The Sonics and Greg Nickels's Pelican Gullet
To be perfectly honest: I think sports are kind of dumb and weird. However, I am so firmly on the side of Sonicsgate—a new documentary explaining precisely how Clay Bennett and Howard Schultz fucked the city of Seattle like a Two-Headed Professional Dream-Ruining Machine—that I am basically its mom and its prom date and I'm willing to let it touch my boob in the limo ride on the way home (but only if we're in the prom-date scenario here, not the mom one [unless, in this metaphor, Sonicsgate is a baby, because I also think breast-feeding is important for healthy development (okay, so this took a weird turn—why did I take a baby to prom? [let us never speak of it again])]).
Clearly these dudes are colossal assholes. Clay Bennett is a liar
and a cube. Howard Schultz is a corny, petulant baby-man. David Stern
Mike Lowry a frog (has anyone ever seen David Stern and a frog and
Mike Lowry in a room at the same time? YOUR HONOR, I REST MY
CASE [frog court has less strenuous standards of proof than human
As a second generation (or third or whatever) native Seattleite, I have some innate sentimental feelings about the Sonics: I remember my butt hurting, high up in KeyArena; I remember drinking cans of "Vin Baker Sprite" and finding the arbitrariness of that endorsement hilarious (I was still honing my hilariousness detection skills at that point); I very much enjoyed Sam Perkins's hair; I will never, ever forget the shrieks that filled the Washington Middle School gym, circa 1995, when Shawn Kemp showed up and impregnated us all with inspiration. The Sonics should not be gone. That is bullshit, and it's sad, and Sonicsgate's thorough play-by-play of just how that hoodwinker went down—featuring interviews with Gary Payton, George Karl, Art Thiel, and (most interestingly) Sonics counsel Brad Keller—is a useful document for sure.
But there are some undeniably silly things about this movie. Narrated by John Keister (silly!), it's waaay heavy on the melodrama: dark, ominous strings; Schultz looking sharky as fuck; Greg Nickels dumping oysters down his pelican gullet; and Sherman Alexie dropping cray-cray nuggets of passion, like, "One hundred years from now, people will be talking about LeBron James the way we talk about Hercules." And I have to say—though I'm probably being oversensitive—that there's an off-putting boys' club feel to the whole thing: "It's fathers and sons," says the Seattle Times' Steve Kelley. Then, after a pause (BECAUSE HE CLEARLY MEANS JUST FATHERS AND SONS), "It's mothers and fathers and families going to games." Dick.
But, overall, Sonicsgate is a sweet, geeky elegy to a lost institution (the closing revelation that Bennett now owns every physical piece of Sonics history, including the 1979 championship trophy, particularly stings). The film can't really accomplish anything at this point—you get the sense the fans just needed to chronicle their fight and their pain and the crazy injustice of being pawns in the game of some mega-rich human ham from the sticks. And that is not dumb or weird at all. (Not like sports.)