BY Art Thiel 07:12PM 04/25/2012

Thiel: ‘Sonicsgate’ film goes to prime-time TV

Seattle filmmakers’ hit documentary on the sordid Sonics saga goes from YouTube to cable TV this weekend on CNBC.

Just in time for the start of the NBA playoffs, the Sonics are back on national TV.

Well, more like their video echo. A new version of the documentary film, “Sonicsgate,” the critically acclaimed 2009 chronicle of the NBA team’s sordid departure, will receive a national cable-TV airing on CNBC Friday and Sunday.

Painful as is the re-visit of the local sports calamity, Seattle filmmakers Adam Brown and Jason Reid are proud that their work will reach millions who haven’t seen the two-hour free version on YouTube.

“It’s a real validation of our goal to influence the return an NBA team to Seattle, and what a crime it is not to have one here,” said a giddy Brown by phone. “Whether it’s with the league office or at the level of the city council, we wanted to help provide momentum for a return.

“And of course, it’s helpful to get our names out to help us with funding for future projects. People in our industry work for decades to get a film on TV, so it speaks well of our crew and the people who have supported us.”

Executives at CNBC in December saw the video on YouTube and immediately pursued cable rights, asking if it could be re-edited into a one-hour format (actually 43 minutes). After a collective deep breath, the crew said yes.

“To meet the deadline, it almost feels like we haven’t slept for four months,” Brown said, referrring not only to the re-editing, but the heavy task of getting licenses and permissions for the film’s  interview subjects, documents and videos that weren’t necessary for the non-commercial version.

Remarkably, the result may be an even more powerful tale, because the new edition is the best of the best in a production that won a “Webby” award in 2010 for Internet achievement in the sports-video category from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.

The sad saga’s manipulations, dissembling, prevarications and outright lying by all the principals seem even more galling and shameful in the new version.

“Adam and I went through the original, shot by shot and line by line,” said Jason Reid, director and co-producer. “The first hour was surprisingly painless, but the last 17 minutes . . . we almost killed ourselves. It was a really wild ride.

“But now it’s more powerful. It’s like getting in the ring with Mike Tyson in his prime. It hits you hard in the gut, and it keeps hitting you.”

The outcome is more journalistic with less mockery and snideness. They added new material — interviews with Shawn Kemp and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, as well as the audio of the City Council’s “yes” votes to accept a settlement that freed the Sonics to go to Oklahoma City — that doesn’t need to be supplemented.

Particularly absurd was the inclusion of a TV clip of new owner Clay Bennett trying to explain away co-owner Aubrey McClendon’s indicting 2007 remark to an Oklahoma City media outlet that it had always been the intention of the ownership group to move the team, not build a new arena in Seattle. Flustered, Bennett said that it must have been a “stroke moment” beeause McClendon doesn’t remember saying it.

And these clowns and their fellow desperadoes outsmarted the Seattle people who wanted the team to stay.

“We let the words of the participants,” Reid said, “speak for themselves.”

The fury and helplessness of fans, combined with the mendacity of Bennett, the stewardship betrayal of previous owner Howard Schultz and the arrogance of NBA Commissioner David Stern ooze from the screen.

It’s been nearly four years since the dirty deed went down, but it will be an introduction for many viewers nationally of the duplicitousness and deviousness that has been a dark part of the fabric of pro sports for decades.

CNBC (Channel 46 for Comcast subscribers) will show “Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team” at 7 p.m. Friday and rerun it at 7 p.m. Sunday. Friday night, Brown, Reid and crew will host a viewing party at SPORT restaurant in Fisher Plaza at Fourth and Denny. Information is available at Sonicsgate.org, and the DVD of the new version is available at Sonicsgate.com.


YourThoughts

  • Grover

    Why would anyone be interested in this?  Would you watch a tv show about the Grizzlies leaving Vancouver, B.C.?

    • Joey Sunseri

      Sonics were in Seattle for 41 years.  The Grizz were in town for 6 years.  Thats why.

      • Grover

        And why would that matter to anyone except rabid Sonics fans?  Why would anyone in any other city give a shet?

        The NFL Rams were the Los Angeles Rams for almost 50 years, before moving to Indianapolis.  Would you watch a tv show on the Rams leaving the L.A. area?  Who cares why they left?  Even the vast majority of people in L.A. don’t give a dam that the Rams left.

        The few people who care about it, already know the story.  The rest of the country couldn’t care less.

        • Jamo57

          Um, Grover the Rams went to St. Louis.   The Colts went to Indy.

          You’re knowledge of basic facts and historical information makes you the perfect candidate to provide commentary for FOX News. Brush up your resume!

          • Grover

            um Jamo.  Would you watch an amateur video on the Rams moving to St. Louis?  lol

            If so, why?

        • Brett

          Because it’s an important part of our city’s history and it’s a very well done film (not that you would know). That’s why.

    • Diana Dee

      I agree with you, Grover.  Art still thinks that the nation cares about Seattle sports, including the long-deceased Sonics.  It doesn’t.  CNBC schedules their dog shows for Friday & Sunday night slots – woof.

      It’s Art’s self-serving job to blow hot moist fetid air into the bung hole of the dirigible that is charitably called the Seattle sports scene.  And I’m sure there are lemmings somewhere in these molding environs that are willing to jump off a cliff to satisfy his itch.  The majority of the rest of us have smartened up.  ’Seattle Sports’ – now there’s an oxymoron for ya’.

      • Tian Biao

        My, you are grumpy, Diana and Grover. This is a sports site; it’s for fun; it’s for Seattle sports fans. I mean, if you don’t like Seattle sports, don’t frequent the site for heavens sake. And trust me, there are lots of us Seattle sports fans out here. Seattle hasn’t won anything, it’s true, but we’re here nonetheless.

  • Grover

    Why would anyone be interested in this?  Would you watch a tv show about the Grizzlies leaving Vancouver, B.C.?

    • Joey Sunseri

      Sonics were in Seattle for 41 years.  The Grizz were in town for 6 years.  Thats why.

      • Grover

        And why would that matter to anyone except rabid Sonics fans?  Why would anyone in any other city give a shet?

        The NFL Rams were the Los Angeles Rams for almost 50 years, before moving to Indianapolis.  Would you watch a tv show on the Rams leaving the L.A. area?  Who cares why they left?  Even the vast majority of people in L.A. don’t give a dam that the Rams left.

        The few people who care about it, already know the story.  The rest of the country couldn’t care less.

        • Jamo57

          Um, Grover the Rams went to St. Louis.   The Colts went to Indy.

          You’re knowledge of basic facts and historical information makes you the perfect candidate to provide commentary for FOX News. Brush up your resume!

          • Grover

            um Jamo.  Would you watch an amateur video on the Rams moving to St. Louis?  lol

            If so, why?

        • Brett

          Because it’s an important part of our city’s history and it’s a very well done film (not that you would know). That’s why.

    • Diana Dee

      I agree with you, Grover.  Art still thinks that the nation cares about Seattle sports, including the long-deceased Sonics.  It doesn’t.  CNBC schedules their dog shows for Friday & Sunday night slots – woof.

      It’s Art’s self-serving job to blow hot moist fetid air into the bung hole of the dirigible that is charitably called the Seattle sports scene.  And I’m sure there are lemmings somewhere in these molding environs that are willing to jump off a cliff to satisfy his itch.  The majority of the rest of us have smartened up.  ’Seattle Sports’ – now there’s an oxymoron for ya’.

      • Tian Biao

        My, you are grumpy, Diana and Grover. This is a sports site; it’s for fun; it’s for Seattle sports fans. I mean, if you don’t like Seattle sports, don’t frequent the site for heavens sake. And trust me, there are lots of us Seattle sports fans out here. Seattle hasn’t won anything, it’s true, but we’re here nonetheless.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000119198428 Todd Carmichael

    Anxious to watch and to see how much it covers regarding the previous ownership regime.  I hold the previous ownership group (Schultz-led) and City Council accountable for failing to act on needed stadium improvements to keep the team in Seattle: 65% Sonic Ownership fault, 30% Council fault, 10 % NBA.  The day the Sonics were sold to these Bozos from Oklahoma, I knew they were gone. A video covering the events after the sale to OKC group, is really not very interesting to me.  

    • RadioGuy

      I knew they were toast in Seattle that same day, Todd.  I recalled that after the Hornets’ last game in OKC before heading back to New Orleans, Bennett got on the PA system and told the fans that his goal was to bring an NBA team back to the Ford Center to stay.  Does that sound like someone committed to pro basketball in Seattle?

      I have to add, however, that while Howard Schultz deserves some blame for the team being sold to Bennett’s group, he doesn’t deserve all of it.  I remember Schultz putting the team on the market to local buyers only, and at a price below what he could’ve gotten on the open market.  Not one local person stepped up to buy the team, so Schultz made the Sonics available to anyone willing to make an offer.  Bennett and McLendon never would’ve had the chance to make a bid on the team if the Seattle business community hadn’t collectively decided to pass.

      • Gary

        lip service….. all predetermined by the league leader and the 3 stooges

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000119198428 Todd Carmichael

    Anxious to watch and to see how much it covers regarding the previous ownership regime.  I hold the previous ownership group (Schultz-led) and City Council accountable for failing to act on needed stadium improvements to keep the team in Seattle: 65% Sonic Ownership fault, 30% Council fault, 10 % NBA.  The day the Sonics were sold to these Bozos from Oklahoma, I knew they were gone. A video covering the events after the sale to OKC group, is really not very interesting to me.  

    • RadioGuy

      I knew they were toast in Seattle that same day, Todd.  I recalled that after the Hornets’ last game in OKC before heading back to New Orleans, Bennett got on the PA system and told the fans that his goal was to bring an NBA team back to the Ford Center to stay.  Does that sound like someone committed to pro basketball in Seattle?

      I have to add, however, that while Howard Schultz deserves some blame for the team being sold to Bennett’s group, he doesn’t deserve all of it.  I remember Schultz putting the team on the market to local buyers only, and at a price below what he could’ve gotten on the open market.  Not one local person stepped up to buy the team, so Schultz made the Sonics available to anyone willing to make an offer.  Bennett and McLendon never would’ve had the chance to make a bid on the team if the Seattle business community hadn’t collectively decided to pass.

      • Gary

        lip service….. all predetermined by the league leader and the 3 stooges

  • Tian Biao

    I have avoided Starbucks ever since, because my feeling is, Howard Schultz must have known that Bennett planned move the team, but that the offer was just too big to turn down. Other owners work for decades to get new arenas built, but Howard Schultz just gave up and took the money. And yes, I will watch the documentary . . .

  • Tian Biao

    I have avoided Starbucks ever since, because my feeling is, Howard Schultz must have known that Bennett planned move the team, but that the offer was just too big to turn down. Other owners work for decades to get new arenas built, but Howard Schultz just gave up and took the money. And yes, I will watch the documentary . . .

  • JimC

    When the schadenfreude kicks in, and it does, often, I dearly wish Durant would sign with his hometown Wizards/soon-to-be-Bullets again.  

  • JimC

    When the schadenfreude kicks in, and it does, often, I dearly wish Durant would sign with his hometown Wizards/soon-to-be-Bullets again.  

  • Gary

    And you want to bring these lying thieving crooks back?????

    • RadioGuy

      It’s a variation on the Stockholm Syndrome in sports.

  • Gary

    And you want to bring these lying thieving crooks back?????

    • RadioGuy

      It’s a variation on the Stockholm Syndrome in sports.

  • Jamo57

    Art, your column brought to mind a question in my mind that pops up everytime I see the Sonicsgate fellows, one that is reinforced by the comments below.   That being, is the Sonicsgate movie all that productive in regards to getting a new arena done?   Chris Hansen has been pretty articulate in the need for Seattle to move on from the past (which I tend to agree with).   And how does the Sonicsgate film move things forward with the league?

    And then there is the other effect it has, adding fuel to the fire of the obstructionists and people debating past stadium and arena deals, not the current one.    It seems the movie just adds fuel to the ‘Tyranny of the Loud’ (a phrase I first heard from a transportation official as to why Seattle is woefully behind the rest of the west coast in light rail.   I love the irony of that!!!)

  • Jamo57

    Art, your column brought to mind a question in my mind that pops up everytime I see the Sonicsgate fellows, one that is reinforced by the comments below.   That being, is the Sonicsgate movie all that productive in regards to getting a new arena done?   Chris Hansen has been pretty articulate in the need for Seattle to move on from the past (which I tend to agree with).   And how does the Sonicsgate film move things forward with the league?

    And then there is the other effect it has, adding fuel to the fire of the obstructionists and people debating past stadium and arena deals, not the current one.    It seems the movie just adds fuel to the ‘Tyranny of the Loud’ (a phrase I first heard from a transportation official as to why Seattle is woefully behind the rest of the west coast in light rail.   I love the irony of that!!!)

  • jafabian

    Sonicsgate is an interesting piece but after awhile it comes across as a “woe is us” statement.  And despite my dislike for David Stern and Clay Bennett they had every right to move the franchise.  How they went about it is distasteful but they had every right to move the team.  Just like I have the right not to support the NBA in any way whatsoever.  The way the NBA is run right now makes me think we’ll see a team or two or even three fold at some point.  It’s not a good sign when a league has to step in and run a franchise and for it to take some years before an ownership group can be found.

    Until an arena solution is finished the NBA won’t even entertain returning.  Until then the best statement Sonic fans can make is to support the other pro sport franchises or even the college ones. The league has to smart when they see attendance numbers for those teams, especially the Sounders and Storm.

  • jafabian

    Sonicsgate is an interesting piece but after awhile it comes across as a “woe is us” statement.  And despite my dislike for David Stern and Clay Bennett they had every right to move the franchise.  How they went about it is distasteful but they had every right to move the team.  Just like I have the right not to support the NBA in any way whatsoever.  The way the NBA is run right now makes me think we’ll see a team or two or even three fold at some point.  It’s not a good sign when a league has to step in and run a franchise and for it to take some years before an ownership group can be found.

    Until an arena solution is finished the NBA won’t even entertain returning.  Until then the best statement Sonic fans can make is to support the other pro sport franchises or even the college ones. The league has to smart when they see attendance numbers for those teams, especially the Sounders and Storm.