While I understand the heartache that losing a beloved sports franchise can bring, it won’t be the end of the world if the Sacramento Kings ultimately end up in Seattle.
Still, just because I’m not especially enamored of the Kings doesn’t mean I don’t feel the pain of those who live and die (usually die) with every errant pass and missed free throw. I mean, if someone told me my favorite sports team was going out of business or moving to a distant city, I’d be crushed too.
But before we get too righteous about someone “stealing’ our team, we should remember that the Kings were never ours to begin with. And, truth be told, those two recent World Series pennants that Giants fans are so proud of should rightfully be displayed at the Polo Grounds.
That’s the way it is with sports franchises. Here today, gone tomorrow. Sacramento doesn’t have the Solons anymore, Oakland doesn’t have the Oaks, and Portland no longer has the Beavers. The Pacific Coast League bears absolutely no resemblance to the one I followed so closely as a kid.
Heck, the last time I checked, the Los Angeles Rams were playing all their home football games out of state.
This whole dispute really has nothing to do with whether or not Sacramento is a world-class city, whatever that term means. You know, I’ve been in a few world-class cities and learned very quickly I’d rather live here, whether we have the Kings or we don’t.
There is, however, a simple solution to the dilemma facing NBA owners over the ultimate fate of the Kings. The question everyone is asking, of course, is whether the Kings should be sold to a group that will move them to Seattle or should they be sold to a group that will keep them in Sacramento?
I don’t know quite how to say this, but they’re all asking the wrong question. It shouldn’t be an all-or-nothing battle to the death between these two great cities. It’s clearly time for compromise.
And no, I’m not suggesting we play half the games in Sacramento and half in Seattle. That’s the very definition of a half-baked idea.
The answer is obvious: move the Kings halfway between Sacramento and Seattle so fans from both cities will have an equal shot at watching their heroes play.
As the crow flies, it’s about 800 miles from Sacramento to Seattle, a few miles farther if the crow has to take I-5.
Halfway between the two cities will pretty much land you in Roseburg, a beautiful small sports-loving city in central Oregon that is just itching for an NBA franchise. At last count, the population of Roseburg was 21,181, which is exactly, to the seat, the projected capacity of the new arenas proposed for both Sacramento and Seattle.
Trust me, award the franchise to Roseburg and the good folks of Douglas County will sell it out every single night.
The Seattle group will have to put up only half the money it pledged and the same for Kevin Johnson’s pod of whales in Sacramento. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Kings fans in Sacramento can make the ride easily during daylight hours. The same for Supersonics fans in Seattle.
Gary Gerould, the best sportscaster of our day, will be welcomed with open arms by the kind and generous people of Roseburg, who know a good thing when they see it.
As an added bonus, there will be a natural rivalry with the Portland Trail Blazers, just three hours to the north. And since Roseburg is almost exactly halfway between the equator and the North Pole, fans from all over the globe will flock to Central Oregon when the Miami Heat or the much-maligned Lakers come to town.
Sellouts in the Roseburg High School gym, visible from I-5 in either direction, will be virtually assured. And in a nod to the first-ever NCAA basketball champions — the 1939 men from the University of Oregon — the team will be called the Tall Firs, since many NBA players are nearly as tall as the old-growth forest that surrounds this lovely town.
Roseburg has a beautiful Fred Meyer to provide pre-game snacks and some great fishing holes in the Umpqua River. And won’t it be fun to hear East Coast announcers try to pronounce “Umpqua” for the first time?
The loyal fan base will be known as the Umpqua Empire, and the NBA will justifiably get many pats on the back for expanding its reach into one of this country’s smaller TV markets, where the fans are just as passionate as they are in the big cities. (At last check, Roseburg was the 10,122nd largest TV market in the country).
Clearly, it’s an idea whose time has come.
Home at last, home at last. Go Firs.
— Reach Bob Dunning at [email protected]