MIAMI, OK — The explanation became routine for Steve Owens: “It's My-am-uh. Uh — not ee.”
Owens, the personable native of Miami, OK, and the University of Oklahoma's 1969 Heisman Trophy winner, would start out with the difference in pronunciation between his hometown and the city in Florida.
“Then I'd go into how it takes its name from the Miami Tribe and that's why it is My-am-uh,” he said.
Another difference is that Miami, OK, is Oklahoma City Thunder territory, said Amanda K. Davis, executive director for the City of Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Thunder blue is evident in the T-shirts, uniforms, flags and messages on multiple business signs, Davis said.
She knows also of at least one youth soccer team called the Thunder. However, she said she doesn't personally know of any Miami (Fla.) Heat fans living in her Miami.
“They are probably hiding if there are some,” she said.
About 195 miles separates the home of the Thunder from the city of roughly 14,000 people in Ottawa County.
But when it comes to the Thunder, it's as if there's no distance between the two Oklahoma communities, said Owens who has a personal example.
“My mom, Cherry, still lives in Miami,” he said. “Mom is 91 and she religiously watches the Thunder. When the new T-shirts came out after they won the Western Conference, my sister Della called me and said, ‘Mom would sure like to have one of those T-shirts.' So, I sent her two.
“Sometimes these games last to 10 or 11 o'clock, but she stays up and watches her Thunder.”
Across the state
Steve Owens said that, a few weeks ago, he and fellow OU Heisman Trophy winners Billy Sims and Jason White went to Miami, OK, to sign autographs. Owens estimates 200 to 300 people showed up, and close to half were wearing Thunder apparel. He sees it too at home in Norman. Later this month, he and wife, Barbara, will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. She also is a native of the Miami in northeastern Oklahoma.
“She loves to watch the Thunder, and she has about four or five Thunder T-shirts,” Owens said. “And every time they play, she says, ‘Which one do you think I should wear?' I say, ‘Well just make sure you wear the T-shirt you wore the last time they won.'”
Davis said at least once daily and up to 10 times a week, she'll have to tell someone, her city is pronounced My-am-uh.
But Owens and Davis both say that they don't have to explain the difference between Thunder and Heat when it comes to the favorite NBA team of many who reside in or are from Miami, OK.