Jenni Carlson

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More fans, more Thundermania

by Jenni Carlson Published: May 10, 2010

The Main Event in today’s sports section told the stories of several Thunder fans who were caught up in the excitement of this past season.

Thing is, I heard from dozens of fans who had tales of Thunder fever. Here are a few others that didn’t make the newspaper:

Judy Chowins: “Our entire family loves Basketball. But it was my 89-year-old dad who became the huge fan of the Thunder team this year. Dad lived in a much smaller town all his life and recently moved to Norman and, for the first time, was able to get all the sports channels that he never could watch before. Dad kept talking about the players and staying up way past his normal bedtime, watching them play all through the entire season. Soon, I decided to tune in so I could visit with him more about this team. Wow. What a great time Dad and I had, watching the Thunder do such a tremendous job against the Lakers.”

Chris Lambert: “Remember the last scene in “Bull Durham”? Crash Davis has just retired from the minors and is sitting on the porch listening to Annie Savoy prattle on. He tells her that while he wants to hear all of her theories, right now he doesn’t want to think about baseball or quantum physics. He doesn’t want to think about anything. ‘I just want to be,’ he tells her.

“That’s exactly how I felt after Game Six. As I cheered the Thunder for all they had unexpectedly accomplished, I literally felt the last of my energy drain away. I didn’t want to think about anything. I just wanted to be. As we walked back to the car, my 9-year-old son, Brooks, was going on about how he hates the Lakers now. I shushed him. I didn’t want to talk and couldn’t even listen. Once home, I didn’t watch SportsCenter; I didn’t wait up for the game recaps to post on NewsOK or the Thunder blogs. I didn’t step foot outside my house on Saturday.

“It wasn’t until Monday that I really began to re-engage. Just like when the 2008-2009 season ended, I’m looking forward to the June 24 draft, followed less than a week later by the start of the biggest free agency period ever seen. And if that’s not enough fireworks, the Orlando Summer League starts July 5. How do our rookies and sophs look? Has Robert Vaden put his time in Europe to good use? Can he show the potential and growth that Serge Ibaka exhibited last summer?

“So, no, I’m not having withdrawals. Why would I? After all, next season begins now.”

Eric Ferguson:The Thunder fever was great. Can’t wait for the new season to begin. Almost looked forward to watching the playoff games as much as I look forward to NFL games. Thanks for giving the city something to rally behind again. What a ride!”

Nina Brewsaugh: “I used to hate pro basketball – you couldn’t have paid me to watch.  Then, along came the OKC Thunder team.  My husband and I were given tickets to a game in their first season here.  I, personally, have turned almost into a bigger fan than my husband.  We never missed watching a TV game and now that the season has ended, we are going through withdrawal not having the games to watch.”

Jane Kitchens: “For decades, I have been a Sooner football fan.  No college hoops, no NBA, no NFL.  That all changed when the Big 12 tournaments were held in OKC and I just happened to start watching the games on television.  I was hooked and even watched some of the NCAA playoffs.  But still, I simply wasn’t interested in NBA.  I didn’t even watch the Hornets when they were playing in OKC.  But when the Thunder team got their new colors, and unveiled their magnificent mascot Rumble — who I have a big crush on — I realized this is permanent.  This is Oklahoma City’s team for real.  As a citizen of this great city, I have to get behind this team and support it.

“Now, you can’t drag me from the television when I’m watching a Thunder game.  I love Brian and Grant.  I don’t know a lot about the rules or plays, but with Brian and Grant’s help, I’m learning.  I love the crazy fans, and the fact that they are getting national recognition for their passion.  I know the Thunder organization as a whole has gotten many awards as well.

“I’m also hoping that the national exposure of the city’s support of the team will have a positive influence on the way people think about us and our city.

“I’m still not an NBA fan, but count me in as a Thunder fan.  I don’t have any car flags or t-shirts, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.  And where can I get a Rumble bobblehead?”

Dennis Waller: “I guess you could say my wife, Jana, and I are enjoying a major dose of this phenomenon called Thundermania. Jana and I purchased season tickets the first year the Hornets were here. We didn’t claim to be a big NBA fans but we wanted to have that major-league experience. Jana and I soon became huge Hornets fans. We were two-year Hornets season ticket holders and couldn’t wait to do the same with the Thunder. “I have attended football, baseball, basketball and hockey games all of my life. I have never enjoyed anything as much as Thunder basketball. The last month of the season and the Thunder-Laker playoff series were the most enjoyable experiences of my sports life. The joy and pride of seeing Oklahoma City’s own team — our team — doing so well against the best in the NBA were indescribable.”

Michael Pfeiffer: “Originally from Chicago, I had the privalidge of seeing Michael Jordan and the Bulls. Unfortunately, I never got to see a game live there because season tickets were never available and tickets are pricey in Chicago. The Thunder became a blessing to an avid NBA fan here.

“Going into this season, I boldly predicted 45-47 wins. I underestimated the Thunder. Just  determination and hustle won a lot of games for the Thunder this season, and I hope going forward, we keep this determined process and don’t get complacent until we win the NBA Championship for the team and this city that wholeheartedly supports them.  The Thunder will be a force to reckoned with for the next 10 years. And thanks to the playoffs, TV and media, we as a city and team have finally gotten true recognition and exposure throughout the country.”

Jeff Lantz: “Have not been a huge pro basketball fan since Walt Frazer and Willis Reed were winning championships for the Knicks in the 60s. Now that the Thunder has come to town, I am hooked once again. These guys are so much different than one expects from professional athletes because they care about each other and the community. They don’t have the big head and think they are better than a normal person.
“I love the college atmosphere we have here in Oklahoma and the way the fans are in love with these guys. I hope we keep the same players for next year. Such teamwork. I would rather have these guys than the Lakers, Celtics or any other team in the league.”

Doug Folks: “My wife, Terri, hates sports. Well, hate might be a strong word, but she’s not a fan. I might be able to get her to homecoming at UCO, where we graduated, and maybe another UCO football game or two, but that’s it. She will not stay in a room with a game on TV except the Super Bowl for more than a minute. But this year, she became a Thunder fan. She watched at least some of several games with me.

“But the topper came at the last game. I was nearly blown away when she mentioned we have to get home from dinner out to watch Game 6 with the Lakers. I don’t remember her ever, in nearly 29 years of marriage, watching more than 30 seconds of any basketball game on TV before this year. But she watched – and cheered – for the entire Game 6. You’ll remember the game wasn’t over until about 11:30, and she’s always in bed by 10 or so. We watched the game on ESPN, but when the game was over she was so ticked at having to watch Kobe be interviewed that she asked me to turn over to the local broadcast to watch Thunder players react to the crowd.

“I’m still in awe of her sudden interest in the Thunder.”Nat Hardt: “I moved to Oklahoma City from Austin over 30 years ago, and although I have followed my Longhorns from afar, only occasionally has it been possible for me to be an active fan.  I have great respect for the programs in Norman and Stillwater, but my passion as a fan usually burns only in early October, at bowl time, and sometimes in March.

“Until now.

“With the New Orleans Hornets stay in Oklahoma City, we saw a possibility.  With the local purchase of the Seattle SuperSonics, we saw a probability.  With K.D. and his one and done career at Texas, I had a dream.  With Portland’s first pick, the dream got wheels and began to roll. The dream on wheels gained momentum with the commitment of club owners, city and corporate leaders, and the voters and fans of Oklahoma City.  Aided by smart decisions,  blind luck, perhaps divine providence, and a bunch of talented, gritty, young men of character, the dream has arrived and it is big enough for everyone to jump on for the ride.

“And now, a week after the team finally left the court following Game 6, for me and the Thunder fans I know, the standing O is still going on.

“Thunder Fever?  Yep, I got it, and although I won’t die from it, I think I will die with it.”

Derrick Seys a.k.a. “Brick Man”: “The playoffs were indeed the next level for OKC, and it was just amazing how each game became more and more important with the crowd matching the intensity. The Ford Center received well-deserved national attention for its play on the court and in the stands.”Our life was put on hold awaiting the next game or simply recovering from the previous late night.”

Brandon Rahbar: “Without a doubt, I’m already going through Thunder withdrawals. From the moment I walked out of the Ford Center after that heartbreaking Game 6, I’ve been ready for next season to tip off. I am absolutely, completely head over heels in love with this Thunder team. And yes, I know that is kind of a lovey-dovey thing for a grown man to say. But it’s true.

“I’ve been a fan since the day that they announced the team name. I went to Academy the moment that the first T-shirts and hats went on sale. I bought season tickets without hesitation. But my love for this team has grown every day, every game, every draft pick and trade and free agent pickup, every win and every loss since.

“This team is comprised of young men who are supremely talented, but even more endearing, supremely humble, classy and gracious. Kevin Durant has grown into a bonafide worldwide superstar right in front of our eyes, yet he has a sheepish grin and boyish charm whenever a fan approaches him for an autograph. Russell Westbrook took some hard hits and criticism in the media, but he has kept working to become an All Star-caliber point guard, the position so many screamed he couldn’t play. Jeff Green is a leader and a glue guy, Thabo our defensive stopper, Kristic the gentle giant, Ibaka the exciting energy guy that looks like a model, Harden the sharpshooting rookie, Maynor a solid backup and Collison a blue-collar fan favorite. Even the non-active guys like Kevin Ollie, Etan Thomas, Kyle Weaver, DJ White and Byron Mullens each show promise, humility and class.

“The playoffs took my love and passion to a whole other level. Game 3 in the Ford Center was the single greatest live event I’ve ever been to in my life, and this is coming from a life long Dallas Cowboys and OU Sooners football fanatic. Next season can’t get here soon enough. Until then, I’ll be reading every single article, watching every single interview, analyzing every mock draft, and singing the praises of my Thunder on every sports blog and message board I can find.”

Patsy Shepherd: “Three years ago, I had never even watched an NBA game although I loved college hoops. Then, the Thunder arrived. It was fun to get involved, but I rarely thought about them when I was outside of the Ford Center. But this year … the team developed, the hoopla is so exciting, the fans are awesome.  Now, I live Thunder. And I’m still flying my Thunder flag on my car and probably will until it becomes a rag.”

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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