MIAMI — Oklahoma City businessman Jay Thomas isn't just on the Thunder Bandwagon. He's driving it.
Taking a college football road trip approach to the NBA Finals, Thomas, his girlfriend Jessica Forde and four of their closest Thunder fan friends are in South Beach for Games 3, 4 and 5. A couple of them flew in. But Thomas and three other guys drove 25 hours in his 2005 Cadillac Escalade.
Six-hour shifts split four ways helped — Thomas wore out Tiger Woods PGA Tour on his iPad when he wasn't driving. So did his experience with this kind of thing.
Thomas was in Tallahassee last September for Oklahoma vs. Florida State. But he's also on his seventh road trip with the Thunder. He's caught OKC in Golden State, Denver, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Dallas and now Miami. (Asked what kind of job someone would need to afford all that, Thomas said “insurance.”)
Thomas' traveling party includes Morgan Horner, Donald Chadwell and David Twichell — all of Oklahoma City — and Matt and Laurel Stuart of Edmond. They “tailgated” before Game 3 atop a parking garage across the street from American Airlines Arena, screaming their fool heads off when the Thunder team bus pulled up.
Laurel Stuart was so busy Thundering Up, she forgot to wish her husband Happy Father's Day. Tickets to Game 3 — the group paid between $400 and $600 each — will suffice.
Thomas sees the Thunder pulling even with the Sooners for popularity, and these kinds of trips are just a natural extension of that. “Bob Stoops is still the governor,” said Thomas, “but Kevin Durant is the lieutenant governor.”
One cool aspect of Heat home games is the Heat Street Band, a group of 25 musicians who stroll the concourse of American Airlines Arena, playing and dancing amid the crowd. The band, made up mostly of brass and drums, has played at Heat games since 2003. The band even plays a little during timeouts, an NBA rarity.
It's not cheap to eat at American Airlines Arena. A quick scan of the concession stand reveals the following prices:
Spicy Thai Chicken $13, shrimp tacos $13, Philly cheese steak $12, chicken quesadillas $11, chicken tenders $10, hot dog $7. Beer is $9, unless you want the imported version. Then it's $13.50.
For comparison, at Chesapeake Energy Arena, chicken tenders are $7.50, imported beer (20-ounce draft) is $6.75 and hot dogs are $4.
Dan Le Batard's father, Gonzalo, from ESPN's “Dan Le Batard is Highly Questionable” show, is a Heat season-ticket holder and was in his aisle seat in the lower bowl long before tipoff. But the lower bowl wasn't full when the game started. ... Cool sight at the end of halftime: Durant's grandmother sitting in the stands holding up a “Team Is One” poster/noisemaker she brought from OKC, hoping to catch Kevin's eye.
A Thunder fan on the NewsOK.com live chat reported that approximately 500 people watched Game 3 on the video board at David Allen Ballpark in Enid. The city provided concessions, and the Thunder mobile merchandise truck was in town.
Governors have done it.
Mayors have done it.
Now two Roman Catholic clergy leaders have made a friendly wager about their respective hometown NBA teams.
In Atlanta for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' spring general assembly, the Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, archbishop of the Archdicoese of Oklahoma City, said he has accepted a friendly wager from Archdiocese of Miami's Archbishop Thomas Wenski.
Archbishop Wenski has thrown the ecclesiastic gauntlet by offering Miami stone crabs if the Heat loses in The Finals. Archbishop Coakley has accepted the challenge and is offering Oklahoma beef, courtesy of the Oklahoma Beef Council, if the Thunder loses. The losing bishop will receive a T-shirt from the opposing team, in which he agrees to be photographed.
“The Thunder have proved time and time again that they have what it takes to become the NBA champions. It is a great time to be an Oklahoman,” Coakley said.
Wenski countered, saying: “The Miami Heat is resilient if anything. We relish being the underdog, but the Thunder will not stand up to the Heat.”
Both archbishops took a brief break from Thursday's meetings to “seal the deal” with a friendly handshake.