Big success, big tragedies link Oklahoma City, Dallas

Cherish the success in sports, but never forget the tragedies, former Oklahoma governor and former athlete say.
BY BRYAN PAINTER bpainter@opubco.com Published: June 17, 2012
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“Morning of Terror” was The Oklahoman's headline on April 20, 1995, after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

“Kennedy Slain On Dallas Street” was atop The Dallas Morning News on Nov. 23, 1963.

What follows the headlines of criminal events publicized worldwide?

In January 1972, it was a Dallas Cowboys win over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI to claim the title of world champions.

Now, 40 years later, it's the Oklahoma City Thunder's battle coincidentally with the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals, with the world champions' title at stake.

Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating and former Cowboys running back Walt Garrison were both sophomores in college at the time of the Kennedy assassination — Keating at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and Garrison at Oklahoma State University.

Each talked recently about reactions and perceptions following the tragedy in 1963. Each suggested caution in comparisons and connections. Each said you can easily step into a pothole of misperception, and then tried to explain.

Keating was in attendance as the Thunder defeated the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena. He said that minutes after the clock went to zeros, he sat around talking with those nearby.

“And one guy said to me, ‘You know, isn't it great that we can have a great success like this showing an energized and renaissance Oklahoma City without talking about the Oklahoma City bombing?'” Keating said.

The former governor was stunned, and never one to smother his opinion, quickly replied.

“I said ‘Well don't forget the Oklahoma City bombing because it showed enormous good will, kindness, brotherhood,'” he said. “Certainly we have moved on as a community, but we never should forget the character and the virtues and the goodness of the people who saw us through that time, and never forget those lost, and those affected. They are a great part of who we are every day.

“The sense of pride that we have garnered as a community is so palpable, and that's just hugely reassuring.”

While Oklahoma City was met instantaneously with compassion from around the world, Dallas received a different response from some outside the city: an unfair response of disdain, both Keating and Garrison said.

Outside looking in

“I think more people outside of Dallas that had never been to Dallas thought about it,” said Garrison, a native of the Dallas suburb of Lewisville, Texas. “I never thought about it much after that. The fact that the president got shot, that is a big deal, but the fact he got shot in Dallas is not a big deal to the people here.”

In his autobiography, the late Dallas coach Tom Landry told of how a trainer ran out on the Cowboys practice field during their Friday afternoon workout. The president had been shot in downtown, only three miles away. Landry dismissed practice and went to listen to a radio until the word came, “The president was dead.”

The NFL didn't cancel games.

“When we were introduced in Cleveland on Sunday, moments after a silent tribute to the memory of our slain president, the Cowboys of Dallas were booed with a bitterness we had never encountered anywhere before,” Landry wrote. “It was as if the event of that afternoon had suddenly tainted everything having to do with Dallas, Texas.

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