Today my guest is returning author, Andrew Gall. He is one of the top Creative Directors at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising. He was also a life long fan of the Seattle Supersonics, until they left his ass. Bitter? No, hurt is more like it. So much, he wrote a book about it. It’s called, Mommy, What’s A Seattle Supersonic? The Tragic Tale of Seattle’s Most Beloved Sports Franchise. The book is available for free on iTunes.
First, what made you want to tell the tale? Secondly, why the children’s book angle?
What sparked the initial idea was the fact that in the past nine months or so, a new potential ownership group has emerged, buying up properties and offering a real, concrete plan for getting a team back. This has led to a City Council vote on the arena plan (which has since been approved). My thought was to drive awareness of this vote via this book, so I wrote it quickly. Growing up in Seattle, the Sonics have long been a source of passion and pride, and I thought that this was the perfect opportunity to broadcast that out. What made sense to make it a children’s book was two-fold: one, children in Seattle will literally find themselves asking about who the Sonics were, due to the tragic nature of what transpired when the team moved to Oklahoma City a few years ago. They will hear about the Sonics, probably from their parents, and will be left wondering. So this was a chance to give parents the ability to tell the story of the team, all the while reminiscing about the days of yore when Shawn Kemp’s dunks could shake an entire county. The second factor was this: I’m a terrible artist, but I thought my rudimentary, child-like drawings would have a certain charm to them if viewed in the eyes of children. The truth is, most kids probably could have drawn this book better than me.
Teams leave cities all the time (Raiders). When the Supersonics left Seattle, was it any different? What did that do to the fans? How did it affect you?
I think it was a little different in a sense, because it was a hostile takeover that included many complicit parties. Instead of Art Modell just up and deciding to move a team overnight, you had Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman, selling the team, knowing the new owners WERE FROM OKLAHOMA CITY. You had The OKC owners, who essentially put on a real-life rendition of “Major League” for two years, hoping to dissuade fans from actually caring or coming to the games, lying through their teeth that they would try to keep the team in Seattle. Beyond that, you had David Stern, who worked with the new owners to move the team without even seriously considering alternatives in Seattle, and you had our own Seattle City Council, who acted far too late in trying to come up with a solution. So the fans got screwed multiple times, multiple ways, by a bizarrely large assembly of participants.
The fans were devastated when it happened, obviously, myself included, but found ourselves pretty much helpless. What do you do? Chain yourself to the moving trucks? We’ve faced a great deal of awful luck and awful teams in the city of Seattle over the years. The Sonics really were the only ray of consistent hope, year in and year out, for professional sports competitiveness as I was growing up, and they were the only professional team that has won any kind of championship (The Seattle Storm women’s basketball team excluded). So of course, it’s been a really crappy few years from a sports civic pride standpoint.
How long did you take to write this book? Did you do the drawings yourself?
This summer, I conceived of the idea. Once I heard the council vote was coming down in September, I kicked it into high gear and had the whole thing done within two months.
Like I said, all the child-like drawings are mine. A professional artist probably would have been given the direction of “draw crappier than usual,” and also, it wouldn’t have been completed as quickly. And of course, time was of the essence.
What are your thoughts on the Oklahoma City Thunder? Do you ever watch their games?
It hurts because they got so good so fast. It’s so hard not to be a fan. I won’t lie and say I don’t watch them at times, check the box scores, etc. But I can’t root for them to win it all. It’s too soon.
The city is hungry for basketball. That much has been demonstrated profoundly over the past few years with all the grassroots movements and the “Sonicsgate” documentary that still makes me tear up. So whether it’s the Sacramento Kings or an expansion team that comes back to Seattle as the Sonics, we’re ready to welcome the return of the NBA with welcome, outstretched, basketball-hungry arms.
Andrew Gall has also written about one of his other passions, gorillas. Check out his humorous take on the human-like species in, Everything Is Better With A Gorilla. It can be purchased in both ebook and paperback from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.