I’ve been entranced, like many of you, by the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Maybe it’s that Derrick Rose came along and is starting to make Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, and Dwyane Wade look very pedestrian in nature. Or maybe it’s that I don’t know what to do with the Heat. Do I embrace their greatness? Loathe their entitlement? Buy into their swagger? Or maybe it’s that Kevin Durant is transcending the sport, he’s on an entire other level that mere mortal hoopsters (even professional ones) can’t even fathom, much less reach.
I’ve been devouring entire Thunder games in one sitting, and in doing so I’ve become fascinated, if not captivated, by their crowd (the non-Westbrook hating portion of it anyway). They seem more innocent than other crowds, as if they’re not aware of the bloodlust that is professional sports in 2011. It’s refreshing and maybe a hint sad, but mostly wonderful.
After Game 5 when they took KD to the pantheon and back I started thinking about how much different the atmosphere there is than what we’ve had in GIA for the last three or four years. So I came up with four things OSU fans (and the GIA conference crowd) can learn from the much younger Thunder playoff crowd. Here they are in no particular order:
- The O-K-C chant is phenomenal – I noticed in Game 2 against the Grizzlies last week they maxed out their decibel level seconds after the opening tip. It’s catchy too and easy to fall into. OSU fans do a great job of getting the “Ed-DIE Ed-DIE” beat ramped out but there’s no reason to not extrapolate that into the game itself. I could go for a “big-BALLS-key-TON” or two next year…
- They’re invested in their guys – I had a conversation with Freemason10 after Game 3 against the Grizz about that we understand how real OU fans feel with all the faux Thunder fans wondering things like why Russell Westbrook plays over Eric Maynor (?!) and so on. But I truly believe the majority of Thunderdome attendees are behind him and behind the beard and even behind the 7’0 almost-center from KU who has no discernible offensive game. We (and I’m mostly talking to myself here) struggle sometimes as Cowboy fans to buy into our guys (I’m looking at you and your Oliver Miller-esque belly, Byron Eaton) and I think that plays itself out at the games.
- Uniformity – The blue-out is terrific. Would it be so hard for Boone to dip into his monthly restaurant budget and orange (or better yet, black!) out GIA for half the conference games?
- Taking “your guy” to the next level – OSU has had plenty of “the guys” in the last decade. I’m not even talking about the most prolific player either, just the most dangerous scorer. The guy who you feel can ride the wave of emotion put forth by 13,611 other humans. Keiton is that guy right now. A simple fast break trey can quickly turn into three straight “I can’t believe this is happening” possessions if everyone gets into it. It was a beautiful thing to watch unfold in Game 5 against Denver. Watch this video starting at 1:18 – it’s the portion of that game where Durant hits the pull up three while the crowd rises with him. The cut to him shaking his fists with the entire city at his back gives you all the info you need: the Thunder were not going back to Colorado.
It’s been missing for some time in Stillwater though. Sure, my sample size with the Thunder crowd is not very large and I’m not saying they’re more or less consistent than OSU fans as a whole, only that this was the reality this season: while Thunder fans were busy carrying their current squad deep into the Western Conference playoffs, OSU fans (the ones who showed up) were busy checking Rivals.com on their smart phones to make sure LeBryan hadn’t de-committed yet.