‘Who cares about the Kings?’

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to a Sacramento Kings game with some friends. The $10 nosebleed seats were sold out, so we ponied up $25 a ticket for the next-cheapest option to watch the team take on the New Orleans Hornets.

It was a fun outing—and not just because the night ended in a rare win. Between the beers and cheers, we indulged in a spirited camaraderie with other fans who’d trekked out on a cold winter’s night for an evening of shared sportsmanship and hometown allegiance.

Such moments may soon come to an end.

By all accounts, the Sacramento Kings are well on their way to chipping away part of their name and, with it, part of this city’s identity.

Last week, the team’s owners Joe and Gavin Maloof received an extension on the deadline to signal an intent to move the team to Southern California to Anaheim. Regardless of how you feel about basketball or big-money organized sports or sports arenas or, even, the notion of sports in general, you should feel more than a little alarmed by what a Kings-less Sacramento means for the city at large—even for the most avowed Kings haters.

Of course, lately, it seems as if everyone’s got an opinion on the Kings and what the team’s rumored departure means for Sactown.

People fall into several distinct categories. There are die-hard fans, who are upset at the thought of not just losing the city’s only major league sports team, but losing a franchise that they’ve loved through the ups and downs. (Never mind that it’s mostly been downs—even the most loyal fan will admit that the team’s been in a slow but steady decline ever since Big Shot Bob sunk that last-second 3-pointer way back in May 2002.)

Others dismiss the news with an air of boredom. Some are fans, but they say, with a disinterested shrug, that they don’t really care if we lose the team. Whatever, life moves on.

Their counterparts, meanwhile, are vaguely aware that Sacramento has a team, but wouldn’t know a Kings player if they bumped into a 7-foot-tall purple-jersey-wearing athlete at a supermarket.

And then there are the haters.

These are the people who don’t just dislike the Kings, but also think that any sort of a discussion about caring whether or not the team leaves Northern California is not just silly, but unsophisticated and downright stupid. They roll their eyes, shrug and act as though by caring, you’re the uncoolest of uncool—a hillbilly philistine, a monster-truck-driving yokel with no taste or appreciation for the arts or other worthy endeavors.

“Who cares about the Kings?” someone said to me. “I don’t want a new arena—I want more places to see art and hear live music. I’m glad to see them finally go.”

“Worrying about a big-bucks team is pointless,” another person said. “Major-league sports do nothing to enrich this town.”

But that’s where they’re wrong.

I don’t regularly attend orchestra performances, but I’m not so myopic as to believe that just because the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra’s not a part of my personal life, that organization isn’t a valued part of this town’s identity.

You don’t have to like sports or the Sacramento Kings or the Maloofs (especially the increasingly irritating Maloofs) to recognize what the Kings bring to Sacramento: jobs, revenue and the potential for a new arena that could house a lot more than just a bunch of guys running around in expensive sneakers and basketball shorts.

It’s not unsophisticated to care about the Sacramento Kings. It’s naive not to realize or admit that a city is made up of the parts of its whole.

And a professional sports organization, whether you care about it or not, is part of that whole.

Of course, Sacramento will be fine if the Kings do move. We’ll still have arts and live music and great restaurants and plenty of recreational opportunities.

But something will be missing, and if you’re among those who are too cool or too anti-sports or too anti-arena to admit such a thing—well, then it’s an even bigger loss then you’ll ever realize.