“This is a love letter,” the email began, “to the Oklahoma City Thunder.”
In the paragraphs that followed, the writer — an adult woman from Edmond — pledged her undying loyalty to the team.
The Thunder is all she talks about, she wrote; she pores over the sports section each day, absorbing every morsel of information about Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and their teammates. She even makes her family, hundreds of miles away, watch the games so they can share in her excitement.
It'd be sweet if it weren't for one thing: The writer is my wife.
For years now, I've tried to interest Amy in sports. It's been tough going. She'll watch Sooner football games with me; she likes it when the commentators echo my remarks. But is she a fan? No way.
All her life, she hasn't seen the appeal of athletics. She preferred to spend her time designing clothing, reading books, taking photographs and shopping. She favored Ralph Lauren over Ralph Sampson, Karl Lagerfeld over Karl Malone. Over the course of the abbreviated NBA season, though, she has transformed.
“I have the fervor of a new religious convert,” she wrote. “If I'm not talking about my four dogs, I'm talking about the Thunder. I may even be talking about the Thunder AND the dogs.”
Note my absence from her conversational priorities.
Amy works nights at the newspaper, so she sees each word of Darnell Mayberry's stories when they're fresh off the press. And she's brilliant, so every stat takes root in her mind, ready to emerge at any moment.
It's unsettling, almost as if this person I've known for so long has been replaced by a sports radio host. It's just something that shouldn't be.
At least I'm not the only one who feels this way.
Rebekah Mercer emailed me recently to discuss her newfound love of the Thunder.
When she posted a Facebook comment last week about hosting a Thunder watch party, her youngest son responded: “WHO ARE YOU? And what have you done with my mother?”
Her husband and other two sons were shocked, too.
“When I told my husband that I had been reading the sports page in The Oklahoman about the upcoming game,” she wrote, “he looked up at me in wide-eyed amazement. I have never followed sports of any kind in my life.”
When the Western Conference finals tipped off, she plopped down on the couch beside her husband and caught a few minutes of the game.
“It didn't take me long to get wrapped up in watching this young team play their hearts out against the San Antonio Spurs,” wrote Mercer, 59, who moved to Oklahoma from Texas about four years ago.
“They lost that game (and the next one), but I kept watching because I was surprised and impressed when I saw an interview with Kevin Durant. ... Unlike many of the sports stars I've seen on TV (usually involved in some scandal), he seems to approach the game with an absolute lack of ego, which is refreshing.
“It's a breath of fresh air to see this articulate young guy with the horn-rimmed glasses talk ... in a way that reflects his love for the game and respect for his teammates.”
Sam Wells can relate.
He followed the NBA in the late 1960s and early 70s, back when Walt “Clyde” Frazier was a star and Lew Alcindor hadn't yet become Kareem Abdul Jabbar. He hasn't been a basketball fan for decades, but this team pulled him in.
“Man, this Kevin Durant guy,” said Wells, 52, of Owasso. “Pretty amazing player. I'd heard about LeBron James. You kind of hear about that guy, but, I don't know, Durant seems a lot smoother and a lot more skilled.”
In an email to me prior to the NBA Finals, he was confident.
“I've even convinced my wife — she's barely a sports fan — that we need to watch the NBA Finals so we can see the first major league world championship come to our great state,” he wrote. “In the words of Vice President Joe Biden, it's a big bleeping deal.”
The Thunder's team-first success appeals to Linda Ledgerwood, of Edmond.
Ledgerwood has been going through a rough patch for the past few years. Divorced and unemployed at age 61, she's been burdened with financial worries, a job search and part-time studies at the University of Central Oklahoma.
The Thunder gives her reason to cheer.
“It gives me something to take my mind off other things for awhile,” she said.
“I've been pretty down, I would say, but I really have gotten excited about this — more excited than I am for my granddaughter's basketball games!”
She has been following the team since the Thunder's first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks.
“I was hooked,” she wrote in an email. “I had always thought that professional basketball was just running and shooting, but I was struck by the Thunder's teamwork.
“Since then, I have watched all the games. I recognize every player and know their basic biographies. I am a fan of each individually as well as the team as a whole, and I'm proud to be one of the fans from OKC who are also garnering praise from the national media.”
As for me ... well, I guess I've been relegated to the bench.
“It's possible that some around me had been ready for the season to end,” my wife wrote, “expecting to get a reprieve from the constant NBA banter for a few months. Little do they know that I'm ready to talk about next year.
“You see, I believe in this team. I love this team.
“I hope the honeymoon never ends.”