WARNING: SUPER LONG POST. SORRY.
Come the end of the week if not sooner, the fate of a basketball team that stands to finish with a losing record for the twenty-first time in twenty-eight seasons in the city it calls home will be decided by a near few dozen of some of the country’s richest men in a hotel in New York City.
If the city I still call home does in fact pull off the miracle, it will be surprising to most, but not to me.
It’s been difficult following this relocation saga ever since it was revealed two years ago that the Maloofs were engaged in serious discussions with the city of Anaheim to pack up an enormous part of Sacramento’s identity, not to mention a huge chunk of my childhood, and try to assimilate into a region which in no way shape or form would support the team in the way that Sacramento has. You might think I may not have the right to say that, but having spent the last seven years of my life in Southern California, I can tell you with certainty that would be the case.
Beyond the fear of potentially losing the team that every Kings fan shares, it’s been rough to live down here and watch this drama play out from afar. I felt the same despair we all felt with the Anaheim debacle, the same sense of relief when it was announced that the Mayor bought us another year, the same sense of victory when the Mayor stood center court, arms raised with Joe and Gavin, and the same sense of angst, frustration, and defeat after Georgie Porgies infamous melt down just a little over a year ago. It was rough to have to see that all play out so far from home, so disconnected to the community that I wish to return to someday. I felt that way back in January and in the time that has followed. Sure, I can come to Sactown Royalty and read all about it and vent and lament with the rest of you, but not being home makes it always feel as though I’m late to the party when I come here. It’s as though, and believe me; I know how illogical this is, that’s because I’ve never been on the front lines, I don’t deserve the community we all share here. Sure, I’ve donated to the Here We Stay nights and what not, but I’ve always felt I should do more. I’ve felt helpless being down here in the middle of all this.
But despite the fears, and the pain, and the thought of my city having to face a future without the Kings, without a new ESC and all of the economic and cultural potential that brings with it, I have hope and I have faith that we will pull this one out, because if there is one thing I’ve learned from watching a team with an all-time winning percentage of .431, it’s that no matter what the odds say, anything can happen when you give an underdog a fighting chance.
In some strange way, rooting for the Kings has taught me quite a bit, and most of the lessons I’ve learned watching the Kings have nothing to do with basketball.
Arco Arena was the first and by far the most powerful example of community and civic pride I have ever experienced. Think about it for a second. You drive out there to the middle of Natomas with thousands of strangers. You come together in a sea of purple and are swept away into a relatively tiny complex that in some respects, is literally falling apart and has been for some time, to watch a basketball game that historically ends in defeat. And yet you’re there, living and dying with every twist and turn like all of those around you…for a thirteen point regular season defeat at the hands of the Pistons…in March. Even in those bad times, we still show up. We still cheer. We still love this team.
In many ways this team was the first life lesson in love for me. What is love, really? Love is not saying you love something. I could tell you I love anything, but how do you know it’s true? You don’t until I show you. How do I do that?
For one, I show up. And really, all Maloofery aside, we as a city have always done that when it comes to the Kings. We show up in droves, win or lose (Mostly lose, but whatevs). Good team, bad team, it really doesn’t matter.
It’s not that we don’t care if this team wins or loses, we do. A LOT. As a kid, I used to get myself grounded cursing at the Kings, and that’s when they were GOOD. We do what any fan base does. We analyze every play, every call, every roster move good or bad (mostly bad, but whatev…wait a minute.) It’s not whatevs. The fact that our team mostly sucks and has mostly sucked is actually a big deal all things considered.
Every year we’ve hoped for the best, and almost every year we’ve been let down by this team. So why do we do it? Why do keep showing up? Why do we keep believing? Probably for the same reason why most, not all, but most of our players still bust their asses night in and night out, understanding that it might be all be in vein: We love this damn thing.
We do. L – O – V – E. We love, love, love this team, and if there’s anything we can take away from this whole mess, it’s that we as a city have a love affair with this team that I believe is unrivaled in the world of professional sports. We love everything about this team. We love our inefficient players, we love our god-awful arena, we love our broke ass own – well okay, maybe not everything. But look back into our history and you’ll find twenty seven win teams that we can look back fondly on. You’ll find a handful of stiffs, busts and incompetent coaches that couldn’t be anything other than Sacramento Kings because quite honestly, no other city would love them like we did.
No matter how bad these terms were, that never stopped us from believing that on any given night, we could beat the Showtime Lakers, or the Jordan Bulls, or anybody else that came to Sacramento and took the court at ARCO. And even though we’ve had teams and players that have laid down on this team from time to time, I don’t believe this city ever has. We show up, we cheer, and as silly as it may sound, we try like hell to will our team to victory. Our team.
It is our team. Don’t let anybody tell you different. Some may say we only care so much because they’re the only show in town. We may appreciate them more because of the fact, sure. But I don’t think that’s why they are so special.
I want to be a person that loves fiercely. I want to be a person that loves with fire. Sure, that may just be who I am, but I believe that following the Kings and being a part of this community has taught me how to do that. We don’t just love this team. We love this city. Our city.
It is our city. The other day as I was sampling the talk radio down here in LA, the hosts were taking calls from Laker fans that were trying to explain why people from Portland hate the Lakers so much. Apart from the obvious answer (they’re the Lakers…), one caller chimed in to say that it’s because Portland is the fat pasty loser sitting in the back of class by himself, trying to convince the popular tan jock that he likes being the fat pasty loser. Now I’ve never been to Portland, so I can’t speak on that. But it did get me thinking about others view Sacramento, and how we view ourselves.
For starters, the obvious way people from other parts of the country view us is at best indifference and at worst, disdain. Sometimes we’re a cow town. Sometimes we’re where all the evil politicians live. Sometimes were part of the bay area. (This started well before all the Seattle BS, by the way.) Sometimes we’re just one big slum.
But we know better.
We aren’t the fat pasty loser trying to convince ourselves we’d rather be the fat pasty loser. But we’re not the popular tan jocks either. We’re…somewhere in between. We’re smart, but not geniuses. We ain’t pretty, but we’re all right. We’re never going to be the biggest or the baddest, but we’re bigger than people give us credit for and we’re better than people realize, and god help anyone who underestimates us.
For the most part, I think the teams we’ve had over the years have personified this. Sure, they got beat more often than not, but mostly, they do not hesitate to fight, scrap, and claw, no matter how futile it might be. We’ve always been an underdog, on the court and off. And I personally wouldn’t have it any other way.
They always say you learn more from losing than you ever do from winning. And it’s true. You learn about yourself, who you really are, what really matters. This team may lose eight, nine, fifteen games in a row. But one of these days, they’re going to put it all together and lord have mercy on whatever poor team has to come into our house and take on that team on that night, because there ain’t nothing like an ARCO crowd when things are clickin’.
You learn a lot from losing. You learn how to win. And for the first time in this whole saga, I think this city has finally learned how to do that.
God bless each and every one you. Sactown 4 life.