Monday, September 29, 2008

Juicy OU offense has spoiled fans

by Steven Jones
The Oklahoma Daily
Special to the 405

I made one of the biggest mistakes in my life in May of 2006. Prior to my high school graduation, I let my girlfriend’s parents take me out to dinner at a nice steak place in Dallas.

A really nice steak place. It was hands down the best steak I’ve had in my life.

I can no longer go to an average or even above-average steakhouse anymore and be satisfied. Outback and Saltgrass are a joke to me now. They just can’t compare.

It’s the same way with OU’s offense.

Prior to the game against TCU, the Sooners delivered a near-perfect steak. It was well-seasoned, juicy and cooked to perfection. All cylinders were firing and the OU offense looked unstoppable.

Not so much on Saturday. There were no holes for the running backs. Sam Bradford was sacked three times and hit more than that, while only completing 56 percent of his passes.

But the fact is, despite some miscues, OU’s offense took on the highest-rated defense in the country, racked up 436 total yards, scored 35 points and didn’t turn the ball over once.

That’s still a pretty tasty steak.

OU fans were spoiled by the incredible performance the offense displayed early on. By the fourth quarter, the fans had become so frustrated with OU’s lack of a running game that they booed while Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray were again taken down in the backfield.

Was OU’s rushing performance on Saturday somewhat concerning? Of course. But Murray and Brown didn’t forget how to run the ball. That gigantic offensive line didn’t forget how to block. And the Sooners will get their running game back on track.

OU is the No. 1 football team in the country for a reason. The young defense has stepped up. Linebacker Travis Lewis continued his solid play while the untested cornerbacks are making a living breaking up passes and forcing turnovers.

Linebacker Ryan Reynolds has stayed healthy and looks better than ever. The defensive line, despite some injury issues, lead a defense that ranks No. 4 in the nation in sacks and No. 1 in tackles for a loss. But most importantly, OU is the best team in the country because it has too many weapons for anyone to stop. Even the best defense in the NCAA had to pick their poison.

In a game where Jermaine Gresham, Brown and Murray were basically silenced, Manuel Johnson stepped up and the Sooners sliced through TCU’s secondary. The Sooners probably won’t face a better defense than they did on Saturday. A 25-point win over the No. 24 team in the country is nothing to be disappointed about. It’s a pretty decent steak, so accept it. Because no one likes a steak elitist.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Stop the 'Madness'

Just in case you've been dead the last two weeks and missed every issue of The Oklahoman there's this new Thunder fan website called Thunder Madness ( It's been advertised about as much as Righteous Kill and is equally as crappy.

Now I don't know this for a fact, but by all appearances, Thunder Madness looks to be the brainchild of those at The Oklahoman. It's had awkward advertisements in the paper where NO advertisement has ever been (like within a story). There's all the Wimgo ads on the website. Staff writers for The Oklahoman are some of the main posters on the message boards. They have the Thunder videos up within seconds of them actually going on NewsOk. But then there's the big-time kicker - the thing that shores it all up.

Down at the bottom the site is registered to OPUBCO Communications Group - the folks that publish The Oklahoman. And if you click report issue (like that this site is a total piece of crap and an embarrassment to the state) the email address it directs you to is

Wrong. Totally wrong.

Now granted, I've never been part of a big league city so this may be common place, but regardless, it needs to stop. Newspapers should not ever be involved in a fansite. Ever.

The correct process for this fansite thing, is that fans are the ones that buy the webspace, pay the dues, buy the jerseys, buy the tickets and run the website. Hence it being call "fan" site. Not some guy that's getting a paycheck from the Oklahoman. I'm no expert but in my four years at one of the best journalism colleges in the country, I learned that journalists - sports or not - are supposed to try to their darndest to be unbiased and fair. It was tough for me at OU to cover the football team because I literally breathe everything Sooner football. My eyes water and I swallow hard ever time I watch this video. So being fair for me was like a dad coaching his son. You want him to do so well and play all the time but you try as best you can to be fair.

So for the Oklahoman to pull this crap - that's disturbing. How can we expect them to do what journalists are called to do - report - if they are publicly as big of fans as we are? How will Mike Baldwin react if Kevin Durant gets busted with drugs? Will he act like some PR dude for the Thunder and spin is positively? I can't say he wouldn't because all signs point to him being too much of a fan to be objective. What if the Thunder goes 18-64 this season and 16-66 the next? Will The Oklahoman have the basketballs to call for P.J. Carlesimo's neck? Will delete any posts by fans calling for The Beard to be fired? There's supposed to be separation between the writers and the fans - that's why they work for The Oklahoman and we don't.

The Oklahoman has seen a state go crazy and is looking to swoop in and make a dollar. The see the opportunity to cater to fans by building a fansite, not by doing their job. If you want fan involvement, let the fans handle it. There's already a number of blogs running and a great Thunder forum - If you want to post and talk about the team (which I hope everyone does) then go there. Not some place run by the major newspaper in Oklahoma.

Boycott Let Mike Sherman (the Oklahoman's sports editor, not Texas A&M's terrible coach) know what a joke this is. It's wrong and it needs to be stopped.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Big league scalping for a big league city

Ticket scalpers suck. Like big time. Like Tavaris Jackson at football. Like Michael Moore at life. Like me at making crappy analogies.

And now, they've hit OKC.

It's not like this is something new. Oklahomans have dealt with ticket scalping with OU and OSU - well, OU football. But now it's big league scalping for a big league city. Two seats in the upper deck, row G at $2,499.00?!? That's $1,679.00 over face value. That's beyond disgusting. A regular $10 upper "Loud City" deck seat is turned into a $30 ticket.

Scalpers are the lowest of the low. The scum of the sports world - well, maybe even the scum of the world. These greedy little money lovers come in, scoop up the ticket with no intention of using it and then rape us true fans by hiking the price.

I've had this debate with numerous friends. And I've actually convinced a few how wrong it is. At OU, we have this game we play in Dallas every year against a team from Texas. Students run and buy up tickets but in my estimation, only about 40 percent actually go to the game. The remaining 60 percent snatch up a ticket, charge it to their parents bursar account, toss the ticket up on Ebay and reap some major reward to go buy more beer and doritos. While some super Sooner that can just afford the $95 face value price misses out because he had to work all day and couldn't get to the box office. Now the ticket is 500 yammers and the true Sooner is hung out to dry.

Let me put it this way. Metallica released a new CD last week. You're a HUGE Metallica fan. You've been looking forward to Death Magnetic for months. (Go get it, it's good.) When the disc dropped last week, you had to work. But after you got off you were running straight to Best Buy to pick up your brand new copy. You've been thinking about it all day. The clock strikes five and you hit up BB. You run in and don't see it anywhere. You turn around and there's a guy behind you with 50 copies in his cart. You're a little stunned. The guy is wearing a Fall Out Boy shirt and eyeliner. He clearly wants nothing to do with Metallica.

He says to you, "Hey you want one of my copies?"

You say, "Yeah! Thanks!"

He grabs one, holds it out and says, "I like you. Just make it an even 75."

"What? But it's only $9.99. You don't even want the thing!"

"I don't care. I got here first. Now make it 80."

Now save your spit because I realize there are more places to buy the CD and whatnot, but you see my point. But see how ridiculous that sounds? Best Buy and the record company determine the price of the CD, not some dude that just got there before you did. We yell and complain about gas gouging, but we let ticket scalping go. Some morons just claim, "Hey, that's capitalism." Well no, capitalism is having a market that determines the set price of the ticket in the first place. The market determines the price not some jerk trying to make a buck. Wal-Mart and Target compete for consumers so they set prices based on each other. The Thunder set its prices based on the rest of the league. Scalpers aren't competing with anyone. They just want to stuff their pockets.

So my plead is, don't buy scalped tickets. JUST DON'T DO IT. And for the love of Mohamed Sene, don't scalp a ticket. If you buy one and can't go/realize this team is going to totally blow, sell it - for what you bought it for.

Or I will find you. And when I do... I'll probably tell you, you suck.

Toby Rowland-gate

For those that aren't aware, evidently the lamest sports talk radio station in Oklahoma, KREF, has prevented KWTV-9 reporter/anchor Toby Rowland out if his contract to become the Thunder's new sideline reporter.

Rowland told The Oklahoman he was "crushed" and his lawyer said he may consider filing a lawsuit against "The Ref" to let him out of his contract. Talk about an awkward Monday morning meeting at The Ref.

The thing is, The Ref can't afford to let Rowland go. It's not like he's some amazing talent that is drawing in thousands of listeners, but when you're other two "star" anchors are Myron Patton and Rusty Olsen, Rowland might as well be Colin Cowherd. Nothing against Rusty as I have covered numerous events with him and he's a genuinely nice person - just a little weird. And as for Patton, I've never really had much contact with him but the one image that sticks out to me was at one Bob Stoops presser, Patton was sitting on the floor Indian-style. For some reason I found that really strange.

But to hold a guy back like that is weak sauce. Really weak. The reason Rowland got into this business was to go up the ladder: To land an all-time awesome gig and what would be better than being the sideline reporter for a professional franchise in your hometown. I'm sure when he was a junior reporter he wasn't thinking, "Boy, I want to do a morning radio show for the third best sports talk radio station in Oklahoma City on some AM dial that no one even knows exists!"

But what are you going to do. Rowland may get another shot later down the line, but hopefully the Thunder settles on a decent sideline reporter.
Seeing as that job is oh-so-important.

THUNDER ANNOUNCER BRIAN DAVIS: Let's go down to Toby with a sideline update.
TOBY: Yeah, Kevin Durant looks really tired right now. I'm standing right here next to him and he's like sweating and drinking Gatorade and stuff. Oh, everyone can just see that on TV? Oh. Uh... well, lots of action here! - back to you guys.

I have a major gripe about sideline reporters, but I'll save that for another day.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The first great Thunder tradition

So OKC's first and only pro sports franchise is just a few months old but that's not too soon to start the first and possibly best tradition for Thunder basketball.

Basically every sports franchise has something unique to it that its fans know about and appreciate. But the really great ones - the ones that everyone aspires to be - have traditions that most everyone know about.

Seventh inning stretch at Wrigley Field. Sweet Caroline in Boston. The Lakers' girls. The Yankee roll call and New York, New York after ball games. The list goes on and on. But my favorite professional sports tradition is one that comes from my favorite professional sports franchise - 41,000 Cubs fans singing in unison Steve Goodman's Go Cubs Go! after Chicago home wins. The feeling of unity and camaraderie that you feel is indescribable.

So this tradition will not include anything about Thunder. I have a feeling that OKC fans will be all Thundered out after a little bit when we're hit with "Thunderstruck," "Thunder Rolls," "Thunder Road," the "Thundercats" theme and anything else that may contain "Thunder" or anything that remotely sounds like it. We may hear "The Wonder Years" theme remixed to "The Thunder Years." Frankly, I'm going to get tired of it.

I propose after Oklahoma City home victories instead of playing Kool and the Gang's "Celebration" or something cliche', play Three Dog Night's "Never Been to Spain." Now granted, we'll probably only hear the song a handful of times this season, which is a shame.

Reasons the song is perfect?

1. It has nothing to do with Thunder. Like I said, we get it - the team's name is Thunder. Since the announcement, Thunder has received about the same response as Crystal Pepsi. Some say "cool!" some say "sucks" and most say "meh." So embrace what we all can agree on - that Oklahoma is the best dang state in the land.

2. It's just classic enough to be a 'classic' but obscure enough not to be cliche'.
Like I said, it isn't "Celebration" or "Let the Good Times Roll" or some other jock-rock stadium anthem that's been played to death. It's fresh and yet well-known at the same time.

3. The line.
Just like 41,000 at Wrigley singing "Go Cubs go, go Cubs go... hey Chicago whadaya say, the Cubs are gonna win today!" sends chills down my spine, 18,000 at the Ford Center singing "Well I've never been to heaven... BUT I'VE BEEN TO OKLAHOMA!!! They tell me I was born there, but I really don't remember." Incredible.

The Thunder needs something like this. Thunderstruck can introduce the team, but Never Been to Spain must take us home.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The name doesn't totally Thundersuck

It sucks, but not that bad.

Regardless of the name I have a favorite team. When a team is yours, they your favorite no matter what the name. It's unfortunate that ownership went with such a cheap, corny name, but hey, at least a ball will bounce in the Ford Center this fall. They could have called them the Oklahoma City Cuddlestorm or even worse, the Oklahoma City Energy and I'd still be calling the box office getting my Loud City seats.

Let's face it though - it's a WNBA name. It's true. The Sky, the Storm, the Fire. "The OKC Thunder vs. the Atlanta Dream... TONIGHT!" But that doesn't mean I won't support them. Heck, Tampa Bay still supports their team and they're the Rays. Well, all five to six hundred do.

The point is, the name is new. It stinks because it's new. I remember a few years ago when Charlotte called itself the Bobcats, everyone hated it. That's the way it goes. The colors, the logo, the name all sucks because it's new and different. In ten years it will be as household as the Orlando Magic and we'll forget all about it. Toronto Raptors. Toronto... RAPTORS. Worst. Name. Ever. But you know what, it works now. Because it's just become a household name.

The logo has some issues though. First off, why is Thunder above OKC? Are we the Thunder Oklahoma City? It isn't grammatically correct. Secondly, I wish there was something "Oklahoman" in the logo. Instead of the shield, why not put the outline of our great state?

But one thing I'd recommend for all fans is to put the Thunder logo next to other NBA logos. It might make you feel better. For instance:

What is it? Anything? A basketball that is moving with a name through it?

Or this:

Strikingly similar to the one above. Same font, same idea... but yet, somehow this is considered classic. Know why? Because it's stood the test of time. And Laker doesn't even have anything to do with Los Angeles. It was just brought over from Minneapolis in the Lakers' move. You know why they work? Because the Lakers' logo is from 1960 and the Clippers from 1978. We're used to them.

Management chose to go with a neutral logo that could *fingers crossed* become a classic one day. They didn't bust out some corny logo a la the Washington Wizards or Golden State Warriors. Those two stink. Besides, what do you do with something that isn't tangible like Thunder? Wrap 'Thunder' around a drawing of God bowling? I do hope the mascot is buffalo related though because that will at least tie it back to Oklahoma. I don't know if Clay Bennett knows this but tornadoes does not equal thunder. Thunder happens everywhere, not just the Oklahoma.

The point is, get over the name and appreciate the team for what it is. If you live in the Sooner State, it's your top squad. I'd have called them something different but oh well. I'd have chosen black and yellow for Thunder because when I hear Thunder (the name, not the actual thing) I think nighttime (dark/black) and lightning (yellow). But that's me. Check out other names and logos and really think about them. The Nets' logo is bland. The Heat logo isn't real creative. The Bobcats' logo just plain stinks. Besides, with most expansion/new teams, the logo changes in a few years anyway.

The key to making it work is:

1. Good uniforms. They need a solid, simple design that can be considered classic from the get-go. You know you've got a good uni when 20 years from now it's throwback night and you're still wearing the same duds you had on 20 years ago. One major thing: they need to read Oklahoma City on the front and not Thunder. Most NBA teams have their city/state name across the front, not their nickname. And with a nickname as lame-o as Thunder, cut your losses and just put OKC.

2. An interesting mascot. Something we don't expect. I'm down with the thundering buffalo approach but not too much of it, or you'll make me thing we should be called the Thundering Buffalo. No lightning bolts, please. Thunder isn't lightning. I know some people confuse the two, but they aren't the same. Thunder isn't really a tangible thing so it makes it hard, but don't just cop out and put a really scary looking wall cloud or anything. Gary England would freak.

3. Win. Who cares what you look like when you're beating the basketballs off people. As long as you win your mascot could be Rosie O'Donnell in a two-piece and it wouldn't matter.

We weren't going to blow anyone away with our logo. We'd tried to stay classy and not cartoony. Some across the country say we failed, but oh well. Most people don't like us anyway because they don't like how we got them. Who cares. They're ours and they're here to stay.

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