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Blog #4: The Need For A League of Their Own (Part 1)

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As I have stated before, I was born and raised on the (North) East side of Oklahoma City. It was middle class, relatively crime-free and pretty much all Black, with very few exceptions. In the mid-1970s, there wasn’t much to do in Oklahoma City in general as far as tourism but especially on the East Side, but as a teenager, what did I care? There were plenty of fun things to keep an active and curious mind occupied on a daily basis. I knew of other places through reading or television, but I never gave a damn that there may be other places in this world that were more bustling, or posh, or fun, or even laden with opportunities. This was my home, and I did, as I do now, love it to death even with all of its “flaws.” No matter how many places that I have lived and how much I have traveled, I have always loved “The City” passionately and completely, no matter what anyone else may have thought of it; and wherever I went as well as whomever I met during my many adventures, I will proudly let anyone who will listen know that I’m from OKC!!

To that end, big time sports was something that I only saw on television, with the very glaring exception of The University of Oklahoma Football. It was maybe the ONLY positive indicator to the world at large. It would be the highlight of the sporting year to see the two or three (or even more in a good year) Oklahoma Football games televised on ABC, and knowing that Keith Jackson and Frank Broyles were in Norman, OKLAHOMA telling the world how our Sooners were “hanging a half a hundred” on another team foolish enough to show up. It was even better to actually GO to a game at Owen Field in Norman, exactly 25 miles from the bedroom I was in when I had to listen to John Brooks describe the action of the majority of the games that were not televised, but on radio. Yes, it was a different time.

Story time! One pilgrimage to the Holy Ground better known as Owen Field stands out above all other games, even more than the November 24, 1984 Bedlam Game v. Oklahoma State where the Sooners came back from two touchdowns down to defeat the (my, since I was enrolled at OSU at the time) Cowboys 24-14 in front of over 76,000 delirious mostly Sooner fans. Me and my best friend David had snuck on the OU sideline, as we had done way too many times to count, so we got to see from field level thousands of oranges being thrown on the field late in the game as an homage to Oklahoma’s impending trip to the Orange Bowl as the Big 8 Champion. It was a sight to see.

Aside: I received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering Technology, Mechanical Design from Oklahoma State University in 1987. But I was also raised on the University of Oklahoma Football, and I have been a passionate fan for as long as I can remember. An interesting dilemma to be sure, right? How do I square the two, you may ask?

It’s simple. It was always OU of course, until OSU gave me Scholarship money for my room and board through the Council of Partners Program. While a resident of Stillwater, I was OSU all the way, no question. I will never forget being at the 1983 Bedlam Game in Stillwater when we took a 20-3 lead. I had made a $20 bet with my buddy Grip before the game, and I was talking so much noise to him, that he gave me the twenty early just to shut me up. It didn’t work; it only made me talk even more noise, and he just had to sit there and take it while my other buddies Al, Carl, Reggie and Willie as well as the rest of the big group enjoyed the show. BIG mistake. As soon as I stopped waving the bill in poor Grip’s face and finally put it in my pocket, OU swung the game by scoring two touchdowns and getting a two-point conversion after the second TD to cut the lead to 20-18. I was sweating bullets now, because I have seen “Sooner Magic” all of my life, but had never witnessed it from the other end. I knew what was coming, I just didn’t know how. On the ensuing kickoff off, OU’s Tim Lashar kicked the ball low and hard, but instead of more likely sailing through the front line of the OSU “hands” receiving team, the ball somehow found the face mask of All-Big 8 Safety Chris Rockins. It ricocheted high in the air before the Sooners recovered, leaving just enough time for Lashar to finish the act of breaking my heart by kicking the winning field goal just before time expired.

The devastation was complete. While getting ragged on by Grip (and everyone else) twice as bad as I had given, I had to reach in my pocket and take out not only the twenty he gave to me, I also had to fish out ANOTHER twenty! If you know how… thrifty (okay, cheap) I am, you can only imagine just how hard that was for me to do. You may not know Grip, but you do; everyone has a friend who is smart, loyal and funny but is ruthless when he bests you no matter what the game is. I had to hear from his effing ass the whole… entire… long… walk… back to East Bennett Hall, with background music from the rest of the entourage. Our dorm was less than a mile away from Lewis Field, but I swear it took an eternity before I could finally escape to the peace of my dorm room, where I vowed that I would never bet on any of my teams EVER, for that was surely why they lost. 
Aside (continued): After graduation, it remained very simple to me. I understand how alumnus of schools are so devoted to them, but I am not influenced by peer pressure, so I always do my own thinking. I love my City and my State so much that I root for the highest ranked team, for they have the best chance to win the National Championship and bring glory to the Great State of Oklahoma. Most of the time it is OU, but there have actually been rare times when State was the higher ranking team. Also, I pulled for OSU when my Nephew Stevie played for them, because Blood trumps everything. Always.

My most thrilling and exciting trip to Owen Field actually took place in September 1978. I have absolutely no idea who the opponent was; I can only guess that it was some hapless team from another conference that got absolutely ran off the field by the Sooners, so much so that all of the starters were pulled from the game around midway through the third quarter. Coach Switzer was very loose with sideline visitors in a blowout, so me and my partner in many crimes snuck onto the Sooner sideline with ease. David and I wandered around until we found our mark: Junior All-American and 1978 would-be Heisman Trophy winning Running Back Billy Sims. He’d already taken his shoulder pads off and he was relaxing on the bench when two 14-year-olds nervously approached him, and not only did he sign autographs for us, he actually sat both of us down on the ground with him and talked to us until late in the fourth quarter when a coach finally called Sims over. Hs shook our hands and said he had to go; it was the greatest time in my young life. Blessedly, there have been even better moments to come, and I promise to share them all with you eventually.

For all of my young life, OU Football was pretty much all we were known for nationwide as far as sports were concerned. That’s it, that was the list. Of course, there were many states that has even less to show for in the land of competition, but with all of the sports activity going on in Texas, our neighbor to the south that had the World Famous Dallas Cowboys among many other famous sports entities, it was tough for us Oklahomans not to want a little more attention from the sports world for ourselves. The great thing about attention is that it can come in a variety of ways from all types of sources. A tried and true way to prosperity is to find a need and proceed to fill it. As the 1980s began, a new day was dawning with Title IX and the growth in Women’s Sports, and opportunities were emerging in the most unlikely of places...

Continued on Part 2


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Updated 08-05-2021 at 07:52 PM by K SUMP ON SPORTS

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