Marcos Breton: Kings win shows anything's possible in Sacramento

mbreton@sacbee.comMay 19, 2013 

A few weeks ago, I was covering baseball in San Francisco when a writer from another state accosted me with an emphatic declaration: "You've lost the Sacramento Kings," he boomed. "You're fantasizing if you think otherwise."

When I countered that a legitimate group of people was bidding big to keep the team in town, my friend practically spit.

"There is no way anyone would invest (hundreds of millions) in Sacramento!" he said, his words bordering on contempt.

As we all know, this writer was dead wrong, just like many others in the national press who had predicted the Kings would move away from dusty Sacramento to gleaming Seattle.

In the national narrative, Sacramento was a wasteland filled with pitiable bumpkins foolishly clinging to a bad team before the inevitable heartbreak.

Like many others, I never bought into that dismal image of Sacramento. This isn't New York or Seattle, but it doesn't have to be.

Sacramento is the city where you feel a part of something bigger, a broader community of people who often disagree – but who still care a great deal.

The Kings don't define Sacramento's image, but the effort to keep the team spoke volumes about the community.

Like the Sacramento region, the Kings campaign was tough-minded, spirited, caring and hardworking.

Mayor Kevin Johnson is getting a lot of praise for assembling an ownership group to buy the team – and deservedly so – but that might not have been his biggest achievement.

Using the bully pulpit of his office, and fully trading on his celebrity and charisma, Johnson refused to accept someone else's vision of the city.

Johnson understood that the Kings are a regional asset that had to be preserved for economic and emotional reasons.

From the start, Johnson radiated strength, class, cunning and a never-say-die attitude. But for him, the Kings would have been gone long ago.

Losing the Kings wouldn't have been a death blow for Sacramento, but it wouldn't have been good, either.

When analyzing Sacramento's "misery index" as one of the worst in the nation recently, Forbes magazine prominently cited the imminent departure of the Kings in its rundown of wrongs in the state capital.

Other national publications repeated that tale of woe.

The successful effort to keep the Kings now spares us all the waste of time defending Sacramento against an image it doesn't need. The winning campaign was nothing but positive energy in a city normally driven by a strong strain of skepticism.

When it was done and victory achieved, City Hall was filled with sometime adversaries celebrating. "Business and labor standing next to each other," Johnson said from the podium Friday.

"Anything is possible in Sacramento."

That's a great message to retain: Anything is possible in Sacramento.

What about vibrant development on the riverfront once and for all? An upgraded Old Sacramento or Cal Expo? A community effort to combat high poverty and mortality rates in south Sacramento, Del Paso Heights and Oak Park?

How about ridding the American River Parkway of pollution and illegal campers?

How about cracking down on fare jumpers on Regional Transit and changing the image of shabby commuter trains as a regional eyesore?

What about repurposing the closing Campbell Soup plant and putting people back to work?

The priorities are too numerous to cite here, and some argue that the Kings effort should have been abandoned to focus on these and other issues.

I respectfully disagree. With or without the Kings, these issues remain.

But with the Kings victory, momentum is there to keep moving and striving to build the community we all want – one that reflects how much we care about Sacramento.

Call The Bee's Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096. Back columns, www.sacbee.com/breton. Follow him on Twitter @marcosbreton.

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