‘Our’ Kings are a business like no other
By Gary Delsohn
Golden 1 Center attracted its share of controversy over the years, but I want to focus on an emotional piece of the story.
Have the Kings finally created real civic pride, or is it just a basketball team? As I thought about this question, a friend posted on social media after the team clinched its first playoff bid since 2006:
“The local sportsball franchise won something important last night, and all over I see statements like ‘Finally, something to be proud of for Sacramento,’ ‘Way to represent!’ ‘Sacramento Proud,’ etc.
“I do not get ‘our team’ thinking, and I never will,” the post went on. “Highly paid men working for even more highly paid owners in an arena the citizenry was starry-eyed enough to fund has always seemed like a big con game to me. Games are fun if you’re into them, but they are just that: Games. The highly paid men would leave tomorrow for a better deal if they could, and highly paid owners would likewise jump to another city willing to cut them an even better deal on another taxpayer-funded arena.
“Enjoy the games, if you do. Buy the jerseys, if you must. But a sportsball franchise is a business, not a measure of civic pride. The presence of even a successful one changes little about the city in which one lives.”
Phil Serna, the Sacramento County Supervisor, posted this response.
“You’re obviously a proud cynic the likes of which intentionally ignored so much of the good that comes with a community’s love for their local pro basketball team. . . You conveniently attempt to distill the import and significance of the Sacramento Kings into nothing more than a politically controversial cost-center while entirely ignoring the social, cultural and historical significance of the organization and its relevance not just to the city of Sacramento but to our entire region and arguably beyond. . .
“If you don’t like the team or the team’s history,” Serna went on, “or the great game of basketball, or the city’s history and relationship with the team, or the ownership, or the fans, or the players, or the venue, or how the venue was paid for, or the public art that is proudly featured in the Golden 1 Center, or the personalities involved in managing the team and operations, or the mascot and team colors . . . or, or, or. You, of course, are entitled to your opinion. That said, I think opinions like yours are misinformed, disingenuous, dismissive, flat, fleeting and otherwise laughable.”
Civic pride saved the team when it was all but gone to Anaheim or Seattle. No matter what you think of the Kings, I defy anyone to tell me the city would be better off with no team and no Downtown arena. If you saw the crowds outside Golden 1 Center during playoff games, the excitement was palpable. So were the good vibes.
After grim years of pandemic, civic unrest that led to boarded up businesses, our intractable homeless problem, crime and other challenges, people felt good. Before and after games, fans hang out Downtown, spend money, have fun and enjoy the communal boost that comes with cheering a successful, entertaining pro sports team.
That the owner and players are wealthy and may not be permanently attached to Sacramento is beside the point. This is an entertainment product. We are free to patronize it or not. But if you follow the team, isn’t it more gratifying when the Kings succeed? If you couldn’t care less about basketball, isn’t there some joy in watching neighbors feel good about the team and, by extension, Downtown and the city?
I’m not claiming a good team makes the city great or our challenges less vexing. But sports can bring people together like few other experiences. When the team is good, fun and exciting to watch, filled with likeable players and coaches, and performing in a classy building, don’t you feel a little proud?
Maybe it’s just as simple as these words, spoken by another person I know: “When they win, people are in a better mood. That’s pretty cool. Especially after all this city’s been through lately.”
Gary Delsohn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.