One Woman's Search for Everything Sonics-Related at Neumos on a Random Monday Night.

I've lived in Seattle, on and off, for much of my life. I consider it my hometown. In all that time, I've never thought of it as a sports city. Sports fandom in Seattle, rather than the default, always seemed like just another subculture. And although I spent one surreal semester as a basketball cheerleader in college, I've never cared much about sports. But love was palpable at last night’s Sonics rally at Neumos, with performers including Geo of the Blues Scholars, Nacho Picasso, Grynch, and Dyme Def, among others, playing to a room packed with boisterous fans. There were lines out the door and people trying to sneak in long after the free event had reached capacity.

Raz Simone entertains the crowd.
  • Emily K.
  • Raz Simone entertains the crowd.

What struck me most was people's eagerness to share their Sonics memories with me and each other, their overflowing enthusiasm, their unselfconscious passion. People talked about the importance of the Sonics to Seattle’s cultural landscape and identity as a city, the pivotal role the Sonics played in their lives growing up, and how loving a team like the Sonics creates a unifying bond with the power to transcend social distinctions.

This guy said hed willingly trade any Seattle sports team to have the Sonics back (except the Seahawks).
  • Emily K.
  • This guy said he'd willingly trade any Seattle sports team to have the Sonics back (except the Seahawks).
Longtime fan JQuai Holiday told me: “Losing the Sonics was like losing an older brother or a parent: It’s personal.” Many people, including local rapper Billy the Fridge, told me that the Sonics were their childhood team. Kris Brannon—known around town as The Sonics Guy—emphasized the sense of community and pride that the team brings to Seattle, uniting people across the spectrum of race, political orientation and sexual identity. Ever since the team left in 2008, the Sonics Guy has been traveling to sporting events, political events (Democratic rallies, Republican rallies, Tea Parties), and wherever else he can find a crowd, “representing the green and gold… spreading the word that the Sonics need to come back.”

More photos and thoughts after the jump.

Dawn Welch, who hosts the Sonics Nation Facebook page—which has been "liked" more than 3,000 times—had this to say about the purpose of the rally: “This is one last push, trying to get the Sonics back. I’m not too discouraged by last week’s vote. It’s not over till it’s over.”

Several people I talked to, including local MC Duranged Pitt, praised Chris Hansen—a super-rich guy who's fast becoming an unlikely folk hero, with his mug emblazoned on T-shirts—for his efforts to bring back the Sonics.

And instead of channeling anger at the NBA for their recent committee recommendation to keep the Kings in Sacramento, the fans focused on love. One person I spoke with, Leila Gant, emphasized the overlap between local sports and the local music scene. In a city that can feel like an underdog in both departments, beloved local sports and music heroes give voice to Seattle’s sense of itself as a city that is distinguished, dynamic, and proudly unconventional. Case in point: The event was punctuated with triumphant public weed smoking, accompanied by sly raps bragging on our city’s progressivism.

Aurielle told me that watching the Sonics was a family tradition.
  • Emily K.
  • Aurielle told me that watching the Sonics was a family tradition.

At one point, the mayor took the stage amid swirling weed smoke to shout “Bring back the Supersonics!” and former NBA All-Star Sean Kemp strutted to the cheers of adoring fans. The event had the feel of a religious revival, with exhortations to faith from the MCs and a blissed-out flood of hometown pride. After years away and a winter of SAD-induced grumbling, last night made me feel like a proud Seattleite—and maybe a converted sports fan.