Local sports coverage is slipping in Oklahoma. As a former member of the Tulsa media, it saddens me to make that statement. Covering local sports was my passion and my livelihood. Back then I sensed it, and even more so now, I see the profession slowly dying.
There is no longer an investment being made in real, substantial journalism. When I tune into local news these days, I cringe because each station’s sportscast is predictable and dull. Each channel airs a slightly altered version of the same show.
It’s fine to show highlights from the Drillers, Shock, Talons, Barons, OU, OSU, and of course the Thunder. However, I have a feeling no one is flipping on their TV to see a couple of lousy highlights. Nobody is sitting at home anxiously awaiting 20 seconds of Redhawks footage.
So why do stations fall into this cookie cutter pattern? Is it because the anchors and producers are afraid to miss something or is it because they’ve been in the same routine for so long that they’re just too comfy and complacent to think outside the box? Frankly, I know it’s the latter because I was guilty of it when I sat at the anchor desk.
Remember the best date you ever went on? As the night grew late, and the hours slipped away, you knew it had to come to an end. You held on as long as possible, maybe even talking in the driveway in your truck for another hour. But eventually, you parted ways and there was that immediate feeling of disappointment that something so fun, and potentially so special, had to come to an end.
Well, Thunder fans, your team just treated you to the best season of your life. Even a few days later, you’re still thinking about each incredible moment, every amazing victory, and how you just didn’t want it to end. Naturally, you’ll also let your mind wander to what could have been. The close calls, the near misses, and the wasted opportunities will replay in your mind again and again.
If only the date could keep going. If only the Thunder could take the court one more time.
Trust me Thunder fans, momentary disappointment should soon give way to hopeful anticipation. You can be upset at losing the series, maybe even a little angry at the inability of the Thunder to close out games in the fourth quarter. You can question some of the shot selection and the plays drawn up in the final minutes of those nail-biting playoff losses. It’s all part of the fan’s necessary healing process.
What you can’t do is call this team a bunch of underachievers. In no way are you allowed to dwell on the negatives, when the positives are so blatantly overwhelming, and it’s definitely not okay for you to be calling for widespread changes to the roster or the coaching staff.
Look, in three short seasons, this franchise has put itself in a position no one thought possible. From 23 wins in the first year, to the playoffs in the year two, and now a run all the way to the Western Conference Finals. How could anyone possibly be upset with this progression? How could anyone possibly think this team isn’t right on schedule? Championships in professional sports take time. Successful franchises are built one block at a time, and the process is usually much longer than three seasons.
A few weeks ago, the Tulsa World published this article about how more Tulsans are embracing the Oklahoma City Thunder. Overall, the tone of the article is positive. It cites increasing ticket sales and rising TV ratings from the East side of the state. However, if you read the article and read some of the comments, you’ll quickly realize just how ignorant, jealous and petty so many folks are about the Thunder bearing the name “Oklahoma City.”
I don’t want to admit this is true, but having lived in Tulsa for almost seven years now, there is an inferiority complex for too many people when it comes to competition with OKC. These are the same imbeciles who need something to be offended by, something to rant about on sports radio, and who cling to the past like it’s keeping them alive. The ridiculous sentiment of this pathetic crowd is, “They’re not the Oklahoma Thunder, so why should I care? They don’t market themselves to Tulsa or play games up here, so why I am going to support a team that doesn’t acknowledge me?”
Really? Sometimes you people sound like too much like the kid who gets picked last for dodge ball. Did you ever think it’s because maybe you’re not good enough? Instead of whining and complaining just get better.
Let’s face facts here; Oklahoma City had a vision back in the mid-nineties. The MAPS project was executed flawlessly and now OKC has transformed itself into a big league city that is deserving of a professional franchise. Tulsa is a fantastic place to live, and offers plenty of things that OKC doesn’t, but it just isn’t on the same level when it comes to being ready for pro sports. Sure, Tulsa has the BOK Center downtown. It’s a beautiful facility and it’s a huge step in the right direction. But Tulsa also has a city council that squabbles incessantly, excruciatingly slow development along the river, and surface streets that make this town the perfect place to open up your own alignment shop. What takes Oklahoma City ten years seems to take Tulsa 25 years to accomplish. Believe me, Tulsa is changing and improving, but it’s not there yet.
You know that Kobe Bryant jersey you got for Christmas? Try selling it a garage sale. The Carmelo Anthony bobblehead on your nightstand? Let’s find a shoebox for ‘Melo. Lebron James may be taking his talents to South Beach, but why don’t you take that poster of his to the trash can.
I’ve got a new role model for you and his name is Kevin Durant. He is the man you should be imitating. He is worthy of your admiration. He won’t disappoint you on or off the court. Let me tell you why you should be plastering your walls with images of Durant. We’ll start with Kevin Durant the basketball player.
You may not have heard this since its football season and your dad has a death grip on the remote, but just last week Durant led Team USA to its first World Championship in 16 years. Kobe wasn’t there. Neither was Dwyane Wade. At 21 years old, Durant was the clear-cut leader of the American squad. In the semifinals Durant dropped 33 points on the Lithuanians. Against Turkey in the championship, Durant drained seven 3-pointers on his way to 28 points and tournament MVP honors. Durant didn’t have to be there in Turkey, half a world away representing his country. He could have stayed home, rested, or taken a long vacation away from the game of basketball. After all, NBA training camps start in just two weeks. Most guys might want more of an offseason. Durant just wants to play ball.
If there’s a way to defend Durant, NBA coaches haven’t figured it out. Last season, Durant became the youngest player to ever lead the league in scoring with 30.1 points per game. Consistency? Durant has it. He recorded a streak of 29 straight games with 25 points or more, the second longest streak of its kind in NBA history. Durant never missed a game, and rarely missed a free throw. He shot a blistering 47% from the field and finished his third season as a pro with 25 double doubles. Each year, Durant’s numbers have gone up for points, rebounds, and assists. All this while facing the best defender on every team he faces. Most impressively, Durant propelled a young Thunder team to the playoffs and pushed the Lakers to six games in the first round. Watch closely kids and you won’t see Durant whining to referees or demanding more shots. He keeps his head down and his mouth shut. You see kids, it’s a style we simply don’t see out of our idols too often. It’s a style that may not earn you maximum fame. What it will get you is maximum respect.
Lebron James may have had a TV special dedicated to “the decision.” James may have had millions of people hanging on his every word, but his shameless self-promotion turned him into a laughing-stock. Trust me kids, trying to boost your own ego only makes you look petty, immature, and incredibly lame. Durant signed a contract extension with Oklahoma City right around the same time as the Lebron spectacle. Why didn’t you hear more about Durant’s signing you ask? Because Durant is the anti-Lebron. He announced his extension on Twitter. No press conference, no media, no gimmicks, just 140 characters. Truth is, Durant could have asked to opt out of his current deal in the fifth season. You might have a hard time believing someone with Durant’s skills and star power would want to stay in Oklahoma for years to come. It’s the truth. Durant wanted a deal done quickly and easily because as he puts it, “This is where I’m committed, this is where I want to be. I’m a loyal person.” Remember that word kids…loyalty. It’s becoming a thing of the past.
More than any accolade or accomplishment on the court, Durant understands the responsibility that comes with being a professional athlete. In January, Durant wasted no time in donating $100,000 to aid the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Thanks to Durant, a run down rec center in his home state of Maryland got a renovation and the kids in the neighborhood now have a safe place to play. Durant recently partnered with a record label to build a new music studio for high school students in the Washington D.C. area. Here in Oklahoma, Durant took a needy family on a grocery shopping spree to help a woman responsible for caring for her six nieces and nephews. He is heavily involved with the March of Dimes organization and is becoming known for giving out free pairs of shoes to his fans on Facebook and Twitter.
In other words, Durant doesn’t just play for Oklahoma City, he has a presence in Oklahoma City. A kid from Maryland, who went to school at Texas, now makes his home in Oklahoma. One of the brightest stars in the league plays in one of the smallest markets. But you see kids, it’s not about the size of the city. It’s not about the money, the recognition, or even about what anyone else might think. It’s about playing a game with passion, and being the same person on the court and off. What you see is what you get with Kevin Durant. I hope you see what I see. I see a whole lot of heart, I see a man worthy of your admiration, a man who deserves that space on your wall.
Showcasing Red Dirt culture ~ authored and managed by contributors with connections to the great state of Oklahoma.