Ambulance by Pretty Black Chains; Kenny Loggins by Dr. Pants; and Burn by Cami Stinson – I didn’t want to get too far into the summer without writing my response to the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in the larger context of the democratic revolutions in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen now known to history as the “Arab Spring.” I’m kidding. I did want to write about the spring of 2011 and Oklahoma City and our beloved Thunder.
Lets begin with a little back story. I don’t really like basketball. I’ve never played it competitively (other than ’91 the winter of domination and life lessons from Jimmy Holmes. Godspeed Mr. Holmes, I never attempt to spin a basketball on my finger without thinking of you). Given that all sports are at their core silly, basketball always seemed sillier than most. I won’t get into the reasons why. Let’s just say I was never fan other than obligatory Sooner basketball support, and certainly never a fan of the NBA (the Association).
But the Thunder have changed all that (N.B. and it is “have” by the way. Even though it’s a singular noun, the plural verb conjugation is used because it’s multiple players. The Celtics have. The Lakers have. The Thunder have. Got it, Merv Albert, Kenny Smith, Jeff VG? (deep breath)). Basketball is never going to match baseball in my personal sports hierarchy, but it’s creeping up on football. Watching a lot as I did this season I discovered some aspects of basketball (particularly the NBA) I had previously overlooked. (1) The seven game playoff series is a marvel, a sport strategy connoisseur’s orgy. I’d even say it is superior to the seven game baseball series in that normally the same two teams play every other night. Whereas in baseball the teams must change pitchers which some would argue (including me) has the effect of altering an entire team’s identity. The NBA creates pure strategic chess from one game to the next….brilliant and fascinating to watch. (2) Really good basketball players can take over a game like no other athlete in any sport. This means there is no equivalent of Kobe (or KD or Lebron or Nowitzki) in baseball or football. There is no opportunity for there to be one. This makes their individual talents that much more impressive to watch.
However, the civic pride is what put me over the top. Not a George Babbit/boosterism type of civic pride, but a this is our team pride. We all can root for them and talk about them and disect them together without obligatory pompousness from Sooner fans or tired “team on the rise” talk from Cowboys. This is us against Denver or Portland or Memphis or Dallas. KD, Russ, The Beard, Air Congo, everunderappreciated NickCollison, and even big sweaty Perk are our team and they are better than yours, Memphis. They are my home team. So hell yes, this spring and the play-off run was theirs, ours. It was magnificent. I approached early 2000s levels of Sooner football obsession with it. I cared. And that means alot. My home team. Because Oklahoma City is now my home.
I think of home (as in childhood home/hometown) and (as some of you might) have mixed emotions about it that I’ll never fully understand. But the notion of “home” always evokes a specific people, time, place, happenings. I find it odd yet comforting that Action City, The O.C. is now my home. It’s the place where I was married, my son born, where I now live and work and play. This is home. But it will be my son’s hometown. He’ll be a different kind of person than I was because his hometown is (comparatively) vast and full of experiences as opposed to ten churches and no bars. I’m interested to see how this will shape him (and if it increases or decreases his assholeness). What will also be great is that the Thunder will be my son’s team in way that dad never had (sure, I wish this was a baseball team, but OK.) The first piece of sports memorabilia in his room was not a Sooner football (or an OSU wrestling singlet (smirks)) or a Yankee jersey or Dallas helmet, but a Thunder pennant. He gets to have that, his team, like dad didn’t. That’s really cool. He gets a lifetime of the spring of 2011, of rooting for his team of caring about his team, celebrating them, of their breaking his heart. You can’t tell me that’s not what’s great about sports.
But he gets all of this as his hometown. And it’s a great place. His dad and mom love it for many reasons. I hope he comes to love it also. Non exhaustive list:
I love that there are 48 Chelino’s with identical menus in this town but everyone knows that by far the best one is on SW 42nd and Robinson smack in the middle of Hooker Town.
I love that the weekend of the Arts Festival coincides with the Memorial Marathon. It’s the best weekend of the year.
I love that they always give you one complementary chicken brochette at Deep Fork.
I hate that whenever a band/artist I want to see comes to Oklahoma invariable they play at Cains or The Brady. Fuck you, Tulsa.
I love that my favorite snack in town (Big Truck Tacos, Flaming Lips) is named after the fuher of Oklahoma Music.
I love everyone standing for every runner for every mile of the OKC Marathon.
I love that Wayne still lives here.
I hate that I don’t get out to see music as much as pre-30s/fatherhood Matt did, but I know with local artists like Pretty Black Chains, Cami Stinson and Dr. Pants (N.B. if that Kenny Loggins song doesn’t crack you up, then you’re just in a foul mood), it’s in good hands.
I hate that you always have to have reservations to get a table at Cheevers and I never remember.
I love that Mr. McClendon (besides making this city prettier one expensive block at a time and keeping wife gainfully employed) wraps each individual branch of every individual tree from Classen to 63rd with Christmas lights.
I love that we have unbeleivably cool places like Republic within the same neighborhood perfect shitboxes like Cousins.
I love The Paseo.
I love that my mind forever wants to make Flips the Mont of Oklahoma City, but they will never quite equate. And that’s a good thing.
I hate the I-44/I-235 interchange.
I love to be able to dispense pearls of faux-wisdom like townies never go to Bricktown or make indefensible statements like I’ll never live north of Britton Road. (N.B. once confronted about the reasons for my personal probition on living north Britton road I came up with no real answer and sounded like an uninformed elitist or worse, yuppie scum. Touche, Travis. I owe you a firkin.)
I love Firkin Friday at McNellies (I’ll be there at 6:00).
The city’s growing up but not all “grows up.” We still elect an ignorant bigot every now and then and our city leaders simply will not give our fine citizens public transportation to protect them from me on the roads. But we’re coming along. We are coming along. Weird. Enjoy