Thunder Alley: OKC has lost something special with the watch parties going away

When the Western Conference Finals swing to Oklahoma City, Thunder Alley will open three hours before tipoff. There will be music. There will be games. There will be concessions. But once the game starts, the party stops.
by Jenni Carlson Published: May 27, 2012
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Opinions about stopping the watch parties in Thunder Alley are like blue shirts these days.

Everyone in Oklahoma City seems to have one.

Some people think one bad apple spoiled the whole thing. Others believe officials caved at the first sign of trouble. And folks believe more security or less booze or limited crowds or admission fees would solve the problem.

Maybe all of that is true.

Maybe it's not.

I don't know.

But here's what I do know — Oklahoma City has lost something special.

Later this week, when the Western Conference Finals swing from San Antonio to Oklahoma City, Thunder Alley will open three hours before tipoff. There will be music. There will be games. There will be concessions.

But once the game starts, the party stops.

And for the past few weeks, the best part of the party came once the game tipped off. Watching the action on the massive screen affixed on the northwest side of The Peake, people would cheer and chant just like they were in the arena.

It was an amazing scene.

That changed a week ago when the crowd swelled and the vibe changed. There were fights. There were tensions. Then, of course, came the shooting only a few blocks away that injured eight people.

The confessed shooter had been in Thunder Alley, and more than likely, that means his gun was there, too.

Why, oh why, something so good has to go so bad?

Those watch parties in Thunder Alley were like nothing we'd ever seen in Oklahoma City. Anyone could be a part. Young. Old. Black. White. Male. Female. Rich. Poor.

No doubt there's a similarly great cross-section of fans inside The Peake, but the reality is that every fan can't afford a ticket. Even though the Thunder has some of the most reasonable prices in the NBA, tickets remain out of reach for some folks.

That wasn't a concern in Thunder Alley.

Everyone could have a piece of the action there. You could join the Thunder phenomenon gripping our state. You could feel a part of something bigger than yourself.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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