Believing in Sacramento

Original art by Michelangelo, illustration by Ziller

Sacramentans have always believed in their city and its people. The reckoning comes when the rest of the world comes to terms with what this city truly can become.

Over the years, Sacramento has taken a lot of shots. From Charles Barkley, from Channing Frye, from hordes of internet commenters. Even some well-liked Kings have admitted that they'd rather be in a different city. On the one hand, it's understandable. There's the Sacramento people from other places see: the sprawling suburbutopia, with as many asphalt mesas as skyscrapers, a downtown where the entertainment district could in the past be found in one or two rooms at one or two clubs, a restaurant scene that's tight and improving by leaps and bounds but still lacks the accessibility and notoriety of other cities, a pretty bad downtown movie theater, little in the way of national-level rock-hip hop-pop shows.

Then there's the Sacramento we know: a wonderful art (performance and otherwise) scene, some superlative eateries, a culture of creativity, some awesome neighborhoods and a place where dreams are born daily. Many Kings players come to find out about this Sacramento. Few others associated with pro sports do. Compounding the problem, many of us out in suburbia and exurbia don't experience enough of it, and downplay or discredit it when it comes up. (I was guilty of that in my youth, far preferably the Bay cities to closer Sactown. My attitude has changed as I've aged and experienced more of each.)

For a long time, belief in Sacramento within Sacramento has been far stronger than belief in Sacramento from outside Sacramento. That's changing, and this week's developments highlight the shift. Mark Mastrov is a perfect example of someone from outside Sacramento who believes in Sacramento. One of his first 24-Hour Fitness locations in the '80s was opened in Sacramento. And now he wants to buy the Kings, keep them right here and bring a championship to the city. And ... he wants to bring the WNBA back to town, because he believes that Sacramento will again support the Monarchs.

Kevin Johnson is from Sacramento. Of course he believes in Sacramento. He knows what the city and its people are all about. Mastrov and Ron Burkle are taking leaps of faith to some degree. By taking the lead on the arena, Burkle is almost guaranteed to make money here -- downtown has been dying for a shot in the arm, and the partnership that can provide that (Burkle and JMA Ventures) will profit. Mastrov will likely profit too, but the potential for wealth growth is smaller in the near-term. This isn't the Knicks or Lakers or Bulls. This is the small-market Sacramento Kings that Mastrov is believing in, putting his faith into, giving sweet Life to. Mastrov and Burkle are putting faith in Sacramento and helping the city and its people reach their potential. How commendable, that.

And that says something about Sacramento, and it says something about Mastrov. Something good. Something empowering. Something to make us smile.

We believe in Sacramento, and it's time the world joins us.

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