Boone Pickens fashions himself an underdog.
I know. Hard to accept. Oil tycoon. Corporate raider. Dallas billionaire. Not exactly a Rocky Balboa script.
But Pickens has a heart for underdog causes. Wind farms. Natural gas vehicles. Oklahoma State football.
Admit it. We all thought windmills would light up New York City before the Cowboys won the Big 12 football championship. But win Bedlam next week, a game in which the Cowboys should be favored, then beat Nebraska at JerryWorld in Arlington, a tossup, and the Cowboys will own the trophy that once seemed unattainable.
â€œGo back and look, I'm always the underdog,â€ Pickens said. â€œI kind of like the role when you're the underdog, when they underestimate you.â€
Which is maybe why Pickens has given almost half a billion dollars and counting to OSU football. To one day see the Cowboys riding high on the gridiron.
One day is here.
These are heady times for Pickens, who while trying to push his Pickens Plan on energy through a fluid Congress spends Saturdays watching his unheralded Cowboy football team make history.
Last Saturday, Pickens watched in Austin, Texas, where OSU routed the Longhorns 33-16.
â€œGood feeling,â€ Pickens said. â€œHow could I say it more? I've been there and I've lost, and now I've been there and I've won.â€
Pickens has many Texas U. friends. His lawyer, Bobby Stillwell, is a Longhorn regent. Pickens deals daily with UT big dogs. In the same way OSU die-hards in Oklahoma City and Tulsa want to win Bedlam just to make their business lives bearable, Pickens always has wanted to beat Texas. It happened last Saturday.
â€œI thought Texas played good,â€ Pickens said. â€œI thought we saw Texas play a game as good as they played Nebraska. They were serious. They knew it was not an average game.
â€œTexas played a hard football game. They were after us.â€
I actually sort of agree with Boone. The â€˜Horns played pretty good, for them. And still got blistered.
â€œIt was a great day,â€ Pickens said.
Succinct description of the OSU football cause. The Cowboys are treading new ground. Victories in Lubbock and Austin. Next could be the hydes of the Big Reds, with a Fiesta Bowl to follow.
â€œI feel good about it,â€ Pickens said. â€œI like where we are. It's an unbelievable year for OSU. If we don't make it this year, we'll be back next year.â€
That's the thing. OSU hasn't just caught lightning in a bottle, with Texas' stumble. OSU has caught lightning in brick and mortar. That glittering new stadium that bears Pickens' name, with all the plush amenities â€” you really have to see them to believe them â€” has helped attract first-rate ballplayers to Stillwater.
Sure, Dana Holgorsen's new-age offense is all the rage. But Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon and Kendall Hunter became Cowboys when Holgorsen was just a twinkle in Mike Gundy's eye. Holgorsen is new-age, but Bill Young is old-school, and his defenders are playing solid.
This is not a program built on sand. Gundy's foundation is solid, and reason No. 1 is Pickens Village.
â€œYou never hit a home run if you don't get up to bat,â€ Pickens likes to say, and he said it again Tuesday in Oklahoma City after speaking at the Creativity World Forum. â€œWe're up to bat now. We're at the plate.â€
Maybe you don't buy Pickens as an underdog, but you have to grant the Cowboys that status. Not so much as a division title in 15 Big 12 seasons. Only a solo tri-championship in 36 Big Eight seasons.
Maybe the Cowboys end that drought this season, maybe they don't. But their benefactor is enjoying the ride. Talk about your Pickens Plans.
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 AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.