"A lot of emotions flying around out there, and I'm not poetic enough to come near capturing them. I'll just say that we felt the love of Sacramento. I was very proud of our team ... very proud of the progress we've made this year. I'm really sorry the season is over."
That's how Sacramento Kings head coach Paul Westphal opened his postgame press conference following the Kings' season-ending 116-108 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. I hope you'll forgive me for sharing the sentiment, especially after watching the emotional finale to Wednesday night's telecast from Kings TV announcers Grant Napear and Jerry Reynolds:
I don't have the words to express what Wednesday night, and what this whole Anaheim relocation saga, has been like for Kings fans in Sacramento. I'm a native New Yorker and I've never watched one of my favorite teams play a game with the knowledge that it could be the last time I ever get to see them as mine. I don't know what that feels like; it would be disingenuous to suggest otherwise.
My father was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan who grew up taking the trolley to Ebbets Field and never stopped beaming whenever he got to bring up the time he shook Gil Hodges' hand. When the Dodgers went west, as he'd tell it, a piece of him shut down. He'd grown up a baseball-mad kid in the 1930s; what the hell was he supposed to do as a 20-something after Dem Bums pulled up stakes? Keep rooting for the guys who just ditched him to head for warmer climes? That seemed just as unthinkable as cheering for the crosstown Giants or, even worse, the Yankees.
No, he just basically resigned himself to not liking baseball — one of, like, six things that almost uniformly electrified young American men in the 1950s — and sat in wait. After five years, the baseball gods dropped the Mets in his lap. (These, apparently, were cruel trickster gods, like Loki.) Their caps were blue and they played in the National League, so he decided to try to warm to them; eventually, they joined the Knicks, Giants and Rangers as the sports teams on the family crest.
But it was never the same, and he never pretended it was. He wore a Dodger cap with a white B on the front of it, he hung pictures of Gil and Pee-Wee and the boys on the basement walls, and he never really got over it. Not that I can remember, at least.
I don't have words for what Kings fans went through Wednesday night, but SB Nation's Tom Ziller does. (When it comes to the Kings, and most everything else about the NBA, Ziller always does.) On our side of the fence, Marc J. Spears has a few damned good ones of his own. Read them and get a sense of what Wednesday night felt like. After the jump, you can get a sense of what it looked like.
But before we get there: If Wednesday night was the last time, I'm sorry for your loss, Sacramento, and I think there are a lot of fans in a lot of other places who share the sentiment.
International readers ("Int'l read'rs"): If the clip above isn't rocking for you, please feel free to watch the Sacramento announcers' must-see sign-off elsewhere, courtesy of the Sacramento Kings' YouTube channel.