Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kings Kolumn: Fear

I'm not afraid of much. I'm not saying that to sound tough, there are just very few things that truly instill the fear of God into me. Sure, there are things that scare me. I get uncomfortable around cops even though I generally obey the law. Some days I'm afraid I'll drink myself retarded but that usually subsides after a jack and coke or five. But those are nagging fears, something that I can usually push down inside and worry about later. I'm not here to talk about that kind of fear.

I'm here talk about something that I've been running from for nearly 8 years. Something that slowly eats away at my soul just thinking about it. Even now I'm having a tough time writing about it. It's something I've refused to acknowledge, even though I actually maintained a blog about it for a while. I'm deathly afraid of the possibility that the Kings will no longer be in Sacramento.

I know, it's irrational. It doesn't make any sense to worry about a group of pampered millionaires who play a game. Especially when half of them were just shipped off to other cities in exchange for what amounted to increased monetary flexibility....for a couple of billionaires. When billionaire team owners are making blatant cash driven moves, that's a real "Fuck you" move. Yet I still care. Sure, sports are an escape. But I care about that escape, basketball is my escape dammit. And to be completely honest, that's why my fear is so deeply-rooted.

Yes, I'm well aware that the Warriors are right there. But I don't want to be a Warriors fan. It's nothing against them, I'm just stubborn. My dad's a Warriors fan. Way back when the Kings and the Warriors would scrimmage at the Spanos Center, my dad took me to watch the game he loved growing up. But instead of cheering on the team my dad cheered for en route to an NBA title in the 70s, I fell in love with the Kings.

I honestly can't remember what it was. I couldn't have been more that 10 at the time. But for some reason, I made a choice and that choice was that I was a Kings fan. It's one of the earliest decisions I can remember making on my own. Thankfully my dad didn't try and change my mind. He didn't push me towards the east bay. In better financial times he would even spring for those mini-season ticket packages, even waiting with me outside the parking garage while I stood out there with a sharpie hoping one of my heroes would stop and sign my basketball. Yeah, I have an awesome dad. He respected the sports-related decision of a 10 year old. Considering we live in an age where one hears about overbearing little league parents on what seems like a monthly basis, I don't want to ruin that. As stupid as it sounds, part of me fears I'll have let my dad down if the team leaves. We bonded over becoming Kings fans. I don't want to lose that.

But it's more than that. More than the "If I had known back then that 20 years later you were going to leave me, I may have taken a second look at the Warriors" thing (I said "may" so it's not blasphemy). It's also something that developed a little later on in my Kings fan experience. Hope. During the 90s the Kings were the loveable losers. I remember losing my shit when they snuck into the playoffs as an 8 seed. Now, people are saying "championship or bust". I'm not in that camp.

It goes without saying (yet, here I go saying it) that 2002 changed everything. It wasn't like I was cheering against the team before, I just knew not to expect a long playoff run from the Richmond-led Kings. But 2002 made me think for the first time that perhaps little ol' us could go all the way. NBA Champion Sacramento Kings. It used to be a joke. KHTK even had it as one of their rejoiners that ended with "Sorry, we just wanted to hear how that sounded". But after '02, it was possible. Not only was it possible, it needed to happen. While 2002 brings up a lot of emotions that I'm still not entirely ready to discuss, the one thing it did was give us the hope that a championship wasn't just some silly joke. The Kings, our Kings, could be champions.

Of course it didn't happen. After watching Game 7, there were many thoughts running through my head. One of them was "We fucking need to get back there." But then Webber's knee went kaput and it all fell apart. But things had definitely changed. I was no longer content with just having my team to follow. I need a championship. I'm more patient than most fans nowadays but I still need that guttural, cathartic yell of victory that I was denied 7 years ago. I want to crack open that high end bottle of brandy Bris and I bought and sip the sweetest drink I'll ever taste.

I'm a pretty laid back guy to the point where people think I'm completely unmotivated, that I have no fire and that's not the case. There's a fire that burns deep inside me that can only be put out when I see Kings jerseys covered in champagne (Note to Mom: This is not my only passion, swear. I also love bacon.). One of my biggest fears, is that I'll never get a chance to extinguish that fire. That the team will move away and I'll have this incomplete part of me. A part that can only be filled when the Kings validate my choice to support them for pretty much my entire life and hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy over their heads.

Again, I know this is entirely irrational. I don't expect you to understand because frankly, I don't understand it myself. It's just there.

Why do I bring all this up? Well, tomorrow the NBA and the State of California present their plans involving Cal Expo as the site of a new arena for the Kings. Which is conveniently 2 days before the deadline for teams to file for relocation for next season. If it's good news, ignore this whole post. If it's bad news...well...there's always tequila. Lots and lots of tequila.

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