110 Percent: Scott Hessel (Source Victoria) talks NBA lockout, Suns and crybaby millionaires

Scott Hessel - Source Victoria

Welcome to 110 Percent, a new, recurring feature that brings together two of my greatest joys: music and sports. The goal is pretty simple (if not a little broad): I plan to talk to musicians about sports, be it their favorite team, the news of the day or anything in between. Everything is, ahem, fair game.

First up is Scott Hessel, drummer of Phoenix band Source Victoria, who will unleash a new album, Slow Luck, with a release party on Nov. 25 at Crescent Ballroom.

I chatted with Scott last week about his life as a Suns fun and the NBA lockout, a few days before the players union rejected the latest proposal from the owners on Monday, thus jeopardizing the 2011-12 season. We had already launched into conversation before I could get a question out, so I’ll let Scott get the proverbial ball rolling here …

Let me put it this way, the first time they did this lockout nonsense – what was it ’99? – I sort of re-embraced the NBA pretty quickly just because the Suns were still very much a team that wasn’t gonna win a championship, but we still were pretty good. This year, OK, well, they get a season going, and what do we have? We have the same questions about the Suns that we had before the season even ended. I hate to say this, but I’m like, “Blow it up.” What could it possibly hurt?

The guy I feel worst for is my basketball hero, Steve Nash. I still feel like that dude is playing at a very high level above the expectations of what even a guy his age is ever supposed to play. So the notion of him losing a year off his career would make me sad. But everybody else just strikes me as being just completely unsympathetic. I never particularly liked (NBA commissioner) David Stern. I don’t like the position a lot of the players are taking publicly … you don’t really have much sympathy for these dudes.

Especially considering the economy. I know they’re also negotiating for future players, but there’s already a huge disconnect between Average Joe and the rich athlete.
I understand the principle, but it could not happen at a worse time for the Average Joe to have much sympathy. I would have considered myself a die-hard basketball fan – that any given night I-don’t-really-care-what-game-I’m-watching fan. But this year, no. I’m completely sitting here going, “Why are we even caring?” I don’t care. It’s just not a good time to be having this sort of thing.

Give me some background. Were you born and raised and raised in Phoenix?
I was born in Florida and moved here in ’74. I was 7.

So the Suns were the only game in town, right?
When I first became a Suns fan they were offering 2-for-1s. The 2-for-1s were like $5, $7, something like that. I remember the New Orleans Jazz came to town. [Starts singing]: “The Suns are playing in town tonight / the Suns are playing in town tonight / Pete Maravich, you know what that means/ from way down ‘yonder in New Orleans.” That stuck with me all these years. That’s when I became a Suns fan.

Was that a commercial?
That was a commercial. It was so hokey. The Suns were on Channel 12, I think, at the time. I’ve been with ‘em all the way. The very first memory I have of the Suns was watching the Suns-Celtics on black-and-white TV, triple OT (Game 5 of the ’76 Finals). That was my first memory, which couldn’t be a better memory.

Have you ever been a season-ticket holder?
Never a season-ticket holder. But I’ve been to enough games over the years that it feels like I’m a season-ticket holder.

So Phoenix has all major sports now, but basketball is your game?
Basketball is my game. I would go to Flagstaff to watch training camp. I was just a dyed-in-the-wool Suns fan. I mean, I bought a satellite dish – a 10-foot satellite dish – so I could watch all the games. At that point, like ’92-93, they were still broadcasting the games unencrypted over C-band. So every night I would watch like four games. The year they beat Jazz in playoffs and nobody expected them to beat Jazz and went on to play Lakers and beat Lakers … from that point on, I’ve only missed a handful of games.

How does that work with life as a musician? You’ve toured, played gigs – all stuff that happens at night.
Lemme tell you. It was really kind of interesting. A few years ago when I was on tour with Let Go … I think I was on tour in 2006-07ish. We were driving around and we would do the show. I had my little Sidekick and I would sit there and just hit refresh on the web page. During that tour, the Suns ran off like 11, 12 wins in a row. It was a weird thing because I felt so, “I can’t believe I’m on tour and I’m missing these games.” It was the best season in years and I was just devastated that I couldn’t be part of it.

It’s always been very funny. I remember playing in a reggae band and I would set up a TV and I would set it down on the ground next to my hi-hat stand. I’d do a three-hour reggae set, and there I was staring at the TV, watching the Suns games. I would let out the occasional “wooo!”.

That’s impressive multitasking.
I was able to do it. Reggae is not necessarily easy to play, but I managed to pull it off. I don’t think the dudes necessary appreciated my respect for the jah love aspect of playing reggae, but it was jah Suns.

Are you a hoarder of Suns memorabilia?
Oh, dude. I’ve got boxes of banners going back to the early years and wristbands. I caught a wristband from James Jones once that I wore around for good luck. Then that broke and I was so sad because then the Suns, of course, lost. You get very superstitious with that stuff.

How would you describe being a Suns fan for this long? It’s a sometimes frustrating ride.
I would say this: It’s not anything like being a Cubs fan. I don’t care what they want to admit to, but it is absolutely just a very frustrating transitional time for that team. I don’t claim to know what (owner) Robert Sarver’s intentions are with the team, but it feels like the bottom line is really what it’s all about for him running the team. With Jerry Colangelo, I never felt like that. Obviously if you’re successful businessman, you want to make money. But I think he realized that you make money by having a great team. He always seemingly put an amazingly good and consistent product on court. Was it championship product? No. We always fell short. But now for first time in quite some time I don’t know that the Suns really have a true focus on, “Yeah, this year we’re gonna compete.” It feels like we are probably going to fall – I don’t wanna go so far as to say Clippers territory – it just feels mediocre. I wouldn’t be the first person to say that Nash probably will be dealt and I think that all hell will break loose as far as fans are concerned.

nashWould you call Nash your favorite Suns player of all-time?
Nash typifies what is right and good about sports. His sheer grit — broken noses, slammed into walls, played with one eye making three-point shots. I remember Danny Ainge when he played for the Suns, and Ainge played with that same sort of determination and grit … and Dan Majerle. I think Nash embodies the current breed of that type of player. The guy’s got a lot left in him and it’s gonna be sad if he’s not able to be on the court with a supporting cast that’s able to benefit from him the way it should.

It sorta feels like that window closed on the Suns.
As superstitious as I am about sports, I don’t subscribe to the snakebit thing, but it’s hard not to. It’s hard to say, “Yeah, this team isn’t snakebit.” They have absolutely had a number of chances in last couple of years — even going back the last 10-15 years, they’ve had numerous chances to break through, and for whatever reason it hasn’t happened. I’ll admire the product they put on court and salute the team. But I don’t know if what they’re going to be putting on court is what we’re used to.

We’re definitely not used to seeing the Suns in the bottom half of standings.
You can draw some parallels. I remember the Kings a few years ago when they had cowbells out and were really doing well in the division. They had the fan base behind them and now they’re fighting to stay afloat in Sacramento. KJ (former Suns star and current Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson) has made it possible; he bought them another year. It’s sad. Could that happen to Phoenix? I thought it would be unthinkable, but now I’m starting to think, yeah, Sarver could very well sell the team and cut his losses.

Sarver was being blamed early on as one of the “hard-line” owners in the lockout negotiations.
It’s strange because Phoenix wasn’t mentioned as one of the hard-liners with these recent negotiations, which surprised me. I would have bet on it that Sarver would have been a hard-liner. Reading the comments Nash has made about Sarver the last couple weeks – there’s not a lot of warm fuzzies.

One of funniest comments I ever heard, it was comedian who basically said when you’re rooting for a sports team, what are you rooting for? You’re rooting for cloth and an emblem. There’s something to that. Would I take my allegiance to wherever Nash gets traded? No, no I wouldn’t. I would try to rationalize, “Well, we got a first-round pick and some spare change for Nash,” which is probably what they would get. I’d probably be a Suns fan. But the economy being what it is would make it an easy decision to occasionally go to a Suns game if I could land a $5 ticket and sit in the upper level. The days of going and trying to seek out the great seats or putting a lot of money toward team … until they prove themselves on court — call it fair-weather, call it what you want — but if Sarver and Suns ownership and management doesn’t give me incentive to be behind the team, then why should I and other fans repay that?

That’s how I feel about this whole lockout thing. I read fans are saying, “We want basketball.” These fans should be aware of the fact it’s not just owners. It’s players who are holding this thing up. The other thing is, you, me, our lives are going on quite nicely the last month without basketball. People find other ways to spend money. I think dudes need to realize that there are some die-hard fans – and I consider myself one of them – but I’m not going to cry if they blow up the season.

Would you say the lockout is maybe chipping away at your fandom?
Absolutely. I’m still going to be Suns fan. The organization is a good organization, Sarver aside. I think that, again, considering the economy, the problems that people are dealing with now, it’s difficult to have any empathy or sympathy or whatever you wanna call it for what these multi-multi-millionaires — and in some cases multi-multi-multi-millionaires. It’s silly. Are we really talking about 51 vs. 49 percent in revenue sharing?

I think they’ll probably resolve it. There’s just too much money to be lost. It’s been said by so many people, but I really do feel for the vendors, the restaurants, the parking attendants and people that depend on this stuff. Those are people you feel bad for. Not Jared Dudley. Even though I like Jared Dudley, he’s gonna be fine.

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