I was seriously tempted to walk out at halftime, an act of disgust that would have violated the first cardinal rule of spectatorship: Never turn away, no matter how bad it looks. The rule itself runs counter to the most basic, spontaneous urgings of our instinct for emotional survival. After all, through eons of speculative identification, we've been hard-wired to avoid sour scenes, especially when those scenes have only the most remote connection to our practical lives.But sports are hardly practical. They are governed by a different sort of logic. It takes a higher--and somehow less urgent--kind of rationality to understand that an aggrieved perseverance in the face of apparent disaster may, in the end, pay off. We may, in the end, be rewarded for sticking it out. Maybe this only happens once in every, say, 10 or 15 or even 20 times, but when it does, it feels like you've glimpsed immortality. It feels like you've been graced. You get totally, unaccountably high. You don't care if watching basketball is ultimately stupid. It doesn't matter. The bliss is wonderful.

I'm talking, of course, about Seattle's extraordinary come-from-behind victory over the Sacramento Kings (89-85) on December 20. I was, as I said, prepared to bolt after the first half. Granted, Seattle was only down by 13 points, which is hardly an insurmountable deficit. The problem was this: In the first 24 minutes, they'd shot miserably, going 32 percent from the field and hitting just one for 12 from beyond the three-point arc. Yikes! Couple this with Gary Payton's plunking only two of an attempted 14 baskets, and it seemed that disaster was in the air. It didn't look good.

If there was anything to provide just the slightest glimmer of hope, it was the fact that the Sonics, for the half, had managed to out-rebound the Kings by the slimmest of margins, 28-25. So I attached myself to this statistic like a barnacle, with a desperate singularity of purpose, recalling all those times I'd heard announcers say that "rebounding wins ball games." It was a stretch, but there wasn't much else to hang on to.

It's considered really bad form to applaud in the press box, so you can imagine the disapproving looks I got when, with two minutes and 22 seconds remaining in the third quarter, I started braying and stamping like a moon-crazy jackass after Rashard Lewis tied the score at 63-63 with a high-flying slam dunk off a perfect feed from Payton. This marvelously exhilarating play (which, incidentally, was sparked by Lewis stealing the ball from the Kings' Chris Webber) capped what was quite possibly the most incredible and exciting 10 minutes of basketball I have ever seen in my life. And then, if all this wasn't incitement enough to lose one's mind, Shammond Williams ended the quarter by catching a court-long lob under the basket and sinking a rolling-on-the-rim lay-in with one tenth of a second left on the clock. The look on his face was priceless. Seattle was up 71-69. I was sweating. My voice was gone. You couldn't have scripted a better comeback. It was the kind of game you see once, maybe twice in the entire NBA season.

Again: Never turn away, no matter how bad it looks.

There was, unfortunately, one rather disconcerting blemish on an otherwise beautiful win: namely, Vin Baker's ejection after he threw a petulant, belligerent, completely unnecessary elbow at Webber late in the fourth, just a split second after the play had been whistled dead. Vin, Vin, Vin... what's with all the goin' postal lately?

I guess that's a rhetorical question.

rick@thestranger.com