Every time I'm in Los Angeles, usually driving around town with Thunder writer Darnell Mayberry, who was born like 15 minutes ago, just out of the blue, I'll say, “This is the city …”
And I'll do my Joe Friday routine and get to tell Darnell how great a show was “Dragnet.”
Maybe you read my Thunder report card in the Tuesday Oklahoman. How I lamented a sign proclaiming $30 parking in Bricktown, which I guessed meant we really were a big-league city.
We talk a lot about that. Big league city. State senator David Holt, who worked in the mayor's office when the Thunder came to town, has written a book about OKC and the NBA, and that's his title. “Big League City.”
We focus on the big league part. We sometimes forget the city part. You want to be big league? The city comes with it. All the good and all the bad.
A night of revelry, a night of celebration, turned to horror and fear Monday night. As the masses of people outside Chesapeake Arena, 6,000 to 10,000 strong watching in Thunder Alley, moved mostly eastward toward Bricktown after the game, gunfire rang out. Eight people were shot.
Talk about lost innocence. A city saw itself in the mirror.
When riots would erupt in Detroit or Philadelphia or some other metropolis that seemingly had lost its soul in the wake of a sports victory, we would shake our heads.
Knuckleheads. Reprobates. Low lifes. Glad we're not like them.
Except now we are. Except now Gran Torino and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have taken out the Lakers, and before the postgame press conferences were over, shouts turned to screams on the streets.
Now you know why OU-Texas won't ever be moved to night. Talk about a powder keg; that many people, that late at night, fan bases joined by thugs. The university decision-makers have shown precious wisdom in not giving in to the network pressures to play that Dallas game late.
The Thunder has no such option, of course. The Thunder must play when TNT or ESPN says play, and the Thunder's only recourse is to consider changes to Thunder Alley.
Such a lovely idea. A street party to celebrate the ball team. A place for those who can't afford tickets or simply couldn't snag them. A place for even more Oklahomans to feel a part of this hoops phenomenon.
But the scene turned ugly as the crowds mushroomed.
Should the Thunder pull the plug? Looks like the watch party is history, with the pregame carnival to remain.
Which is unfortunate. Truth is, we all felt civic pride at the celebrating crowds on Reno Avenue. TNT's Craig Sager went outside for a live shot in the fourth quarter, and it only enhanced the feel-good story of this wild NBA ride.
Thunder Alley achieved its original purpose: give even more fans a chance to feel a part of the wave.
Our gal Jenni Carlson on Tuesday blogged about the shooting and received the following comment: “I really hope that the actions of a few fools do not cause the city to close Thunder Alley. My grandsons love going down there. Because I am on a fixed income and can't afford tickets, they can still feel the excitement.”
Those grandsons are the losers if Thunder Alley dies.
In whatever form the street party survives, the city and the Thunder can take some action. More police presence, which always helps, and no liquor sales on the street. That's a rough mix; thousands and thousands of people in a relatively small space, spiced with alcohol.
Still, the peace officers on the street Monday night didn't think liquor was the problem. Just some punks showed up. Could have been the State Fair, could have been a music festival, could have been the mall.
Troublemakers follow the crowd.
See, that's the real lesson we learned from Monday night. We wanted to be a big-league city? Well, this is what big-league cities go through.
Cities are more than corporate leaders and brilliantly skilled athletes and middle-class ticketbuyers and women looking for inexpensive ways to entertain their grandsons.
Cities also are made up of thugs. In small towns, you can pick out the troublemakers. Everybody knows them. Not so in the city.
That's something else the NBA has done for us. Educated us. Those cops on the street Monday night/Tuesday morning? We chatted with several leaving the arena. All were composed. None seemed rattled. All seemed like they had gone through nights like this — shots ringing out, multiple victims — far too many times.
I think they knew something long before we did. Long before the Thunder came to town and the Lakers were vanquished.
This is the city.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. 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.