Sooner fans have high hopes for 2011 season

Tens of thousands of Sooner football fans flocked to Norman on Saturday for the University of Oklahoma's season opener against the University of Tulsa.
BY DARLA SLIPKE dslipke@opubco.com Published: September 4, 2011
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— Kathy Cross let out a yell as the Sooner Schooner made its way down Elm Avenue Saturday afternoon.

“Boomer!” she called.

“Sooner!” a group of people running alongside the wagon replied.

Without missing a beat, other University of Oklahoma fans on both sides of the street joined in. Tens of thousands of fans were in Norman on Saturday for OU's season opener against the University of Tulsa. They lugged coolers and lawn chairs and set up tents and grills around Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

Expectations were high with Oklahoma ranked No. 1 in both major preseason polls. Many fans were hoping for the start to a national championship season.

Ticket scalpers and parking attendants were on every corner surrounding the stadium. Country music blasted through speakers at one tailgating tent and mixed with the smell of charcoal and hamburgers from another. Fans gathered around flat screen TVs and grills and tossed bean bags and footballs as they awaited the kickoff.

Can't drag her away

Cross, 47, of Tulsa, has been attending games since she was a girl. Her parents used to have to drag her to games. Now the family can't drag her away, her husband joked.

Cross couldn't wait to see the players run through the tunnel and onto the field. She also was looking forward to seeing old friends. The family has had the same seats in Section 2, Rows 25 and 26, for years.

“You take up the next year where you left off the last,” Cross said. “It's like a big family.”

Throngs of people clad in crimson and white filled the sidewalks, restaurants and storefronts on Campus Corner. A steady stream of people filtered through Cafe Plaid, a local eatery. Staff rushed to make sandwich and salad orders.

Miguel Hallman, a manager, said business usually triples on game days.

“The town comes alive with excitement and electricity,” he said.

Herb Hays, 50, and his wife, Lorie, drove up from Allen, Texas, for the game. Their daughter, Sarah, is a senior at OU. They started bringing Sarah to OU games when she was 10 years old, “to get her acclimated to the OU magic,” Hays said.