Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dave Zirin comes, the Sonics go, and the buses don't run in Oklahoma City

I dislike calling Dave Zirin a radical writer. In some people's minds, that conjures up images of anarchists throwing bags of urine at cops. But Zirin definitely writes about sports from a leftist point of view, That's made him a favorite of his readers at the web site, I like his philosophy that sports is like a hammer; they can build a lot of good things but in the wrong hands can do a lot of damage.
Zirin, who looks just like his picture on the jackets of his books, was on the book circuit a few months ago promoting two new books- Welcome To The Terrordome and The Muhammad Ali Reader. The title of the former comes comes from a Chuckie D. rap song but in this context refers to the Louisiana Superdome.
Michael Vick was a topic that day. Zirin had been involved in a blog feud with a writer from The Nation. He felt, among other things, that Zick's biggest mistake was getting arrested in August when not much else was going on in the sports universe. Zirin, who isn't in favor of dog fighting, drew a few chuckles when he talked about how if a white quarterback like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning had been in the same situation, the media would have called it a ``learning moment,'' where we are all taught a lesson about the evils of dog fighting.
A women asked Zirin about the Seattle Sonics iminent move to Oklahoma. Unlike those who could care less if the Sonics leave or the sports talk show callers who want new stadiums without thinking about who'll pay for them, this woman spoke for another segment of the public. She'd spent a good part of her life rooting for Dennis Johnson, Gus Williams and Slick Watts but she didn't want the new owners rewarded - "welfare for the rich.''
Zirin, who's a regular contributor to SLAM, a slick, hip, pro basketball magazine, replied that it's time for public ownership of sports teams. In this case, not nationalized sports teams, but "municipalized'' franchises, just like in Green Bay where a large segment of the population owns the Packers.
Perhaps it was that woman who motivated Zirin to write in a recent Edge Of Sports column, "basketball fans should press the state of Washington to sue for the right to buy the team back from Clay (Bennett) and his cronies. They should claim that the Super Sonics are the intellectual property - eminent domain - of the people in Seattle, and therefore the city has more of a claim than the Bennetts of Oklahoma."
It's the kind of original, out-of-the-box thinking that's missing from too many sports journalists. However, in the real world, said owners continue to dismantle the Sonics while the city won't let them out of their lease. NBA Commissioner David Stern and Sonic owner Clay Bennett are friends but some of the owners can't be thrilled about the league abandoning Seattle, always ranked as one of the top cities to live, for Oklahoma City, where the buses don't run on Saturday night.