My wife is always on me about this. When I know I’m right, I’m so concerned about expressing my rightness that I forget a critical element — how I say it.
After a day of digesting the Warriors’ pending move to San Francisco, after listening to Oaklanders and East Bay die-hards lament their team’s departure, after witnessing the Warriors and supporters of the new arena justify the decision to leave while dismissing the ensuing outrage, I couldn’t help but think of my wife’s reminder.
It’s how you said it.
That’s where the Warriors went wrong. But before I offer my explanation of the negative reaction to the Warriors’ announcement Tuesday, I need to get a few qualifiers out of the way:
1. Joe Lacob and Peter Guber committed $450 million to buy the Warriors’ franchise. They’re committing to at least $500 million for a new arena. They can build wherever they want. It’s a right for which they’ve paid.
2. It’s just basketball. I know, jobs are being lost and a blow to the economy is expected. But I can’t be mad that working class people in San Francisco will get jobs. And I believe, even after the Warriors leave, Oakland will still exist and maybe thrive, albeit in a new way. Basketball teams are made by cities, not the other way around. The NBA may have had a special place in Oakland, but it doesn’t define Oakland, and there is plenty of more important work to be done than keeping a sports team.
3. It’s a smart move. It was an inevitable move. And seeing the vision for the arena, perched on waterfront with a backdrop that would make Ansel Adams switch to color, even Oaklanders understand the move.
With that said, this thing could have been executed much better. The proper respect wasn’t paid to a segment of the fan base that kept the franchise relevant and viable despite itself.
The Warriors displayed Mitt Romney-esque sensitivity as they choreographed their departure, and it began the day Lacob and Guber bought the franchise. Blinded by millionaire dreams, it seems they didn’t spend much time pondering the proper tip o’ the cap to the thousandaires they’re hurting.
It should come as no surprise that a big business doesn’t get it. And the Warriors clearly didn’t. That was painfully obvious to lovers of Oakland as they used business logic to explain an emotional matter.
To the die-hards who fill out Club 200, who are most responsible for the Warriors’ impressive attendance, it’s patronizing to hear you suggest it’s not that much further. To the bus driver who spends a day’s salary taking his two kids to the game. it’s insulting when your rebuttal is that 50 percent of your season-ticket holders are from San Francisco.
I’m not saying they should stay. My contention is not that they sacrifice their vision and plans for the sake of others’ nostalgia. However, there was a way to say goodbye, and it isn’t “We had a great time with you, but this new girl who wants me is smoking hot.”
If I may, I’ll explain what I mean using this word I examined during Bible study: meekness. Simply, without preaching and getting all into Greek definitions, meekness is strength brought under control for the benefit of others. It’s being in the right but making sure not to use it to make others feel bad. It’s having power, but being concerned enough about those beneath you to alter your behavior for their sake. It’s being cognizant of how your superiority, your upper hand, your favor impacts those not in such a position.
The Warriors could’ve used a little meekness.
I believe they knew when they bought the team San Francisco was the destination. At the very least, they knew that was the most likely scenario. Understanding that, knowing the Warriors’ days on this side of the water were numbered, why not have your ritzy press conferences in the East Bay as a way of thanking those communities?
Why not just lay it all out on the table from the beginning, when they bought this team, instead of the “we’re looking into all options” baloney. Say you just spent $450 million and you need this franchise to be worth $800 million some day, and doing that means moving across the water and pricing out many hard-core fans. Say, if it was true, Oakland has a shot of keeping the Warriors, but it’s going to take a lightweight miracle.
Oakland can handle the truth and would’ve respected real talk. This city has digested its fair share of tragedy and heartache. This city is used to losing out to the sparkling metropolis across the pond. It’s how Oakland gets its character, its resolve, its loyalty. The Warriors could’ve been straight up from the beginning and likely would’ve gotten a collective dap from the city.
But the boos, the feeling disrespected, is a product of the Warriors’ acting. Acting as if Oakland had a shot of keeping the team. Acting as if the history and memories meant as much to the new owners as they do to the fans who’ve proudly endured ridicule for wearing your colors. Acting as if calling them the best fans in the world means you understand them, you’re with them.
A little meekness, and this all would’ve played out differently. Would there have been angry fans anyway? Of course. It’s an emotional, heart-rending experience to have your favorite team bounce. Just ask Seattle natives like Jamal Crawford who are still smarting about their Sonics’ discontinuance. But some of the blow could have been mitigated with more compassion.
Some of the disdain is because Golden State’s methods thumped Oakland’s funny bone. This city is hypersensitive about being deemed inferior, especially to San Francisco, and the Warriors all but shouted that from the rooftops on Tuesday.
No doubt, a new arena in Oakland would make for an awesome setting. It wouldn’t be Staples, instead more like what Oklahoma City, Utah, Indiana and San Antonio boast. Still, it would’ve rivaled any fan base in the country with its fancy new digs but grassroots, small-market passion.
Of course, that takes a certain kind of ownership, one passionate about the area and comfortable with sufficiency and sustainability. But people know Lacob and Guber are not East Bay guys. They knew the lure of the grandiose across the water would overpower the niche the Warriors’ had in Oakland. And that is OK.
But in their pursuit of the extravagant, they missed an opportunity to appreciate the simple and pure, to give much-earned props.
An example came at the announcement. Mayor Ed Lee, Joe Lacob, Peter Guber – they all failed to pay respects to Al Attles and Nate Thurmond. You don’t get more Oakland than those guys. It took David Stern and Jerry West to give proper due. (Wouldn’t have hurt to have a few longtime season-ticket holders from Oakland there, pay homage to the jilted segment of the fan base through them.)
I don’t even live an Oakland anymore. But I worship at the Church of Christ on 34th and San Pablo Avenue, where people have been known to ask me about Stephen Curry’s ankle in between songs. I can’t walk into DreamCutz barbershop on Dutton Avenue and not hear a few Warriors fans defending their loyalty to the inevitable Lakers fan in the debate. I’ve seen the abounding joy on the faces of East Oakland Youth Development Center students who, despite it being a school night, got to take a field trip to a Warriors game.
Again, there is nothing wrong with Lacob and Guber moving the franchise to San Francisco. Even if it means jobs lost, a treasured staple in the city hijacked, another defeat to the favored sibling. They have every right to place their potentially breath-taking arena in whichever greener pastures they desire.
The problem was in the how.