Sorry to have been absent in my blogging duties since late August. I've got my reasons. I fully intend to complete the 100 Years of Oklahoma Presidential Elections but that project has proven rather time intensive in both research and writing, so I'll take a small break before finishing that article to give an update on the national social acceptance since the relocation of the Seattle Super Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008 and the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder since its arrival in Oklahoma City from its inaugural 2008-2009 season through this point in time, five seasons later. On this very night, December 9, 2012, the Thunder whipped the Indiana Pacers in the Chesapeake Energy Arena for their 8th straight victory this season and achieving the 2012-13 current record of 17-4 through the 1st quarter of this year's regular season.
As will appear below, virtually all vestiges of the Thunder's Seattle baggage has been shorn, particularity when combined with ESPN sports columnist Bill Simmons' remarks about the "Zombie Sonics" and/or "the team which shall not be named" ostensibly being laid to rest. Footnote 1
Please don't misunderstand ... it's not that Simmons' opinions particularly matter in the real world all that much, because they don't ... but Simmons was the last significant national columnist who persisted in the practice of using snide, sarcastic and unfriendly names which were ascribed to my team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Footnote 1. As will be seen at the end of this piece, one must put a footnote to Bill Simmons' "Footnote 1" contained in an article published by him on October 11, 2012, from which footnote some conclude that Simmons has actually turned a new leaf and that he has laid to rest the name "Zombie Sonics" when referring to the Oklahoma City Thunder. At best, whether he has turned over such a leaf must also be qualified with the words, "kinda sorta." I'll get back to his Footnote 1 at the end of this piece. That said, some have interpreted his October post as having abandoned his tirade against the Oklahoma City Thunder. But, the truth is, whether Simmons agrees or not, the words Zombie Sonics are no longer a part of anyone's nomenclature or thought processes (with the possible exceptions of Simmons and die-hard fans of the Seattle Super Sonics).
Where to begin? With ESPN sports writer Bill Simmons who dubbed the Oklahoma City Thunder as the Zombie Sonics way back when? No, I'll hold that to the butt-end of the post, where it rightly belongs.
Instead, I'll begin with the November 8, 2012, New York Times Magazine cover article by Sam Anderson, the New York Times Magazine’s critic at large. Actually, it was within this article that I first learned that Simmons had "retired" the cleverly designed nasty phrase that he earlier coined. Anderson's article is a long one and you can read it from its source, but it is simply too good, too thorough, not to set out verbatim, as it is below.
Is Anderson's long New York Times Magazine article a great read, or what? But, now, it's time to get back to that opening Footnote 1 ...
Footnote 1 ... Bill Simmons. Like I said at the beginning, when the above article said, "Simmons announced, just a few weeks ago, that he was officially retiring the phrase Zombie Sonics. In almost no time at all, the Oklahoma City Thunder had achieved escape velocity." The New York Times Magazine piece that I'd read and started to post here on December 10 was published November 8, so I was way behind the curve when learning of Simmons' turned leaf. So, finishing the New York Times part, I started my Simmons research.
First, I saw that The Lost Ogle had already written about it on October 16. The Lost Ogle's piece quoted a footnote within in an October 11 column Simmons had published at his Grantland website. The footnote reads:
Footnote 1: Important note for this season: I'm giving up my four-year vow to avoid typing the word "Thunder" in an NBA column after the Sonics were hijacked from Seattle with the implicit consent of the NBA's commissioner, David Stern. It's just too much of a pain in the ass to keep the "Zombies" thing going, and more important, Chris Hansen is definitely bringing the Sonics back to Seattle. That's happening. Let's start looking forward instead of backward.The New York Times Magazine and The Lost Ogle articles concluded from Simmons' footnote that he had "retired" the Zombie reference. But, upon reading the Grantland article which was titled, "The Harden Dilemma," it is plainly evident that such a conclusion was premature, at best. Why? Because in the main article, Simmons called the Thunder "the Zombies" once again:
How will Harden's saga play out? I see three potential outcomes, and only three ...Given the above emphasized text, it becomes evident that Simmons hasn't yet "retired" the Zombies term ... he has simply allowed himself the option of using "Zombies" and "Thunder" (which he earlier said he would never say) interchangeably ... Zombies, Thunder, whatever, it doesn't matter.
• Harden's agent accepts less money to stay in Oklahoma City — a fundamentally ignorant decision that would mean they were brainwashed by Oklahoma City's small-market B.S.. If that happens, lock down the Zombies for two to four titles in the 2010s assuming nothing funky happens (injuries, drugs, a fatal injury during a brawl at the BET Awards, whatever).
• Harden's agent says, "Let's play this baby out." That's actually the best outcome for both parties. Harden guarantees himself a four-year, $64 million offer from someone this summer; Oklahoma City locks Harden into a cheap 2012-13 price ($5.82 million) while also leaving itself the flexibility to (a) trade Harden during the season (doubtful; they'd never mess that dramatically with a potential title team), (b) match Harden's "max" offer next summer and amnesthize Kendrick Perkins (most likely), or (c) match that offer, then trade Harden or Westbrook after the 2013-14 season because the tax penalties will keep getting worse (possible).
• Oklahoma City panics and trades Harden before Halloween, or some time before February's deadline, for 100 cents on the dollar. Totally improbable … and yet, we can't totally rule it out.
So, put Simmons' use of the term in the same general category as Oklahoman sportswriter Berry Tramel's continued use of "Boomers" as an acceptable interchangeable moniker for the Thunder. Although Tramel's term isn't as offensive, both writers continue to use a unique name for the Thunder for their own personal pleasure.
So, Is The Name "Zombie Sonics" really Dead? Yes, it is. But it's not because Bill Simmons said so (because he didn't) ... it's because he is an island to himself amongst professional sportswriters who seems to feel the need to continue to be ugly to the Thunder. He continues to bash the Thunder's owners even if he has become more sympathetic to the city and Oklahoma City Thunder fans (see this Grantland article).
As a December postscript to Simmons' October 11 dire predictions for the Thunder if Sam Presti chose the "improbable" door #3 vis a vis James Harden, we all know by now and despite Simmons' faux-wisdom that Sam Presti DID choose door #3 ... "The Beard" James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets before October 31, in exchange for Kevin Martin and other assets. In a post-Harden-trade October 30 Grantland article, Simmons predicted ...
You want predictions for the 2012-13 season from me? I have two and two only.What can one objectively say about those remarkable predictions?
1. Miami is going to beat the Lakers in the Finals.
2. Oklahoma City will rue the day it traded James Harden.
First, Simmons' Second Prediction. It's safe to say that all Thunder fans loved "The Beard" and that all fans very much regretted him being traded away, largely done for salary cap penalty issues associated with the Thunder breaching that cap. But, Oklahoma City Thunder fans aren't sufficiently naive to recognize the practical realities that any NBA team (save a precious few like the Heat and the Lakers) have to cope with given last year's collective bargaining agreement. And, while we surely miss The Beard, we have been quick to embrace Kevin Martin, the principal asset acquired in that same trade.
Going into tonight's (December 12) home game against the Hornets (this part of the article is written before that game on December 12), the Thunder is 17-4, leading the NW division by 5½ games. After tonight's game against the Hornets, on December 14 we host Sacramento and there is a good chance that the Thunder will be 19-4 after that. Then, the Thunder host San Antonio on Monday, December 17 in a match-up between, presently, the two best teams in the Western Conference, arguably the two best teams in the NBA right now.
But, wait, there's more! As noted in the New York Times Magazine article, ESPN recently named the Oklahoma City Thunder the best professional sports team in the United States (including the NBA, NHL, MLB, and NFL). In its most recent power-rankings, USA Today deems the Oklahoma City Thunder #1, followed by San Antonio Spurs #2. The Lakers, Simmons' favorite but faltering badly since Simmons made his October 30 predictions, came in at #20.
Now, I know that one-quarter of a season does not a season make. Simmons may well be proved true about Oklahoma City "ruing the day," but, not yet.
I am reminded of a personal story ... when I quit high school band in favor of high school debate way back in the fall of 1959. To excel at either activity took lots of non-school after-hours time, and my family history was in music. But, I had gotten involved with debate a year earlier and it fascinated me. In the fall of 1959, I concluded that I could not do both with excellence and I chose debate which led to me becoming a lawyer. But, when giving my Lawton High School band director, Mr. McHenry, my drop card, he insisted on a private meeting in his office, during which he said, "You are letting your school down, Doug, and you will come to regret this decision."
I'm not dead yet so that eventful day of remorse may yet come to pass. But, now approaching 70 years of age, it ain't likely. Second-guessing on the viability of Sam Presti's decision regarding the James Harden decision appears to be fainter and fainter by the day. Maybe the personal analogy ain't perfect, but it's pretty close to the mark.
You know what, I'll take Sam Presti's decisions over Bill Simmons' predictions any time, any where, any place.
Second, Simmons' First Prediction. Here, Simmons proclaimed the Lakers Western Conference champions this season, and he said, "Miami is going to beat the Lakers in the Finals."
Right. As of the morning of December 12, the Heat were 14-5, not too shabby but certainly not at the top of the Eastern Conference. As for the Lakers, they are 9-13, just having lost to Cleveland. If the season ended now, the Lakers wouldn't even make the playoffs.
Again, I understand that 1/4 of a season does not a season make. But both the Heat and the Lakers are going to have to work their arses off so that Simmons manages to look good by the end of the regular season.
Simmons' Third Prediction. He didn't mention this one in his October 30 article. Rather, it was contained in "Footnote 1" to his October 11 Grantland piece, mentioned above. There, he said,
Chris Hansen is definitely bringing the Sonics back to Seattle. That's happening.Who is he kidding? It would have to be his Seattle following because if and when Seattle gets an NBA team in the future is wholly speculative and which may be in the realm of "Dream On, Teenage Queen."
In the first place, Seattle would need to have in place at least a commitment (if not an established fact) from Seattle/Washington to build a new arena ... part of what the Clay Bennett partnership announced as a "stay in Seattle" condition way back when, but when Seattle/Washington gave the Oklahoma investors group the stiff-arm regarding such a prospect. But, yes, Hanson has made progress about getting a new $480 million NBA/NHL arena in Seattle. Also, see this USA Today article. The problem with this development is that it's all written in disappearing ink ... no commitments, no signatures on the dotted line. Unless the facility is actually built or contracted to be built, whether or not the NBA or NHL might agree to place a team there, not one shovel of the new NBA/NHL proposed arena has yet been shoveled. Hence, even Hansen's proposed arena remains speculative.
In the second place, who says that the NBA has a team to locate in Seattle? For that to be true, either (a) an existing NBA team would need to relocate there, or (b) the NBA would have to expand to include more than the present 30 teams. Without belaboring the point, a study in either possibility is wholly speculative.
So where does reality come face to face with Simmons' prediction, "Chris Hansen is definitely bringing the Sonics back to Seattle. That's happening."
The obvious and simple answer is that Simmons hasn't got a clue and has no credibility concerning Seattle or Oklahoma City at all. He is merely pandering to the Seattle fans that he took under his wing way back when and has, more recently, kinda-sorta thrown under the bus.
Sorry, Seattle, but if/when you are prepared to take Simmons' predictions to the bank as though his opinions were delivered from god-almighty, as you may be, you have my best wishes. He is not the first pied-piper that you may have followed before before this day, the first of whom was probably Chris Van Dyk.