I'm serious. This is my job!
Long story short, yesterday was a friend of mine's birthday. A company he does business with had hooked him up for last night's Memphis Grizzlies/Oklahoma City Thunder game, and he invited me. So he and I, along with our wives, were headed to downtown OKC with parking passes, club level wristbands and sixth row, center court seats (face value: $276 apiece). Not quite the Jack Nicholson seats, but not far from it.
The Thunder were actually up 21 in the second quarter. But the Grizzlies clawed their way back, keeping the game close throughout the third, finally taking the lead with four minutes left in the game and handing the Thunder their 21st loss of the season. But let's be honest--it was the Grizzlies and the Thunder. So the less said about the game itself, the better. Let's get on to my assignment--the Thunder scavenger hunt!
1. Seattle Supersonics jersey
I didn't see Seattle anything. Even coffee. And, considering that Sonic Drive-In's corporate headquarters is just a stone's throw from the Ford Center, I saw surprisingly little Sonic advertising.
Sonic is Oklahoma's Starbucks.
2. Florida Gators gear (this is in Sooners country after all)
Didn't see any, but it was about 35 degrees outside. So it was probably too chilly for anyone with legitimate Florida ties to venture out.
3. Kevin Durant U. of Texas throwback
Did see several Longhorns shirts, hats, etc. But the only Durant shirts I saw were on kids wearing those Thunder t-shirts printed up like jerseys with the name and number on the back.
4. A Thunder win
That would be like the Holy Grail of scavenger hunts. Something that is rumored to exist but so rarely seen that no one can really confirm the tales. I did however capture a shot of the last time the Thunder had the lead in the game. And quite possibly this season.
Ah, now we're getting somewhere. What's funny is that, contrary to what you would expect, I couldn't find any when I roamed up to the cheap seats and was getting worried I would strike out until I saw this bad boy in the elevator on my journey to the suite level.
6. Straw Hat and Overalls
Have you noticed that much of the HHR staff is a little East Coast biased? They're the kind of guys who can use the words "Rutgers" and "college football tradition" in the same sentence without chuckling. Anyway, no overalls, and everyone knows that, like white shoes, straw hats are a faux pas after Labor Day.
7. An Inappropriate Rudy Gay Sign
No Rudy Gay signs, although there was a table set up where you could make your own sign. I decided it would be cheating to make up a sign of my own. Although it was pointed out to me that Rudy may not be supporting his team by choosing to play on National Call in Gay Day.
8. Anything Darko Milicic related
Do I get bonus points for photos of Darko picking his nose? Seriously, I grabbed this first shot immediately post-pick during pre-game warmups.
I thought I was just seeing things. After all, even with sixth-row seats, he was still all the way on the other side of the court. Maybe he was just scratching. But then he did it again, right before tip-off. Here he is right after the deed, playing it off like he was just brushing his nose. But I saw what I saw.
We'll get to this in a minute, but in the meantime I did see lots of kids with blue hair.
10. O.J. Mayo's Posse (Bonus if it's a photo of a hot chick because you misread "posse")
If by posse you mean "Native American drum circle that patrols the upper deck and beats their drums to crowd chants" ("De-Fense," boom, boom, "De-Fense," boom, boom, etc.), then check.
As for the hot chick posse, while I can't guarantee they were seeking OJ, as I was leaving I did notice a pair of very attractive girls who were dressed more like they were heading to a night club at Mandalay Bay or Caesar's Palace than to a basketball game. And they were going against traffic, very focused, like they were on a mission. And that mission was something (or someone) inside the building. I couldn't get the camera out of my pocket in time for that photo, so a shot of the local talent will have to suffice.
11. A photo of Scotty Brooks just losing his mind on the sideline after the Thunder go down 25.
I really expected more from the coach, especially after his team blew a 21 point lead. But I honestly don't know that Brooks said 20 words the whole night. I did notice that his mannerisms reflect how the team is doing. During the first 18 minutes or so of the game, when the Thunder built up a big lead, I swear his hands never left his pockets. From then on and through the third when the Grizzlies made their comeback to make the game close, he had his arms crossed the whole time. As the game wound into the fourth quarter, he spent most of the time either sitting down or holding his dry erase "draw up a play for Kevin Durant" board.
The coach late in the game.
12. A woman wearing a skin tight thunder shirt with a fupa.
Now, we come to the mother lode. I found one of the greatest treasure troves of sports fan scavenger hunting you could ever ask for. In addition to the facepaint, Thunder shirt and fupa, you could have added (a) shiny blue top hat, (b) metallic blue wig, (c) pom poms, (d) yellow Thunder cape and (e) foam #1 finger to the list, and I still would have been able to say check, check, check, check, check, check, check and check.
I apologize that these pictures really can't do the epicness of this sight justice. (Santa, if you're reading this, I've been a very good boy and could really use a new telephoto lens.) Our heroes even made the jumbotron in the "Ultimate Fan Search."
Scavenger Hunt Greatness
13. The Thunder Mascot
While there may not be an "official" Thunder mascot in Oklahoma City (or at Golden State), that will not stop your intrepid scavenger hunter. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you . . . this guy.
This guy was never mentioned over the PA system, so there was no official acknowledgment of his antics. However, I'm assuming that he's either a Thunder employee or a crazy guy who spends too much on t-shirts and Red Bull. Basically this guy just goes to different sections during breaks, does a crazy dance and then proceeds to peel off layer after layer of Thunder shirts and throw them to the crowd. I'm not sure if there are strip clubs in hell. But if so, I'm pretty sure it's kind of like this.
Since the Thunder don't acknowledge him by name, we'll just call him Dancing Homer.
Somewhere, when the Thunder first set up shop in OKC, there was a meeting in which Clay Bennett said, "You know, every team has cheerleaders or pneumatic cannons to throw shirts to the crowd. We need something different." Then someone at the end of the table goes, "I know, lets hire a pudgy, sweaty dude to dance and throw pre-worn shirts to the crowd." And no one bothered to say no.
14. Fourth-quarter photo of a row that is entirely full.
This one was tricky, but not for the reason you might think. After all, it was the Grizzlies vs. the Thunder, so there were plenty of good seats available and people could kind of spread out, meaning that very few rows were completely full, even at the beginning of the game. That said, the crowd that came stayed 'til the end. To the OKC fans' credit, I saw very few who skipped out early. As you can see from some of the crowd shots above (most of which were taken in the second half), the crowd stuck with the team. We'll see if that lasts once the novelty of just having a team wears off.
Forgot to shoot a picture of a full row, so this photo of PGA champion Bob Tway will have to suffice.
Finally, although this wasn't on the scavenger hunt list I did want to mention the most ironically appropriate part of the evening. The Oklahoma Lottery actually has a table set up on the main concourse, selling scratch-off tickets.
This is some brilliant marketing because, let's face it, "lottery" is a word with which OKC Thunder fans are going to become very, very familar in the coming years.
And in case you were curious, yes, I did catch a shirt from Dancing Homer.