If you live in Tulsa, then probably not.
Here is an idea for your next late-night, alcohol-induced debate. What team do you consider "Tulsa's Team"? Wow, so many to choose from.
First we need to define what constitutes being labeled "Tulsa's Team." This should not be confused with the ever-popular Absolute Best of Tulsa awards. Here are the rules.
First, the team must be a winner. At the very least they should have a winning tradition. No one likes a loser, especially in sports.
Second, you have to give a...care. A level of devotion is a prerequisite. Part of fandom is having a vested interest. Remember your grandfather at the kitchen table thumbing through the box scores? Do you follow road games for Tulsa's team? Can you name the top player or MVP from the team?
Third, does the city embrace the team? If a winning streak or championship run takes place, can you feel the excitement? Is there a buzz? Are the traditional media outlets rolling out the PGA red carpet or giving it the horse racing treatment?
Fourth, do you agonize over a close loss? Do you wake up in the morning after a tough defeat with a bad taste in your mouth? Do you avoid watching highlights so you don't relive the pain? Ok, that was a tad bit melodramatic but you get the idea.
Now allow me the opportunity to breakdown each local team's qualifications: strengths, weaknesses, intangibles, best-case scenario and worst-case scenario.
And just like a youth soccer league, everyone's a winner. And if you think I'm sugarcoating this to avoid uncomfortable conversations with athletic directors, owners and players--you are absolutely correct.
In completely random order we'll tackle these teams. The Drillers, Oilers, Talons, 66ers, ORU baseball, ORU basketball, Tulsa Golden Hurricane football and TU basketball. My apologies to any team, organization or drifter who feels slighted or left out. On with the show.
ORU baseball epitomizes excellence in team sports. They dominate their conference and live for postseason play. Plus, skipper Rob Walton brings a presence to the dugout. Just a quality squad year after year.
One problem is attendance. Seeing the color of the bleachers during a game is bad. Also, when is the last time your friend mentioned ORU baseball? "Hey, let's go catch the ORU-South Dakota State game." Didn't think so.
Their upside is tremendous. A trip or two to Omaha for the College World Series and they may very well push their way to the top of the coveted "Tulsa's Team" list.
They are living in the downside now. A winning program that doesn't excite the city. Blame college 'ping' baseball more than ORU. Also, continual regional appearances are nice, but mix in a Super Regional and CWS every few years and we'll re-enter you into the discussion.
The Tulsa Drillers are tenured. Former Drillers shine on the big stage year after year. These are huge feathers in their ball caps. Currently, they are "planning" to revive downtown with a multi-million dollar stadium. This fact alone could vault them far and away as the big winners in Tulsa. Time will tell. Thirsty Thursdays assist with high marks.
One weakness is the peter-out factor. Tell me if you've heard this script before. Drillers enter postseason play. Drillers knocked out in first round. The elongated season also takes a toll on fans during the smoldering summer months.
A history of winning is in the record books. Texas League championships in 1982, 1988, and 1998 bode well for their name brand. Last year's Colorado Rockies World Series appearance included a cluster of former Drillers. That didn't suck for Tulsa.
The best-case scenario is simple. Stay in Tulsa, win a Texas League title in the inaugural season and have T-Town lined up at the new-car-smell ticket gates.
We all know the worst-case scenario and it's not good. Let's just move to the next team before everyone reading the paper throws up a little.
Ice ice baby. The Oilers hip-check their way into the BOK Center this fall. An original startup date of 1928 is impressive. Fast-paced, hard-hitting action riles the crowds into a frenzy. A fracas between rivals rocks the house as well.
Of course we have to take 1993 into consideration. Not because dinosaurs attacked the big screen in "Jurassic Park." Actually, 1993 was the last championship the Oilers captured. They haven't exactly been on the cusp in recent years.
The Oilers will be the first team to call the BOK Center home and that is a big plus. This fall should speak volumes about the Oilers, the Center and Tulsa's finicky sports fans.
A Central Hockey League championship this year may very well slap shot them to the top spot. It would be a real boon to the organization and arena.
On the flip side, another mediocre season could be awkward. Imagine watching the BOK Center engulf the Oilers in front of paltry crowds.
Flying under the radar at times is the Tulsa Talons. The two-time af2 (Arena Football League 2) champions ignite the Convention Center. "Violence" was the response I received from a four-year season ticket holder. I asked why he loves the Talons.
The parent league, AFL, is getting recognition from the worldwide leader in sports. The af2 is not. The af2 may never reach a national audience.
Being the defending champion in sports is an illustrious tag. Plus, football is king. The off-the-field entertainment is second to none in T-Town. Catch a football, keep a football. Tons of intangibles with the Talons.
Can the Talons continue the dominating play for another year or two? Will they fill the BOK Center's lower bowl with rowdy, passionate fans? Imagine an af2 title tilt selling out the Center.
Now, imagine Henry Primeaux and Paul Ross selling the team to the owner of Starbucks. Howard Schultz, Starbucks owner, immediately sends secret emails to the af2 commissioner. They plan an elaborate, middle-of-the-night move to Seattle. We wake up one morning to the taillights of moving vans heading west.
Up and Down the Court
Our Tulsa 66ers provide the city with "professional" basketball. The breakneck pace of play is exhilarating to watch in person.
The problem is no one watches them in person. Poor attendance coupled with a substandard facility forced the organization south to Bixby.
The underrated facet with the 66ers is the possibility. The possibility you will watch a point guard lead the team all year. Then, the PG gets called up to the NBA and dishes out a franchise-record 24 assists. Do you know who I'm talking about? If not, you understand now why the 66ers are moving south.
The absolute best possible case for the 66ers is a move back to Tulsa. Add a few players with local ties and a burgeoning NBA star to the roster. They could crack the top five of this list.
The more likely scenario? A year in Bixby followed by a move to Okmulgee then on to McAlester ending up in Tyler, Texas. Meanwhile, they continue calling themselves the Tulsa 66ers.
Oral Roberts basketball is the Coke of Tulsa sports. You know what you're getting every year. Solid play, postseason action and smart, athletic players. But sometimes, you simply prefer a Mountain Dew.
Unfortunately, America has no clue what the Summit League is. Hell, most Tulsans think the Mid-Con is ORU's conference today. Sadly, ORU only gets media love one day a year, selection Sunday.
Consistent winning vaults them to the brink. One, just one NCAA tournament victory and we're looking at "Tulsa's Team" located at 81st and Lewis. Alas, a blowout loss to the Pitt Panthers stains the cranium.
Other than winning a game or two (now I'm getting greedy) in the postseason, there is not much the Golden Eagles can improve upon. Perhaps add another local stud, ala Caleb Green, to the roster.
If you like ORU basketball, you may want to skip the next couple of sentences.
If Scott Sutton bolts (a real possibility in the near future), this program will spiral out of control faster than Roger Clemens at a high school prom. Sutton is the proverbial glue. What coach in their right mind would accept the mess at ORU? Not the basketball program which appears in great shape. The other "stuff."
Todd Graham, Steve Kragthorpe, Paul Smith, Nick Bunting, Garrett Mills, Howard Twilley, Steve Largent, Jerry Ostroski, Gus Frerotte and Lovie Smith. In the case of TU pigskin, little else needs to be said.
Under the guidelines for becoming "Tulsa's Team," the football squad down at H.A. Chapman Stadium comes up short in two of the four categories. Fans expect to lose to OU. Never a good sign. And, not that I need to remind TU's AD Bubba Cunningham, but there are too many empty seats for a team of this caliber.
TU torched the record books the past few seasons, last year in particularly. The spread'um out, slice'um up offensive juggernaut offers a thrill a minute. A fiery coach Graham looks to keep the Golden Hurricane fighting for Conference USA supremacy.
Can Tulsa rally around a perennial winner? A sell out or two in the newly refurbished stadium would be well-deserved recognition for a squad putting Tulsa on the map.
The worst-case scenario? A new president comes in and scraps the program. Or worst yet, rehires Keith Burns.
Now let's hang out at 11th and Harvard. The electric atmosphere inside the Reynolds Center returned this past season. Just like old times, you could say.
Four requirements must be met in order to qualify as "Tulsa's Team." Do we finally have a winner? Could TU basketball officially be back?
First, the team must be a winner. Pundits outside of T-Town discredit capturing the College Basketball Invitational. We know better. The CBI tournament sent the team off the court as winners. Not many collegiate basketball programs can say the same. There is also the history. Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and outstanding coaches.
Second, does anyone care about the state of TU basketball? Judging by the surge in attendance late in the year, yes. Yes, Tulsa cares. The Memphis showdown in conference play also reminded everyone what an energized Reynolds Center crowd can provide to the home team.
Third, did the city back the team? Absolutely. Again, the crowds were phenomenal. Coach Wojcik was full of pride after winning the CBI.
"The second group, no question, is the energy in the building, the fans, the excitement, the enthusiasm. That is why you do what you do as a coach," he said.
"This is a special moment in my life, and hopefully a lot people's lives in this building tonight, because I'll never forget it."
A special thanks to OU and OSU for early exits from postseason play. The local media's undivided attention was directed towards Tulsa's run through the CBI. It was refreshing to see media row filled. Even nicer when those media members took notes and provided coverage.
Fourth, does a loss hurt? Luckily for TU's seniors, they didn't feel the sting of a season-ending defeat. However, I'm positive the city collectively sighed in relief after game three of the mini-playoff with Bradley. The investment in TU basketball paid off this time? Both literally, emotionally and fiscally (for the university).
The Golden Hurricane provided excitement for the city, championship caliber play and hope for a brilliant future. Budding stars Ben Uzoh and Jerome Jordan return next year for a Conference USA title run.
Their archnemesis, Memphis, lost their three top players to the NBA. Can Tulsa take advantage? Will this be the year?
Are there negatives or possible setbacks looming for the basketball team? Probably, but listing them would defeat the purpose of giving them the much deserved "Tulsa's Team" moniker.
A title I'm sure they'll wear proudly on their sleeves. You know...if basketball jerseys had sleeves.
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