In the past month of post-tornado recovery, the character of the state of Oklahoma shone through newspaper stories and television interviews.
There were so many stories of Oklahomans doing good.
Then the spotlight was turned to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, and the state shined again.
That's truly what the NCAA runners-up believe. This week, Tennessee co-coach Ralph Weekly and his National Player of the Year finalist, Raven Chavanne, praised Oklahoma fans for their class and sportsmanship.
Weekly has coached a lot of games against a lot of opponents. In fact, he's won a lot (13 gold medals in international play) and lost a lot (His Lady Vols have been runner-up or the third-place finisher in five of the last six WCWS). Then last week, Tennessee's dreams of winning a national title were crushed when Oklahoma swept the finals.
Tennessee walked away from the situation hurt by not winning, but impressed at the character of the Oklahoma people.
“Of course we wanted to win last week, but when we got home, we talked about how gracious the Oklahoma fans were,” Weekly said. “A lot of places you go and the people are fans but they're nasty fans. Oklahoma was just really good. Our players and our fans and our parents were really impressed by the Oklahoma fans and the way they were.
“That took nothing away from the fact that we really wanted to win. We gave it every shot, but Oklahoma was the deserving champion. I've been thinking about just how gracious Oklahoma fans were and how they treated our kids good and how they rooted for Oklahoma, but they praised our kids. That's very rare today, especially in a huge crowd like that.”
The crowds of 8,300 for Game 1 and 8,527 for Game 2 were a record. And Weekly and Chavanne know that their fan base was greatly outmatched number-wise, but they still didn't feel like they were treated poorly. Weekly said his wife, the Vols' other co-head coach, and their team felt like Sooners fans cheered for good plays for both teams, not just Oklahoma.
Tennessee was also happy to hear no personal attacks taken out on any player.
“They were classy,” Chavanne said. “That's what I liked about it. They weren't shouting rude things or mean things. They were positive.”
Weekly felt that Sooners fans were very knowledgeable about the game of softball, while treating the Lady Vols nicely when they walked through swarms of fans trying to make their way to the postgame press conference.
“You can go somewhere where if you've got 8,500 fans and we only have 300, they can really get on you, and Oklahoma didn't,” Weekly said. “They were just good softball fans. I don't know any other way to put it. My wife and I talked and we praise (Oklahoma coach) Patty (Gasso) because she did such a great job with the Sooners. We felt like we played hard and we wanted to win all the way, but we felt like we were respected by Oklahoma too.”