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.