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A Losing Season with the Seattle SuperSonics March 31, 2007E-mail this story E-mail this story
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Basketball is a zero-sum game, meaning if there's a winner, there's also a loser. Weekend America's John Moe has been spending a lot of time thinking about this. His favorite team, the Seattle SuperSonics, keeps ending up as the losers in this equation. Moe speaks with blogger Paul Merrill, editor Will Leitch and economics professor David Berri about his dilemma.

Notes from Senior Reporter John Moe:
Talking about sports on public radio is a bit like discussing the finer points of opera at a fraternity party: technically possible but inherently problematic. Still, sports are full of great stories, human struggles, marvels of achievement, and therefore interesting to public radio listeners. I hope. This week, I concentrated on a moral dilemma: is it okay to root for your favorite pro basketball team to lose in order to have a better shot at one of the top players in the upcoming NBA draft?

That dilemma is intensified this year because the players available are really quite extraordinarily talented. Greg Oden plays center for an Ohio State team that's playing in this weekend's men's college basketball Final Four. Watch him play if you can (if Weekend America is on at the same time as the game, just turn the sound down on the TV and listen to us). I've been following Oden's career closely because I'm a fan of the Seattle Sonics, a team that will not make the playoffs but is also not the worst team in the league. Triumph is out of reach, but the rewards that come with absolute failure--namely a better chance of acquiring Oden or the similarly talented Kevin Durant of Texas--are still a possibility if the Sonics lose as many of their remaining games as they can. Logically, it's hard to wish for my beloved team to lose, but I look at Greg Oden in the same way a starving cartoon-wolf sees a sheep. Or the way a really stupid cartoon-wolf sees a bomb dressed up as a lady wolf: my eyes shoot out of my head, steam comes out my ears, I levitate. I also find it interesting that Oden shares a pronunciation, if not quite an identical spelling, with the supreme god of Norse mythology. Oden is to basketball as Odin is to Valhalla.

Again, if you follow basketball, you get this. But if you don't, the story comes down to this: is it okay to fail in the short term in order to have better odds of success in the long term? Is that merely wise investing or a dangerous divorce from living in the present day? Weekend America Managing Editor Ben Adair gave me a Sartre quotation that I use in the story, "Life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal" You don't hear a whole lot of Sartre in sports coverage these days, I can't imagine ESPN doing it much, but this is public radio, like I said.