After every Thunder loss in the NBA Finals, the response from fans often was along gender lines.
Men wanted to critique the game; some even popped us for not being hard enough on the Thunder, from Scotty Brooks to Kendrick Perkins. Women wanted to tan our hides because we were so rough on their boys.
Everyone, of course, wanted to gripe about officiating. Man, woman, vegetable, mineral. But the gender difference was stark.
After our Game 3 headline — “Young & Reckless,” a knockoff of “The Young & the Restless” — we got lots of complaints. Virtually all of them from women.
After my Game 5 column, in which I thanked the Heat for giving the Thunder a much-needed Finals lesson that will pay off in the future, again, the women came out in force. Two examples:
A woman named Kathy emailed me and said: “I assume you have taken writing classes and know what offensive language is, therefore I will regard your disgusting choice as deliberate. Shame on you for the use of ‘snot.' (I said the Heat beat the snot out of the Thunder, an old '70s term, which could not be more true.) I'm certain you could have found a less childish way to make your point. But then again, perhaps not.
“I observed your ‘performance' at the post-game press conference last evening, equally crass and actually quite antagonistic. (You can look those words up, if you have the need and, of course, a dictionary). My message to the editor will be that he needs to find a replacement sports columnist who can balance reporting on the local NBA team objectively and some degree of loyalty…”
Thanks, Kathy. Sounds like you don't want objective, sounds like you want subjective. And actually, the ultimate editor at our paper is a woman, if that makes a difference.
Thanks to the power of NBA efficiency, we have the official transcript of my questions at the press conference. Here they are verbatim:
1. To Scotty Brooks: “It looked like offensively you got a little panicky, a little sloppy, doing things you don't normally do, silly dribbles and forcing things. Is that something you can sort of learn from if you're back here next year? Guys can sort of look back and say, hey, remember how we played, we can't do that anymore?”
2. “Kevin, can you talk about the way you lost tonight? Every game had been such a good game. A blowout tonight, is this the kind of game that can linger, maybe even in a good way, sort of gnaw at you in the offseason, make you do anything differently to get back here?”
So you be the judge if I was crass and antagonistic.
I also received a voice mail from a female reader: “Mr. Tramel, I am just reading the paper about our loss to the Heat in Miami, and I think your remarks are completely unprofessional. ‘Thank you, Miami Heat; you beat the snot out of Oklahoma City. And that's a good lesson.' Where are you coming from?...”
That sampling is perfectly understandable, because it speaks to the maternal instincts of women and basketball.
Basketball is a personal sport. Football is gladiators, masked and helmeted. We rarely see faces. We rarely see isolated movements. Football ends up being a lot of tangled bodies. Basketball is different. Basketball players, we see up close. We feel we get to know them.
It's like I've written. Even though more OU and OSU fans are excited about football than basketball, even in the previous golden years of hoops, it's basketball players who they more closely identify with. OSU fans felt more kinship with Big Country and Desmond Mason than with Barry Sanders and Justin Blackmon. OU fans felt closer to Wayman Tisdale and Eduardo Najera than they did Billy Sims or Josh Heupel.
Basketball players play more games. You see their faces in every situation. You feel like you know them.
The passion for the team is greater in football. But the passion for the individuals is greater in hoops.
So here come the maternal instincts.
I got a call from nice lady earlier this week, ready to tan my hide. I talked her down to some degree and we had a nice visit.
But here's how she started. “Why were you so hard on our boys? They (Miami) lost last year; I wonder if their hometown gave them a writeup like you did our boys? Our boys have done wonderful for the time they've been playing. That really hurt me.”
That's three “our boys” in literally 10 seconds.
Kevin Durant is an international superstar, but grandmothers in Piedmont and Choctaw and Purcell look at him the way they do the sixth-grader who lives across the street.
I find that completely charming. I don't know if that's in the Thunder or the NBA marketing manual, but if it's not, it ought to be.
The Thunder, thanks to basketball's personal nature and some admirable athletes and good old-fashioned winning, has connected with a segment of the population you really didn't see coming.
When I give James Harden a grade of D for his Finals performance, a man might say, hey, his defense wasn't bad, he deserves a C, or might say, he stunk, it was an F. But when the maternal instincts speak, they say, I love James Harden and how dare you give him a grade?
So let's make a deal, Aunt Bees. If you'll let us keep telling everyone why Durant's rebounding went south and why Derek Fisher can't get his toe behind the line and why Russell Westbrook fouled Mario Chalmers, we'll try to remember that these guys are your Opie Taylors.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.