MOORE — Travis Ford stood over a charcoal cooker, flipping burgers and dogs with the same passion he once used to flip jump shots.
That was Thursday.
Then Friday, he did it again.
Something about helping people, something about feeling part of a cause bigger than yourself, grows on you.
Which is how the OSU basketball coach spent two days in the parking lot of the Home Depot, one of the little dots in a long line of relief outlets for the Moore tornado.
Ford and some of his staff members cooked hot dogs and hamburgers from 10 a.m. to 6-7 p.m. each day, and he doesn't even really know who his customers were.
Tornado victims. Relief workers. Whoever. He just knows they were eaten in droves.
“Ready to put McDonald's out of business,” Ford said with a smile.
Ford has been a solid, but not spectacular, Cowboy coach. Three NCAA Tournaments in six years, and with Marcus Smart's return next season, OSU figures to be among the nation's best teams.
But Ford never seemed more Oklahoman, never seemed like he belonged here more, than while he slaved over that hot stove.
Ford said he made a monetary donation to the relief cause but Wednesday got the itch to do more. One of his old pals back in Kentucky had gone on relief missions to Hurricane Katrina and Joplin, so Ford placed a call. The friend told Ford just load up and go cook, if he didn't know what else to do.
So Ford asked OSU police Lt. Leon Jones to find them a place where they could set up. Meanwhile, Ford borrowed the trailer cooker from his church, Sunnybrook Christian, and bought out all the burgers and hot dogs from a Perkins meat packing company. Wal-Mart donated ketchup and mustard.
And by 10 a.m. Thursday, Ford, Jones and staff members Tommy Wade and Joey Biggs were cooking away and passing out OSU T-shirts.
“He works a grill pretty good,” Jones said of Ford.
And the tornado damage struck Ford hard.
“You see it all on TV, it does it zero justice,” Ford said. “Driving by it on I-35, it took my heart away.
“I don't know what I expected. I guess the reality sunk in. You start meeting the people, hearing the stories.”
Ford took a break Thursday only to go chat with victims. Some of whom wanted to talk OSU hoops and Marcus Smart.
“It's just amazing what good spirits people are in,” Ford said. “These people have lost everything, and they're in incredible spirits.”
Yep, that's the lesson we all learn in our journey to the center of the storm.
So Thursday evening, after the cooking stopped, Ford took in the OSU baseball game at Bricktown, spent the night and decided to come back.
“Even though this is a small, very small, part of helping Moore out, you see how much of a difference it made,” Ford said.
“Something very small, something very easy we could do. I said, ‘Hey, I got nothing to do Friday, why can't I come back?'”
He would like to get his players involved in the relief effort, once they return from the semester break.
Most OSU athletes are scattered. The baseball team visited Goodwill and donated supplies. The wrestlers put together a benefit wrestling event.
But Ford showed that organization is not required. Like those rescue teams that just load up and head out, sometimes you just have to go.
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.