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It was a dark night, chilly and damp, when the stranger came back to town. Looking for something to do, he wandered into a nearby Starbucks, hoping to shoot the breeze with somebody.
Sitting down next to a jowled man in a king Felix jersey, he asked: “Hey, how about those Sonics?”
The man looked across, a scowl on his face. “What Sonics? You mean that restaurant?”
“No, no,” replied the stranger. “The Supersonics. The basketball team. You know, green jerseys, 1979 NBA Champions.”
The scowled man shrugged and went back to his mocha frappuccino. So the stranger moved on along the Starbucks, asking about the Sonics.
“They played in the ’96 Finals, against MJ and the Bulls.”
“Was that the first year the Jazz collapsed, or the second?”
“They beat Houston in overtime of game seven in ‘93”
“I thought that was Phoenix.”
“They went to two finals in a row in the 70s!”
“Yeah, the Blazers were a good team back then, eh”
He kept moving, asking, getting nowhere.
“Wasn’t he that bum in Cleveland?”
“He was that Milwaukee guy, right? The one who broke McHale’s foot?”
“Yeah, the Boston guy. Good outside shooter.”
Exasperated, he hailed a cab and went downtown. The arena was down there; maybe he’d find a fan or two hanging around.
“Take me to KeyWest.”
“Key what? You mean the office complexes downtown? They’re closed, but it’s your dollar, chief.”
The stranger got no relief downtown. No arena, no basketball fans, not a sign of the Sonics. Just a bunch of tall buildings, coffee stores and the needled tower.
Finally, he walked over to a homeless man, lying on the curb, covered in a dirty green and gold blanket. Throwing him a nickel, he asked what happened to the Sonics.
“The Sonics? That team doesn’t live here anymore.”
“Coffee man sold them to a man who traded away the stars, bought out the lease, moved them to Oklahoma. All that’s left now is a box of jerseys and a handful of bitter fans.”
“And nobody did anything?”
The homeless man shrugged. “What was there to do? The commish let it happen. The owners let it happen. All the fans got was to keep a name.”
“That’s progress, baby.” The homeless man rolled over and covered his head with the blanket.
Dejected, the stranger walked back to the Starbucks.
“How about those Mariners?”