Sports are just not that important. I know... It's painful for many sports fans to hear, but it's true. A trouble brewing with the Hornets in Oklahoma City forces us to step back and reiterate that fact. There will soon be, if there's not already, a battle between two cities. And regardless of the outcome, it's a battle OKC won't win.
One of my very first articles here on About OKC was on the New Orleans / Oklahoma City Hornets.
"Although these certainly aren't the best circumstances by which to get one [a professional team], there is little doubt the Hornets will be embraced."
The Hornets have been embraced, even to a level that many would never have predicted. Their on-court success has only fueled the fire of attachment. We have a bit of a crush on this team, it seems. It's a first love, after all. With a first love, you fall fast and you fall hard.
Obviously nobody wanted New Orleans to suffer the horrible things they've suffered. But it's far too easy to forget that suffering while we watch the Hornets hoop. It's quite a conundrum for our city, a bit of a catch-22 that is only going to intensify.
E-mail OutrageI received an e-mail recently from a New Orleans resident. It made me ponder this impossible situation for our city. Stepping in to host the Hornets... Thanks for your hospitality, OKC. Growing attached to them... How could you?
The e-mail was sorely misdirected, of course. And I told the writer that. He was livid with Oklahoma City for decisions the NBA made and angry with me for covering the team.
"Please don't become overzealous and think that the Hornets are your team! [...] The people of New Orleans have lost enough, and how dare you people try to take OUR team away from us. Just because you all do not have a major league team does not mean go ahead and take our team while we are down."
I responded to him that Oklahoma City has no intention of "stealing" the Hornets, that the residents of the city feel horrible for what happened there, and that the only thing we can control is our support while they're here.
I believe every word of that. But the more I think about it, the more I believe that's a far too simplistic explanation of our precarious situation.
Having it Both WaysAfter all, how can the city simultaneously love this team and support it as we have but still have no problem with their eventual departure? We tilt our heads and offer a "It'll be good while it lasts," but that's too simplistic as well. And it ignores the changes that have taken place in OKC.
There are financial advantages certainly. More importantly, there have been extraordinary improvements in the image of OKC on a national level. We're referred to as a "major-league city" now and finally recognized for many of the great things we have to offer. The NBA in OKC has done so much in just a few short months.
It's those changes that were on Mick Cornett's mind when he helped broker the deal. Those were the advantages that had city leaders and businessmen salivating. However, they may turn out to be the least important adaptation the city has undergone. The distinction of the most important goes to the changes in our own view of ourselves, how Oklahoma City now feels not only can we be a top-tier city but maybe we should be one.
See, the Hornets were a "can't miss" proposition. Some exposure, a little extra green and a prime entertainment opportunity for residents. As with many problems, though, it was a failure to look ahead that may counteract all of the positives.
Now We're StuckWhat did OKC have in mind when they wooed the Hornets? Simply being a good neighbor? If it's true that nobody could have anticipated the Hornets' success here and the way residents have swooned and blushed in their presence, then simple altruism is probably the answer. Whatever benefits the city might see, we're just a middle man, here primarily out of necessity rather than opportunity. Someone would have stepped in to host the Hornets. Why not us?
But I don't think many outside of OKC, especially those in New Orleans, see it quite that way.
I think there are far more that believe as the person that e-mailed me, that our city leaders had more sinister intentions. Play caring, open our arms to the team, and then grab them and run while New Orleans backs are turned.
NBA is by far the least important issue for New Orleans right now. But to pretend like emotions don't exist when speaking about sporting teams is a mistake. The general public might not understand FEMA aid packages and levee rebuilding specifications, but they sure as heck know basketball. More importantly, they understand deceit and greed.
The truth is it doesn't even really matter OKC's intentions. Simply taking advantage of an opporuntity in good faith or scheming to adopt a team from a storm-torn metropolis, it means little. The same end is coming. Oklahoma City must decide whether their crush on the Hornets is worth their honor.