The Friday Fan: Making room for a second love

(This is a new feature we’re trying out. Basically, it’s all about you, the reader. We’re all fans. We all love the team. And we all share experiences that only fans know about. Have a story about something crazy that happened after a game? Send it in. Want to rant about a guy that sits behind you and yells way to much at home games? Send it in. Are you an out-of-state fan that’s following the team from a distance and want to share what that’s like? Send it in. Want to talk about what it’s like battling the wife for the remote on game nights? Send. It. In. You get the idea. Reader MastrMatt kicks this thing off.)

Being a Thunder fan is fun. It was even fun last year.

Maybe that is my rookie-level basketball fandom speaking, but I’ve had a great time being a Thunder fan since the trucks rolled into town. Even in the face of last year’s 23 win season and being the doormat of league, I wore my Thunder shirts with pride. It wasn’t because I knew what kind of players this group would emerge as this year, but because it was my team. Even before the guys arrived it was exciting to debate what our team’s name, color scheme and logo should be. We were building this thing from the ground up and I was happy to be a part of it.

As a Sooner grad, it was strange for me to cheer for a lanky ex-longhorn that I prayed would twist an ankle just two years before. I didn’t care about all the people in Seattle crying in their coffee cups and I didn’t worry about corporate shenanigans and covert emails. I was just excited that OKC would finally be on the map as a big league city. The whole state was electric with anticipation and quickly fell in love with our team.

When the first game tipped off, my basketball knowledge fell somewhere in between a trained monkey and an 8-year-old playing ball at the YMCA. But I’m learning. I still have no idea what Thabocould do to improve his 3-ball. I can’t tell you how best to use our cap space and draft picks. I don’t understand the triangle offense and I don’t understand how Utah’s pick and roll has been unstoppable for 20 years. However, after a season and a half, I’m starting to understand some of the nuances of the game. I can see the little things that KD does to get separation from defenders or how Serge gets impatient when he thinks he might get to send a ball into Loud City. I’m starting to appreciate the every game effort and hustle of Nick Collison. Just like the guys on the team (albeit at a different level), I’m learning the game of basketball and what it takes to win.

Ninety-nine percent of the games I attend are with my wife. She’s a big Thunder fan too. It’s okay to be jealous. Thunder games are one more thing we can share together as a couple and make for a really fun date night. We are fortunate enough to have been able to attend quite a few games. We don’t have season tickets, but have managed to get tickets to the games we want to see. We’ve sat everywhere from the top row in Loud City to center court, two rows off the floor (where I got to meet Dominique Wilkins!!). We’ve probably seen a game from almost every vantage point in the arena and can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every game. The losses were less fun, but I still had a good time. [quote]

As big a sports fan as my wife is, she doesn’t really get as amped to watch games on TV. She has her weekly viewing schedule and it doesn’t usually include away games. Neither of us wants a marriage where I watch TV in one room while she watches TV in another and our interaction is limited me coming and going from the kitchen. We usually compromise and the Thunder game is our flip back channel. The occasions when basketball isn’t the flip back is where the iPhone has become my best friend. I can keep track of the game as well as spend “quality” time with her.

When I first suggested the idea for column like this to Royce, it was supposed to be something about what it is like to be a Thunder fan. I guess the answer that question has several layers. Being a Thunder fan is fun because it is exciting because we are playing so well and OKC is getting some national recognition for doing something right. It is frustrating because I don’t know everything about the game. It is stress relieving to lose myself for two hours. It is agonizing to see how subjective the officiating is. It is joyful to see a group of young men represent my home city with class and grace. It is painful to watch the guys play so hard and come up short (I still hate you Carmelo Anthony).

It is uplifting to watch them bounce back from a tough loss and work even harder the next game. It is refreshing to watch this team and see the true and absolute love they have for their profession. It is confusing. It almost feels like I’m cheating on football. There was a Thunder game on a Thursday night earlier this season. I had a choice to make. Do I watch the Thursday night college football game like normal (yes, my wife loves football too – I am lucky) or do I go to a Thunder game? I chose basketball and it felt weird. I’m not saying basketball, even Thunder basketball, will ever take the place of football, but I’m starting to believe there might be room in my heart for both.