Man I wish I could get away from this subject. I just want to pack up, jump in my car and drive away from it. But it’s always in my rear-view mirror. It’s like Walker, Texas Ranger. Per usual, Bill Simmons has been referring to Oklahoma City as “The Team That Shall Not Be Named” and taking it so far as to bleep “Oklahoma City” in podcasts when he slips. You know, keeping up with his shtick. He gets these shticks and themes and he runs with them. And a lot of times, I love him for it. It’s funny, it’s witty and it’s clever. Not so much this time. In his latest mailbag, he let a question from a guy in Tulsa slip through.
Q: You are unfairly killing an entire fan base with your refusal to call the (Team That Shall Not Be Named) by its name. In your attempt to make another state feel better (rightly deserved) you are coming across as a pompous jerk to another one. Can you please start calling our team by its proper name?
— John H., Tulsa, Okla.
SG: No way. It’s like (TTSNBN) was a married couple and couldn’t conceive a child on their own, so they went and stole another couple’s kid (in this case, Seattle’s) after proving in court that the kid was living in an aging house and deserved to live in a new one … but then, in the insult of insults, it turned out they lived in a house that was just as old and decrepit as the kid’s old house. How would you expect me to support this? You stole their team. I will continue to call it The Team That Shall Not Ne Named, the Bennett City Hijackers and the Seattle SloppySeconds. And if it costs me every reader in Hijack City, so be it — I have 49 other states and hundreds of other countries to work with. I’ll be fine. You stole someone else’s team. If you were friends with a buddy who stole another buddy’s wife, you would not be friends with that person anymore. Hijack City is not my friend. At least until Seattle remarries.
Bill’s wrong here. It’s more like what happened in Gone Baby Gone. (If you haven’t seen Gone Baby Gone, stop reading and do it. It’s good. Plus, I’m about to spoil it.) The ending to that movie caused instant debate among friends. You had Group A (Oklahoma City) that thought the little girl was better off staying with her new parents even though they stole her. Morgan Freeman was going to be able to give her everything Amy Ryan couldn’t. She would be loved, cherished and even spoiled at times. She’d have a nice house, nice clothes and grow up happy and healthy. Her new parents would give her attention and love and have everything she deserved.
But you had Group B (Seattle) that thought the little girl should stay with her rightful mother. She birthed her, she raised her and no matter how terrible of a mother she is, it’s her daughter dadgumit! So what that she lived in a cramped apartment and it was a mess all the time. And so what that the mother was a crack addict that ignored her baby and went out on dates with strange men. She gave birth to her and that’s that. Doesn’t matter if she left her at home by herself while she went out and got high. She came from her, so she can’t go anywhere, no matter what the situation.
So who should the cute little team go to? The city that will hold and cherish her or the one that birthed her but treated her badly? He says that OKC’s house is just as old and decrepit as the old house. Which is obviously not true. Top 12 in the league in attendance. Merchandise through the roof. Arena renovations on their way. A fan base that is bananas about the team and isn’t taking anything for granted. How could he possibly think that this child is not in a better situation now? The only explanation is denial to keep up the shtick. Because we all know the team is in a much, much better situation now.
(And here’s the ironic thing – after seeing the movie, I was firmly in Group B. I don’t know why. But not in this scenario. Little children and basketball teams are a wee bit different.)
While I don’t know if he’s really “killing an entire fan base” by refusing to call us by our name, it does bother me too. The whole thing is absolutely ridiculous though. What do we care what some ESPN columnist thinks? Just because he wants to act like he’s six and someone stole his toy doesn’t mean we should pout every time he does this (and that’s coming from someone that loves Simmons more than most). If the Celtics were here, I’d understand a bit more. But he has no connection with Seattle. I really don’t get his beef with OKC. He’ll devote 20 minutes on a podcast to talking about moving teams around and how the Kings moving to Kansas City would be OK, because KC had them first (so should he be miffed at Sacramento for “stealing” them?) or how the Hornets moving is no biggie because they’re losing money. But for some reason, the whole Oklahoma City thing is a whole different situation when it’s the same exact situation.
Here’s the type of email I’d love to see Bill try and respond to (from a fan at the Thunder forums):
As I go through your segments every so often, as I’ve done for the past several year, I’ve come to be very annoyed and insulted at the language you use in informing the masses about Oklahoma City. See, though I just got done working in another large city (that shall not be named) I was born and raised in OKC and was very excited to see the growth of the city and the hard work of the community pay off to land a major league sports team. Come back to my home town this week I had the opportunity to attend a game and bought merch, food and enjoyed the good kind hearted people of Oklahoma. When you use incendiary language like “The team that shall not be named” and quips of the like, it diminishes the successes of the city and the incredible growth of downtown area. I get it, you didn’t like the manner in which the team moved.
However, you ignore the fact that the city probably couldn’t get a simple majority vote for 75 million they need to secure funds for the renovation stadium, the fact that the franchise was losing 20 mill a year and the city had been growing cold to the team. You never talk about those things, though they’re the cold hard facts. You reemphasize, in some form, how terrible the move was every chance you get and how terrible the league was to allow it. I’m sure Stern was supposed to tell Howard not to sell the team, and Clay Bennett not to buy it, Stern then told the 80% of Seattle voters to vote no, in a poll that asked if they supported a tax for the Sonics. Everything sounds like a superiority complex that’s gone out of control. Living in a very large city and visiting other large cities on a regular basis I’ve come to find out that people from large cities feel like they’re just better than people from smaller cities. It comes through very clearly in your writing that this is what you think. “Little ol’ Oklahoma doesn’t deserve a team, a great city like Seattle does!”.
(Stands and claps)
That’s the thing. Just like so many other people, he wants to act like this was a heist. And in some ways, yes it was. But it’s the type of heist where the bank hands you the keys to the vault, helps you load the money and even plans your getaway. Some would say the money was stolen. Some would also say the bank gave it away.
I really want to get over this and just talk basketball. Everyone (should know) my opinion on this whole matter and I just need to let this type of stuff go. I should’ve just ignored it again. But it bothers me some because this is the state I love and the city I’m incredibly proud of. He’s a national writer with a huge readership and his commitment to this thing just fuels more anti-Okie hate, which is so pathetic. It’s done. It’s over. Casey Affleck isn’t picking her up and taking her back. I know people are still mad about it and that’s fine. But there’s no reason to just drag this out. This isn’t to open up the debate again and have people go back and forth and say the same thing over and over again in the comments. This will be (hopefully) the last I’ll really say on this matter, but I had to get this off my chest. Bill Simmons is absolutely one of my favorite writers, but enough is enough.
Now go rent Gone Baby Gone if you haven’t seen it so this whole stupid thing makes sense.