If you’ve attended any sort of large, public gathering in the South Sound in recent years, odds are you’ve seen Kris “Sonics Guy” Brannon. He stands out in a crowd at 6-foot-5 with a wiry salt-and-pepper ‘fro, and he’s almost always dressed in radiant green and gold. The colors of his favorite NBA franchise.
As chronicle in the new film, Superfan – directed by Leigh Burmesch, which debuted at the Seattle International Film Festival in May – Brannon continues to carry the torch for his Seattle Supersonics, waving his “Save Our Sonics” sign even though the team packed its bags and moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. His demeanor remains relentlessly cheerful, and his faith that the NBA will return to Jet City unflappable, even in the face of setbacks that have plagued him in recent weeks.
First, on May 2 the Seattle City Council rejected a plan that would have allowed aspiring owner Chris Hansen to build a new arena in the city’s Sodo District. Then, weeks later, he was hit by a more personal loss, the burglary of his Tacoma home. The burglar took many valuable and sentimental items. Now the community is rallying around Brannon. Little Donuts, Q. Dot, Battersea and The Spins will play a benefit show for him at 8 p.m. on June 25 at Tacoma’s Jazzbones.
Recently, we caught up with T-town’s biggest sports fanatic to revisit last month’s highs and lows.
South Sound Mag: So you had the good fortune of being robbed while you were at the Seattle International Film Festival, right?
Brannon: Yeah, while I was up there. I ended up spending the night, then I came back Sunday morning to catch the burglary in progress.
I noticed one of my yard waste can was down, which was weird. I thought maybe it’s the wind. So I parked, and then I tried to open my front door, and I noticed that the deadbolt was locked. I thought this isn’t right because you can only do that from the inside. So I go around the back and I see some discarded coat hangers from inside my house and a couple of items of clothing scattered. I’m like, “Oh crap! Somebody’s been in my house.
I come around back to the front and immediately call 9-11. Then, as I’m on the sidewalk, I see the guy trying to come out of my house. I run up the walk an engage him for about a half second before he closes the door on me. Then I hop between the front and the back, but unfortunately he did get away before the police showed up.
SSM: Did you get a good look at him? Could you discern anything?
Brannon: Skinny build. To me he looked possibly Hispanic. He was maybe five-eight. It wasn’t anyone I recognized.
SSM: Have there been any leads?
Brannon: The police are on the case. That’s all I can say right now.
SSM: What kind of stuff did you lose?
Brannon: I lost probably about 60 to 70 items. I lost a lot of Sonics stuff. I lost a lot of my football and baseball jerseys. I lost coats and a bunch of hats. The thing I’m most upset about is my dad’s ring, really. All the rest of the stuff can be replaced.
SSM: What was it like to go from the documentary premier, and then to experience that?
Brannon: It went from an exhilarating high at the after party, ’cause my documentary appeared before a Spencer Haywood film (Full Court: The Spencer Haywood Story.) I was at an after party with Spencer and Chuck D from Public Enemy and (Seattle Seahawks defensive end) Michael Bennett and all these luminaries. Then, just to come home and have my house ransacked and everything I had of value and personal mementos gone, I was just crushed.
SSM: They’ve had a Kickstarter or Go Fund Me up for you for a while. How much did you raise?
Brannon: I still have to get the final figures on that. Kathleen Mitchell – aka the Yarn Bomber (a Tacoma resident known for making crochet decorations for local bike racks) – she started it up for me, which was nice. She just started with the goal of a thousand, and it far exceeded that. Thankfully, people have been contributing, which is truly humbling and amazing. I can’t express my gratitude enough.
SSM: What are your thoughts on the Seattle City Council vote?
Brannon: Well, I thought we had the votes going in. It seemed like it kind of changed. As Sonics fans, we’re disappointed and depressed about the outcome, but that still doesn’t mean we won’t keep fighting for an arena and us getting a team back.
SSM: So you’re not deterred in your – what is it now – seven year mission?
Brannon: Something like that – seven years and counting. I’ve been to over 4,000 events. I’ve been to every type of event you could imagine. I started going to events when people were actively in my face, hating me. Now that people kind of get what I do, and they agree with what I do – or they’re at least ambivalent about it – I’m not gonna stop now.
SSM: These days, most people love Sonics Guy. But you’ve had some haters in the past, huh? What’s that all about?
Brannon: When I started out, I think people thought I was crazy. Like, “You know they’re gone, right?” At one point, even my own family was like, “Well, what are you doing?” But now, people kind of get the message, and they agree with it. But I still have haters. Ninety percent of the people can love you. That means 10 percent, not so much.
SSM: How old were you when you first became a Sonics fan? And what made you fall in love with the team to the point you’re doing this?
Brannon: Well, that was when I was a little kid. I was like six when they won the championship (in 1979). I watched it, and the games back then were on tape delay. In the ‘80s, we had some really good teams, but every year Kareem and Magic would just take over. But hey, I’m even nice to Lakers fans now ‘cause we’re gonna need them to get the team back. We’re gonna need everybody on board.
SSM: Because of the owners’ vote, presumably?
Brannon: The owners have to vote, and what I’ve figured out is with me going out there in the public and being kind of a Sonics ambassador, there’s no point in hating on anybody. You have to be magnanimous. You have to be cheerful to see people. So I’m happy to see Lakers fans. I’m happy to see Cavs fans. I’m happy to see basketball fans because I tell ‘em, “Hey, you wanna go to Portland to see a game? No, you wanna see a game here in Seattle. You wanna travel 20 miles instead of 250.”
SSM: What’s your day job these days? I remember you used to run Tacoma’s Comedy Underground. (Brannon is also a stand-up comedian.)
Brannon: Unfortunately, that closed. Right now I’m focusing on my mom a bit. I do day jobs here and there. I’ve managed clubs. I’m starting to put my own shingles out again and starting to do standup full-time again. I’ve been writing a lot of my Sonics stories down, and I want to write a book.
I want to hopefully do a one-man show by the end of the year. The one good thing about (being) Sonics Guy is nobody can take that material. “Hey, when you were talking about being in gold pants trying to advocate for the Sonics, that’s my story. You stole that from me.”
SSM: I was asking about your day job because I wonder how Chris Hansen hasn’t hired you at this point. You should be the main guy he puts out there.
Brannon: I know. He likes me and respects what I do. It is what it is.
SSM: So you’ve met with him?
Brannon: Oh yeah, I’ve talked with him several times. He’s good guy. He’s a fan just like us. Luckily, he has the means to make a team come back and happen. Unfortunately, forces even larger than him – like the Seattle City Council – aren’t into it.
[Ernest A. Jasmin is a freelance contributor to South Sound Magazine. His work has appeared previously in Tacoma’s News Tribune, the Seattle Times and Seattle Weekly, among other regional publications.]