The Great Blimp Attack of 1994
Ah, my beloved Seattle Supersonics. I was a complete NBA head until the league decided that Oklahoma City(!?) of all places needed a team so bad that expansion just wouldn't work. They needed a team, in place, that they could steal from a city and plunk down in the great market that is OKC. Don't even argue with me that this was a premeditated attack and rip off of our team here, 1967-2008.. over 40 years of support and love.
Anyway, this short story is about one particular game in 1994. The very good Orlando Magic were visiting and the Sonics were playing in the Tacoma Dome. Why? Because Seattle was trying to placate yet another NBA bitch that our arena wasn't good enough. It was, but still we took a year to give them exactly what they wanted. The 1994 Orlando Magic were a powerhouse but the Sonics were also very good these mid 90s years. Orlando came packing Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway who were nearly as fun to watch as the Sonics duo of Gary "The Glove" Payton and Shawn "Reign Man" Kemp. Nearly - but not as fun. They were not as daring and dare I say just could not match the charisma that Payton/Kemp brought to the hardwood. Anyway, the powerhouses met to do battle in 1994 and I remember the game well. I had season tickets this year and I brought my younger brother to the game. Leading up to it we knew it was going to be a great game but we had no idea about how fun the game was going to be. The game was fun. It was intense. For some reason we held Shaq to 0 (zero) points and beat them quite handily. Perhaps it was a secret weapon to make millionaire basketball studs from Orlando play a game in Tacoma. This isn't a jab at Tacoma but I think even they would admit in March that they are no match for Orlando as a city. So, the Great Blimp Attack? Ah, yes, the game was interesting but what made this match unforgettable was that the blimp that flew around Sonics matches for years and dropped free tickets to upcoming matches ran into some trouble.
I still can't tell if it was taunting people or if there were "technical malfunctions" that allowed it to fly below the "hard deck" (a term we all learned as Generation Xersfrom the movie Top Gun). In my mind, I was thinking, if I wanted to take a shot at that blimp, now is when I'd strike. In a brief flash of what felt like psychokinesis, indeed, a drunken fan at the south end of the court saw his chance appear. Or, a chance at notoriety appeared to him. We will never know. In one hilarious move he chucked his large bucket of popcorn up at the blimp which destabilized it enough to send it into a porpoising motion as if it were riding an invisible teeter-totter. This alone caught the attention of... everyone.. but in particular the Sheriffs who were doing security at the game. The man saw his work, and was clearly pleased with it. I'm not sure if he saw the police and security coming to beat his ass as he was kicked out of the venue but if he did - and kudos to him to stay focused on the attack - he picked up his beer. He took a swig, showing great elan, and after he was good with the swill he fox-one'd the beer delivering a staggering blow the beloved Sonics blimp. It kept losing altitude until it was behind the stands and after that I know not what happened to it. The man who decided to take out the blimp was "escorted" out of sight also. I'd like to think he was one of what seemed to be the 30% of people there wearing Orlando jerseys because, ya know, everyone liked Shaq but I was not so close as to see his garb. My human failing (as well as just plain being a homer) says that if it were an Orlando Magic fan that did this I'm less okay with it than had it just been a bored Sonics fan who was so sick of winning this night that he was pretty much done with basketball. To this day, if Clay Bennett and his crook partner David Stern were riding in a blimp over Seattle... I'd entertain thoughts of throwing a King Beer at them. They ripped my heart out, stealing our team, and in my mind it will never be made right.