When the Ball Was Gone

There’s a place — just outside of “The Pen,” on the North-side of the ballpark along Royal Brougham — where you can peer in and see the green grass of Safeco Field. I remember the first time I discovered this now not-so-hidden gem. It was sometime in the winter before our new baseball cathedral opened. My buddy Ryan and I would drop by this spot and watch the progress as we anxiously awaited the gates to open for the first time.

As that date neared, the grass had been long installed and was growing in nicely. Sometimes, it would be late at night. We’d just stumbled out of a party or some such as kids that age did. There was only but a stream of light entering the ballpark from some opening up above the brick and metal. It was plenty, though. We could tell it was green. We could tell it was manicured. We already knew its beauty before getting out first full, official view.

What if the team was gone? The turnstiles no longer spinning, the padlocks on the gates rusting because they haven’t been removed in some months. No one has entered, let alone played our pastime on this carefully groomed playing surface. Here we stand, looking at it all starting to fall apart. Only our memories keep the grass bright green instead of the brown our eyes refuse to see.

On a day like today, when the Sonics continued to not be a thing, this is oddly the first thought I had. See, I’m not much of an NBA fan. I never really was. I actually grew up near Sacramento, so this whole ordeal could have had some serious heartstrings tugging from my chest.

I guess it’s what almost happened with the Mariners back in the mid-90’s that has me thinking this way.

But, there is no opening in an arena for Sonics fans to peer into and try to form memories from the remnants.

They had something precious to them taken away. They felt like more could have been done and it wasn’t. Then, they had hope dangled in front of them by a hero who rode in on the whitest of white horses. His promises didn’t feel empty. They had substance and people truly believed.

Unfortunately, that hero’s attempts were thwarted. The attempt was valiant. Who knows, maybe more can be done. Maybe the league will reward his efforts yet. The picture may look bleak, but what do you have if you don’t have hope?

There was a punch-in-the-gut moment back in 2008. And while this moment may feel the same, try and remember how hopeless things felt back then. That you’d never have the opportunity to get this close. It’s not much of a consolation prize. I won’t insult you by serving you that dish. But, perhaps it’s enough to help you maintain hope.

There will be a day that the hardwood will be adorned with the green and yellow once more. That the drawn-out “SuuuuuuuuuuuuperSonics!” will fill your eardrums along with the screams of several thousand friends.

Keep the memories, but also keep fighting and keep that hope.


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