Scorching temperatures vs. sub zero temps.
BBQ vs. deep fried.
Flatlands vs. whatever the hell Buffalo is on.
Heartland of America vs. The Queen City.
You can't get any more different than the physical dynamics of Buffalo and OKC.
But something tells me when you peel away the climate, foods and buildings, we have a few things in common.
If I were to be flippant or assume what arrogant big city folk probably think, it would be "OKC is in the middle of nowhere and cattle are just hanging out by the stop signs." Yes, that's super harsh and super arrogant. It is the northerner talking, thinking the northeast runs the country. But if you've never been there, you'd probably assume it. Charles Barkley made a bunch of cracks about having to visit the city during the playoffs. Does your common millionaire athlete have OKC on the list of places where they want to play?
However, as someone who comes from a region in which you have to live to understand why it isn't all bad, I can kind of relate to them. I've been to a bunch of cities in the Midwest for work, and I have to say, they are some of my favorite destinations out there. Friendly people, great food, nice weather and just so different and in some cases, nicer than the northeast.
Of course, if you don't visit, how can anyone really develop some kind of feeling about the city?
From its sports teams.
The Oklahoma City Thunder seem to be giving a city America knows nothing about an identity. Yes, it is lame for a city to live vicariously through its sports teams, but I think if you know nothing about the region, you have to start somewhere. Love it or hate it, outsiders think Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills when you mention our city.
What sticks out about the Thunder's run is that they have only had a basketball team for like 5 minutes and if you watched the crowd, you'd think they were living in Indiana and filming Hoosiers II. All of a sudden, OKC has become Basketball Heaven with 5,000 fans cheering from outside the arena during games. The sea of blue, or sometimes blue and white in the crowd is marvelous to look at during games. From afar, it feels like a college atmosphere and you gotta think 90% of the households in that region are watching, right?
Hmmm..sound familiar, Sabres fans?
Remember 2006, when Sabres fans came in droves to cheer on a team that had had crappy attendance for a good three years. Winning cures all, but when it is the first time for fans, it is a love that you'll never forget. It feels like that with the Thunder. Hell, they are even a high octane scoring team like we were.
Besides the whole city falling in love with a team thing, you should cheer for them because they have star players who actually love playing there. In this day and age, a number of athletes, especially in the NBA, want to go to the big cities where they are guaranteed endorsement deals and the red rope treatment. They want to date starlets, play golf with Donald Trump, and be seen at Yankees games. No problems with that. I get it. But after awhile, you just kind of want someone to keep with the modest living standards and just a embrace a community where fans probably bring roses to your doorsteps.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are those guys.
They aren't just biding their time, waiting to test free agency and get to a major market. They aren't Carmelo Anthony or Chris Paul or LeBron James or Chris Bosh. Westbrook signed an extension to stay in OKC through 2017 and Durant agreed to stay there through 2016. No "The Decisions" or leaking stuff to the press about how they are bolting to play with Jay-Z's team. No gimmicks, just winning.
OKC is killing the notion that big markets are the place to be. We know what it is like to be in a small market and worry about the Willis McGahees and free agents of the world hating our nightlife. It would be a stretch to say that OKC's success will help us with signing players, but you know what? I think it is good to cheer for something that contradicts a mindset we despise.
So sure, you can just root for the Thunder because Miami sucks colossal ass and LeBron James is a biotch. I'd rather cheer for a team, a city, and players that I can rally around because they understand living with misconceptions, experiencing a rebirth of a sport, and having players who wanna stay in the region.
Hey, that's all we want from our own sports teams, right?