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Monday, April 14, 2008

Sonics Death Watch

posted by on April 14 at 11:30 AM

Over the weekend, I mentioned to a group of friends the 200-word column by a National Book Award-winning author that runs every week on the back page of The Stranger, and one person in the group—a former editor at The Stranger!—had no idea what I was talking about.

Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy the XIIIth installment of Sherman Alexie’s weekly short story in a box:

These are my three favorite Sonics memories:

1. In 2002, during a home game, Gary Payton twisted his knee at an obscene angle. As he, screaming in pain, was carried back to the locker room, I wept, thinking that his career might be over. But a moment later, miraculously healed, Payton came running back onto the court. The home crowd exalted. We genuflected. We spoke in tongues.

2. In 2005, in the last seconds of the sixth game of a surprisingly competitive playoff series with the San Antonio Spurs, Ray Allen launched a jumper from the corner that could have won the game and sent the series back to Texas for a seventh and deciding game. As that shot hung in the air, suspended between the corporeal and mystic, I believed that my beloved Sonics were going to vanquish the evil Spurs. Allen missed the shot, but I will always carry with me the gorgeous hope of that moment.

3. In 2000, when my late father was still healthy enough to travel, I flew him over for a game against the Lakers. As my father sat beside me in row 14, he smiled and said, “These are great seats.” In Alexie-speak, that meant, “I love you, Son.”

As a Monday-morning gift to you, dear Slog readers, here is the XIVth Sonics Death Watch, which will be published in our print edition two days hence:

Emily Dickinson wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers.” As an undying Sonics fan, I’d like to amend that to “Hope is the thing with a good lawyer.”

Due to legal circumstances, I have regained my hope that the Sonics will not be leaving our city. Being a Catholic, a Native American, and a fragile and finite human, my hopes are tidal.

Back in 1997, when the Sonics signed Vin Baker, a gifted low post scorer, I had torrential hope. Was this the man who was going to lead us to another championship?

A few weeks before that season started, as I paid for my pizza, the Domino’s man told me he was delivering a large pepperoni pizza to Vin Baker.

“I’m so excited for the season,” the pizza man said. “I wish I had a basketball or something for him to sign.”

Just as excited, I gave the man one of my basketballs and a $20 tip. Of course, ten thousand pizzas and beers later, Baker turned into an alcoholic, obese failure who drank and ate his way out of the league. But even now, as I mourn for Baker, I also hope he’s sober and slender. I want to tell him, “Hope is the thing with a talented therapist.”

Previously: XII, XI, X, IX, VIII, VII, VI, V, IV, III, II, and I.

RSS icon Comments


i loved sonics death watch, just flat out great writing, mos def worthy of a bigger space, but it was great, reading it makes me want to key Howard Schultz's car. it speaks to the need of keeping a sports section in the Stranger.

vin aker was such a waste of space, but I kind of liked him after I found out he was a manic depressive and a fellow drunk.

Posted by SeMe | April 14, 2008 11:36 AM

vin baker.

Posted by SeMe | April 14, 2008 11:37 AM

sonics death watch is the first thing i read when i pick up the paper

Posted by angela garbes | April 14, 2008 11:47 AM

and of course eat and tell...=)

Posted by SeMe | April 14, 2008 11:51 AM

Me too -- and I don't care about basketball at all.

Posted by Fnarf | April 14, 2008 11:51 AM

Vin Baker, a professional athlete who needs to stay in top shape, having ordered a pizza in the first place should have been a warning sign ;P

That said, great work by Alexie, even if I'm not fond of how pieces like his fuels the false hope of diehards who will hold out hope the team will stay until the moving trucks finally wheel out of Seattle Center.

Posted by Gomez | April 14, 2008 12:08 PM

Is that before or after the "rad dyke plumber"?

Posted by K | April 14, 2008 12:15 PM

i see no reason why SDW should stop when the season ends. there's plenty of dying left to write about.

Posted by max solomon | April 14, 2008 12:21 PM

Sherman Alexie has done more for the Sonics than Howard Shultz has done for coffee.

I would gladly vote for the city to build houses for both him and Dan Savage.

Posted by six shooter | April 14, 2008 12:26 PM

Oh yeah, Alexie wrote that stupid book about the hulking Indian serial killer, innit? His Sonics stuff is even worse.

Posted by Bastone | April 14, 2008 12:44 PM


Posted by michael strangeways | April 14, 2008 12:49 PM

@10: Bastone, you clearly didn't read the book, because the hulking Indian was not the killer.

I assume your literary criticism is on par with your basketball knowledge.

Oh and by the way, it's 'enit'. went 3 for 3 from the line (hint: that's basketball talk).

Posted by cw | April 14, 2008 3:02 PM

i don't give a shit about the sonics but i love that column.

Posted by carney | April 14, 2008 4:46 PM

This reminds me of my favorite quote. John Cleese in the movie Clockwise:

"It's not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand."

I feel like Alexie is setting us up for just this type of payoff.

Posted by Ryan | April 14, 2008 5:40 PM

The Sonics Death Watch column is great. My favorite is Alexie's post about watching highlights of Shawn Kemp with his wife. However, I only found the column by accident because it is buried in the back with all the smut ads. I recommend that it be prominently displayed in the first few pages, perhaps in that little corner on the Last Days page. It is a limited column, so we can do without the random "guest columns" for a bit.

Posted by Bub | April 14, 2008 8:24 PM

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