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Oklahoma City gets a harsh lesson in being a Big League City

Berry Tramel: The shootings in Bricktown show the bad that comes with the good of the Thunder's NBA playoff run and the festive atmosphere of Thunder Alley.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 22, 2012

Every time I'm in Los Angeles, usually driving around town with Thunder writer Darnell Mayberry, who was born like 15 minutes ago, just out of the blue, I'll say, “This is the city …”

And I'll do my Joe Friday routine and get to tell Darnell how great a show was “Dragnet.”

Maybe you read my Thunder report card in the Tuesday Oklahoman. How I lamented a sign proclaiming $30 parking in Bricktown, which I guessed meant we really were a big-league city.

We talk a lot about that. Big league city. State senator David Holt, who worked in the mayor's office when the Thunder came to town, has written a book about OKC and the NBA, and that's his title. “Big League City.”

We focus on the big league part. We sometimes forget the city part. You want to be big league? The city comes with it. All the good and all the bad.

A night of revelry, a night of celebration, turned to horror and fear Monday night. As the masses of people outside Chesapeake Arena, 6,000 to 10,000 strong watching in Thunder Alley, moved mostly eastward toward Bricktown after the game, gunfire rang out. Eight people were shot.

Talk about lost innocence. A city saw itself in the mirror.

When riots would erupt in Detroit or Philadelphia or some other metropolis that seemingly had lost its soul in the wake of a sports victory, we would shake our heads.

Knuckleheads. Reprobates. Low lifes. Glad we're not like them.

Except now we are. Except now Gran Torino and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have taken out the Lakers, and before the postgame press conferences were over, shouts turned to screams on the streets.

Now you know why OU-Texas won't ever be moved to night. Talk about a powder keg; that many people, that late at night, fan bases joined by thugs. The university decision-makers have shown precious wisdom in not giving in to the network pressures to play that Dallas game late.

The Thunder has no such option, of course. The Thunder must play when TNT or ESPN says play, and the Thunder's only recourse is to consider changes to Thunder Alley.

Such a lovely idea. A street party to celebrate the ball team. A place for those who can't afford tickets or simply couldn't snag them. A place for even more Oklahomans to feel a part of this hoops phenomenon.

But the scene turned ugly as the crowds mushroomed.

Should the Thunder pull the plug? Looks like the watch party is history, with the pregame carnival to remain.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist and Reporter
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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