretch to a lesser squad? My significant other's words reverberated through my skull.
Why not quit?
I leave it to you.