When the 2010 schedule was released, a match-up in faraway Norman, Oklahoma against Bob Stoops' Sooners became an instant "Must Attend" football game. An informal straw polling of friends and family taught me that Oklahoma knowledge was sparse at best. "Name a city in Oklahoma other than Oklahoma City" yielded Tulsa a few times, Stillwater a couple times, and nothing else. So nobody in my inner circle of trust knows anything about Oklahoma? (besides J.C. Watts and the Rogers and Hammerstein musical classic) This sounds like a job for The K-Man!
Continue reading to learn what we discovered in the nation's 20th-largest state.
Arriving in the Belly of the Beast
Intentionally misleading title to this paragraph, as Oklahomites (inaccurate term) are among the nicest folk around. If I had to rank them, I'd say they're like Nebraskans with a slightly higher chance of bunions. (almost as nice).
We decided to stay in Bricktown, an area of downtown Oklahoma City and 21 miles north of Norman. As you know, Norman is home to the University of Oklahoma, and where the co-eds reside. Since my trip was 90% in OKC, I cannot accurately assess the OU co-ed population, though I was assured by several Sooner male matriculates that they were "excellent" in quality and quantity.
The drive from Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City greets you with active oil drills before you've left the perimeter road. Welcome to Oklahoma.
Bricktown is a clean and cozy area and was chosen to house the Seminole Football Team. Hundreds upon hundreds of Nole fans gathered to welcome players, coaches, and support staff to the Renaissance hotel around 6pm on Friday afternoon. Clad in all black business attire, the players received a champion's welcome from the fired up Seminole Nation. 8 minutes of Marching Chiefs music had been blaring on repeat in the hotel all day.
The layout of the hotel lobby became a disorganized labrynth of plant-lined walkways and Garnet-clad fans. At one point, players began separating and taking the stairs versus the overwhelmed elevators. A commotion broke out near the elevators and the words "Kenny Muthaf***in Shaw!" could be heard from around the corner. At under 170 pounds, Tomahawk Nation has debated whether or not Kenny is big enough to handle physical DB's as a true freshman. The jury's still out on ACC cornerbacks and safeties, but Shaw is definitely too small for drunken FSU fraternity guys trying to snap photographs with him. I rounded the corner to find a look of terror on Kenny's face as 5 frat boys mobbed him, jerked him to and fro, and took pictures screaming "Kenny Muthaf***in Shaw!". Those 5 young men should be ashamed of themselves........for making me laugh so hard.
Der Fuhrer Bjoern Werner motions to his loyal Florida State followers.
"Was Anything Real?"
Quoting Truman Burbank in relation to Oklahoma City and Bricktown.
A series of observations lead myself and friends to question to the existence of "Bricktown". Kevin Durant plays basketball around here, so it's gotta be real? Right?
-The bars and restaurants in the area were over 90% Noles on both Friday and Saturday. Do the residents skip town during home football weekends?
-Most hotel employees and concierges (quality hotels) were unable to give many recommendations for dining in the area. Did they just arrive on the back of a Gypsy wagon wearing shirt and tie?
-I could walk across the intersection of Broadway and Main St. diagonally during most of the weekend. Large buildings and banks towered across the skyline....but where were the people?
-Walking 9 blocks from the hotel to the Oklahoma City Memorial on Sunday featured zero fellow human beings. I did see several murders of crows. Is this where they filmed "I Am Legend"?
-Drug stores and convenience stores were no where to be found within walking distance of these major hotels. Tourist trap? Or something more sinister...orchestrated by Ed Harris.....
"Oklahoma" is a Choctaw word meaning "Red People". Where were these red people?
Gameday in Norman
The bus drive into town early Saturday morning greeted passengers with this historic water tower monument:
Our resident meteorologist informed us that Moore, Oklahoma is the most tornado prone city in the country. I wonder how many water towers they've run through so far.
Nearly every strip mall along the highway featured a martial arts dojo. Most major fighting systems were represented: Judo, Karate, Tae Kwan Do. No reason to pick fights with Sooner fans if the majority are trained in hand-to-hand combat. Note to self.
The University campus was spacious and green, though far from "beautiful" due to my obsession with rolling topography. Several buildings were nearly identical to those found on FSU and UF's campuses.
After our experiences in Provo, Utah last season, I've heard many Noles refer to BYU fans as "the best." The nicest? No doubt. The best? Doubt it.
Gator fans catch hell for wearing cutoff jean shorts. Oklahoma fans class things up with custom tailored cuffs.
Sooner fans actually tailgate, actually bar-b-q and drink beer, and offer you said food and beverage. Our band of merry Noles was invited to play corn hole and washers at OU tailgates. Tasty treats were forced upon us. But these folks weren't averse to a little good natured football smack talk, an integral part of the college football experience.
BYU fans are the nicest. Hurricane fans are the most disgusting. Oklahoma fans do it right. I've heard Cornhuskers are the same way.
Time to Play Ball
The Sooners have a tremendous pre-game show that fires up their fans into a frenzy. The large video scoreboard plays an awesome montage of OU players dominating their opponents. The whole time I'm thinking, "Why, oh why can't we do something similar?"
I'm gonna leave the X's and O's to Bud and the experts. My vantage point from row 4 in the southeast end zone corner didn't allow much evaluation of scheme or play development. But it did allow for some interesting interactions.
I will say one thing about Greg Reid. He rides waves of emotions to great heights on the gridiron, but he crashes against the rocks when the emotions dwindle. During his first 2 kickoff returns, he entered the field like The Price Is Right's Rod Roddy just told him to "Come on Down!" After the beating ensued, he appeared to be entering a police line-up. The Nole fans gave him love every time, but you can't smile after the 8th kick to the nuts.
There was genuine enthusiasm amongst the Garnet and Gold when Ponder and company answered on our first drive. The War Chant was bumping, the high-fives were thumping, and we were right back in the game.
Even after OU answered again, fired up Greg Reid's long return puts us right back in business.....
Wait a minute. Jackie Childress has something to tell us, gang.
The Nole crowd was methodically taken out of the game as Oklahoma ripped off scoring drive after scoring drive, and Ponder began to poop the bed. When OU scored to make it 34-7 just before halftime, something was clear: Our long journey to the Midwest would not result in gridiron triumph. Time to switch gears.
Time to Have Fun
In Bud's preview article, Oklahoma's Travis Lewis spoke of #28 like this:
And what a player Lewis is. After winning Big 12 rookie of the year in 2008, he garnered 1st-team honors last season. Lewis has made 250 tackles in only two years and is a tremendous player. Think of him as Nigel Bradham, but with better agility. Travis Lewis is the best linebacker on either team.
Our seats were directly adjacent to the Sooners locker room ramp right on the field(where Taiwan scored the last TD) and Lewis came over to taunt our section (unprovoked) at the end of the first half. My buddy got pissed and ran close to shout at him, and I followed (silently). Travis decided to Tomahawk Chop me while making stone cold eye contact. He's got stars shaved into his haircut, so I proceeded to loudly compliment the "graffiti on the side of his head" among other boorish insults. He continued chopping until he was out of sight. "He hasn't seen the last of me!", I think to myself.
Halftime was rough. I prayed to God no Sooner fans antagonized or provoked me during my state of volatility (like a Hurricane fan would). I met up with my cousin for a halftime Pow Wow to assess the situation and our options moving forward. We couldn't understand Lamarcus Joyner's kickoff return strategy thus far, but we were banking on a big return to start the 3rd quarter. I told him we needed 3 giant OU blunders to get back into contention. His biggest concern was, "It's gonna be tough to keep my buddies from leaving the stadium." We watch the kickoff from the tv's near the concessions. Joyner once again imitates a grandmother playing Frogger for the first time. Goodnight, FSU.
The lines to refill water bottles in the public water fountains were much longer than bathroom lines. Bizarre, but I'll take it.
The best part of Memorial Stadium is the fast order taco and burrito concession stand. Wake up, Doak! We need fast order tacos. I gathered a bounty of tacos to satiate my troops in the sunsoaked stands. Biting into that sweet, sweet cruncy corn and grilled chicken took me to a special place. A place where the scoreboard becomes irrelevant and enjoying life becomes paramount. It's somewhere between happiness and utter mental insanity. Come along for the journey.
Lemons into Lemonade
Christian Ponder stares down his receiver and fires an interception into Travis Lewis' (my arch nemesis) belly early in the 3rd quarter and ruins any shot for repeat trash talking. SERENITY NOW!!!
My buddy (one of the few who didn't go insane with rage and/or disappointment) and I became the defacto FSU cheerleaders for our section. If any the Noles left in attendance had hands, they were mainly being sat on.
For reference: There's a strong positive correlation between Seminole Enthusiasm and Oklahoma's Zero Total Yards.
At one point, the Oklahoma Sooner anthropomorphic horse mascot (seen above) walks over towards our section and singles me out. Provoked again! The furry-headed horse literally points directly at my face and begins implying tearful sobbing through demonstrative non-verbal gestures. This equine antagonizer is miming giant balls of tears and intense weeping. Me? Really?
There's an ESPNU screenshot in circulation of the K-Man laughing and smiling during last year's
Troy Jacksonville State game. The score is showing Troy 9, FSU 7 above my head. Do I look like somebody who boo-hoo's during trying times? The horse called me out, and I responded. Check out Kenny Powers' move at exactly :45 to :48 of this video.
One pantomimed salty discharge deserved another. The horse placed its hands on its head in an "Oh, No" gesture and immediately walked back the other way. Score 1 for the K-Man.
We all know how the rest of the game turned out, so I'll spare you the gory details. At one point I turned to my buddy and said, "Do you realize that we high-fived and hugged at one point during this game? How funny is that now?" My entire crew departed in the 4th quarter, but I waited for the final whistle and Taiwan's meaningless, yet exhilarating touchdown which came in handy. (The few Sooners who talked smack postgame were cut off by the K-Man shouting, "The team who scores last, wins. Sorry!")
Jackie Childress and the zebras exited the field directly to my right. A non-insane K-Man would've bombarded him with Jackie Moon-esque swear words and threats to his family. I wanted to kick it old school, so I shouted:
"HEY, JACKIE! GREAT JOB TODAY!" (he turns his head in my direction)
Good clean fun for the whole family.
The Showdown in OK Player's Corral
I almost missed my bus back to Norman to stay til the final whistle and see all the Sooner players exit the field. I went back to the same railing and shouted out "Hey, 28!!!". Travis looked over and immediately started doing a slow Chop and staring me down again.
Uh-oh. What would unbalanced K-Man retort with? Would he jump the railing and engage? Verbally attack his mother? Nahhhh.
I did the Wayne's World "We're not worthy" gesture then pointed at my chest and said, "I'll admit it. You got me. You got me! You win this time". He smiled back and said, "It's all good. No worries".
I complimented him on the interception and he waved goodbye. I'm now a Travis Lewis fan.
Back to Reality
The OU fans took very few verbal cheapshots after the game, granted we were gone in a flash. Our bus stopped in traffic while leaving Norman and a group of happy Sooner students taunted the motionless bus with tomahawk chops and other gestures. General K-Man ordered his men into battle: Pressed Ham on Glass, starboard bound. A couple loyal troops sprung into action and shocked the Sooner revelers with the rare Double Boar's Head Ham assault. Victory was ours!
Bricktown Night 2 was similar to Friday night: Mostly Noles, a spattering of locals.
We may or may not have experienced an Oklahoma City gentleman's club late Saturday night. Assuming we did, let's just say that the Oklahoma's talent advantage over Florida extended beyond the football field. Good lord. One dancer pulled a trick reminiscent of upback Dayne Williams' maneuver during the Puntrooskie. I can't say exactly what happened, but my look of disbelief was similar to Danny Ford's.
As you can tell, I view football games as chances to experience fellowship and new parts of the country. If we win, the fun is exponentially increased. When FSU loses, it's important to find humor in the little things and enjoy the ride.
If you weren't over the game by Sunday afternoon, a trip to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum could easily put things into perspective and eliminate your lingering disappointment. This is the site of the Murrah Building bombing in 1995. The blast was felt up to 50 miles away. 16 building had to be destroyed as a result of the blast. The blowout loss in Norman was now gone from my mind.
A kind ranger working at the memorial gave us a brief synopsis of the site and tragic event of April 19th, 1995. I informed her I was leaving later in the day. She said, "Really? Why would you go back to Florida?".
I bit my tongue because I couldn't think of anything to say about the state of Oklahoma, though the people are great. I'm not a fan of barbecued pork products. Never really got into Toby Keith music. Tornado drills really aren't my cup of tea. So what was the best part of Oklahoma City? My mind kept bringing me back to the aforementioned gentleman's club.
I apologize for no cathartic event to solidify my Oklahoma experience. The place attracts people for some reason. Maybe this guy knows: