A Sunday night NBA Finals game on Father's Day proved to be a tough sell for many Oklahoma City-area bars.
Several watering holes reported fewer customers than for previous Thunder road games during the team's playoff run. Instead of standing room crowds, several offered open tables even after Game 3 with the Miami Heat had started.
“We are absolutely dead,” Elizabeth Jamison, a bartender at Coach's in Bricktown, said at half-time.
“We were crazy for the last game. Right now, my only two tables tabbed out and there's nobody at the bar.”
The numbers also were down, though not as bad, at Louie's Bar and Grill on Lake Hefner.
“We didn't know if it was the 7 p.m. tipoff or Father's Day,” said server Kaylee Johnson.
At O'Connell's Irish Pub and Grille in Norman, bar manager Jeff Stewart said business was probably off 10 percent from previous games.
“I think a lot of people are grilling out and staying home with Dad,” Stewart said.
Most of the patrons at Saints in Oklahoma City assembled before tip off, the faithful filling the Plaza District bar's nine stools and two dozen tables.
The lower turnout didn't dim enthusiasm for a new postgame tradition that's become popular at Saints.
Owner Patrick Ireland, 26, hit on the idea half way through the final game in the Thunder's Western Division Final series with the San Antonio Spurs.
He thought his year-old bar at 1715 NW 16, needed a new song to replace “We are the Champions” by Queen, which had been played after games.
“Too easy,” he said. “I started thinking of what exemplifies who we are ... and that song jumped out at me,” he said.
He had a bartender search. She found the version sung by the 1979 revival cast.
When the Spurs game ended, the new music played and patrons joined in. Lustily, Ireland said. Just as they have after the last two Thunder games, win or lose.
A new bar tradition was born.
“The mood in here was just right for it,” Ireland said. “You get the right atmosphere, you get the right song, people are going to chime in.”
The song? “Oklahoma,” of course.
On Sunday, after a 91-85 Thunder loss put them down 2-1 in the series, the song's stirring notes played to an appreciably less enthusiastic crowd.
“It would have been so much better if the Thunder had won,” said bartender Cody Wilson, 22.
Blake Little, 27, of northwest Oklahoma City, said he likes that the bar now plays the song.
“Whether we win or lose it shows our camaraderie. It's something to bring people together, regardless.”
However the NBA Finals turn out, Ireland sees a long future for “Oklahoma” in his bar. He's searching to add the song to the jukebox.
“I'll have the entire sound track on there before I'm done,” he said.