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THE THUNDER IS STRUGGLING IN OKLAHOMA CITY.Coincidentally, yesterday as I was putting the above flash video together, waaay up there in Seattle, on KONG-TV (which is some way or another associated with or a part of KING-TV ... King Kong TV, get it?), news anchor Carolyn Douglas said that the Thunder franchise was "struggling" and "it hasn't been smooth sailing." She noted that many Seattle people took some pleasure in that fact. To make her point, she got OKC KWTV reporter Doug Warner on-line for a 4-minute live interview. She introduced him by saying that, "He has been following the team's struggles ever since they left the Emerald City. Thanks for joining us, Doug."
At first, Warner stumbled at the curve-ball introduction,
but then he simply said, "Thanks for having me on."
A gentleman through-and-through, Doug didn't tell her, "Carolyn, you ignorant slut," as in the old Saturday Night Live routine by Jane Curtin & Dan Akroyd. (Click the SNL image at the right for such a video clip — it's a hoot.)
But, in so many words, he did. He politely laid out the facts for her and her Seattle audience, and they weren't the words or facts Carolyn and her audience likely wanted to hear.
She began by saying,"Still a very sore topic around here, as you know. I'm sure many people won't be disappointed to hear that the team has been struggling there. Tell us how Oklahoma City's reaction has been to getting 'our' NBA team," she using her voice and fingers to emphasize, "our."
Well, fortunately we are, what, a thousand miles away so your viewers can throw tomatoes at their screen all they want and they still won't hit us.The reporter replied,
* * *
Honestly, for Thunder fans, I don't think it's been a failure at all. I mean, the team actually did a little bit better than they did last year in Seattle. Attendance wise, we were at 97% capacity which I think was around 9th in the league, and as for overall attendance we were just outside the top 10. So, in that sense, it's really done wonders here in Oklahoma City and a lot of folks are calling it a success on this end.
Wow. What a difference a city makes in its perspective. Ha Ha Ha.In the closing part of the interview, the Seattle TV anchor said, "For the players sake, glad to hear they're doing relatively well down there," she placing emphasis on the term, "relatively." Doug simply replied, "That's right."
To get your own laugh-of-the-day, see the video at Steve Lackmeyer's OKC Central or the rejoinder videos at KWTV's News9 website and, at the station's Tulsa sister-affiliate station.
Interestingly, the main rejoinder came from Seattle Times reporter Jerry Brewer who, unlike Carolyn Douglas, had traveled to Oklahoma City to do his homework. In his July 2 article, "How I learned to kinda, sorta like Oklahoma City," he reported,
Easiest assignment ever: Go to the town that abducted the Sonics and write some impressions.One must wonder if the guy has a death-wish, however, reporting in Seattle in a light favorable to Oklahoma City. As this article is being written on July 4, 201 comments have been posted to his Seattle Times article, mostly the, "I'm never going to read your stuff anymore, you asshole," kind of stuff (to translate the comments into the most polite but still accurate form possible).
Or, in other words, sip some Hater-ade and let 'er rip.
But a crazy thing happened on this disdainful mission. I learned to tolerate Oklahoma City. Then I learned to kinda, sorta like the place. And then, shocker of all shockers, I learned to accept it as an NBA city and stop connecting the Thunder with the Sonics.
For my next trick, I plan to fix the relationship between the United States and Iran.
After this unlikely journey, anything is possible.
* * *
The community embraced its pro team in a manner that made me wonder if this is what Seattle was like when the Sonics came to town in 1967. There's a civic pride here that had evaporated in Seattle because of the shady way the Sonics' relocation happened.
It starts with the general kindness of the people here. I needed to meet some Oklahoma City jerks to write the kind of column I wanted to write, but I didn't find any. Instead, I met people like the waitress at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill who wouldn't stop staring at me. She whispered to her co-workers and pointed. Finally, after a couple of minutes, she approached the table and revealed why she had been spying.
"I'm sorry to ask this, but I have to know," she said in a Southwestern twang. "Are you Wayman Tisdale's brother?"
Me? Kin to Wayman Tisdale, the late, great Oklahoma basketball star and musician? Never heard that one before.
"No, I'm not," I told her.
"Well, I just had to ask," the waitress replied. "Wayman's a legend in Oklahoma. It would've been great if you were his brother."
That's Oklahoma City for you. It's endearing.
* * *
It gets better (or worse): Even though most national media types speculate that players will hate playing in Oklahoma City, the team's young stars — Durant, Green and Westbrook — haven't expressed any dislike of their new residence. In fact, Durant, the key to the Thunder's sustainability in OKC, has been very complimentary.
"Hopefully, I'll spend my whole career here," he told Yahoo! Sports earlier this year.
In professional sports, money and competitiveness are great equalizers. If Bennett pays to retain his players and Presti creates a winner, the Thunder will have a chance to be more than just the average small-market team.
And Oklahoma City will become more than the city that took Seattle's team.
Updated July 5, 2009. Is the Seattle Times going soft? If you've been around the Seattle vs. OKC topic for awhile, you'll know that the Seattle Times "Sonics" message board was perhaps the most vulgarly outrageous in the entire realm of the NBA — it tolerated, probably welcomed, users to post with false names which blasted Oklahoma City and its people by users with uncomplimentary pseudonyms which sometimes emulated Oklahoma City people, myself included even though I was never a member of that board. The vile trash-talk which included explicit and implicit sexual and other unkind (but nonetheless interesting) references was completely unmoderated and unrestrained in the venom it spewed towards our town. In my estimation, by what and how he wrote in the Seattle Times, Steve Kelley set the model and permissive and unrestrained tone for that forum, and he's still there and has just posted another article today (now July 5 as this article is being edited) so Seattle-haters-of-Oklahoma-City still have their spokesperson at the Seattle Times. Among other things, he said,
I'm not one of those people believing it is so sweet and nice Oklahoma City has a team. I think it's a bad joke on the league. Oklahoma City still is a one-horse town that won't sustain its love for the Thunder, won't attract the upper echelon free agents and won't be able to keep its own stars.The article just linked-to evidences that Mr. Kelley, while still blaming many others, continues to have a blind-eye to his own contribution in the process which led to Seattle's loss of the Sonics. Kelley is blameless and is as pure as the driven snow. Or not. See this article in which I credit Mr. Kelley as being one of if not the principal Seattle journalist who contributed to Seattle's bunker mentality and which produced nothing at all constructive in a time when action, not reaction, was needed by Seattle big time. I see Steve Kelley as one of the contributors to Oklahoma City Thunder ever coming to exist in the first place. Am I mistaken? Maybe, but probably not. Does it matter? Not to Oklahoma City, the deal is done. But maybe, one day, as Seattle looks back at itself, it should to Seattle.
Hope you enjoyed the video and your laugh for the day!