Who said professional football was dead? Besides NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the National Football League Players Association?
Everyone (I think) knows all about the Tulsa Talons and the Arena Football League. If not, why are you reading a sports column?
Many Tulsans are less familiar with the Oklahoma Thunder. Our semi-pro football team pre-dates the OKC basketball Thunder. They are also more successful having won three championships in three seasons with an undefeated 40-0 record during the stretch.
"The Thunder came into the WFL (World Football League) like a tsunami," said Sam Harbin. "It was exciting to be a part of a new team, new league and watch them crush everyone these past three years."
Harbin is not the superstar quarterback. He is not a hulking linebacker roaming the field. He does not call the plays from the sidelines. Strength and conditioning is not his forte.
Harbin calls play-by-play for the Thunder online. He is the voice of the team.
"Now we are in the GDFL (Gridiron Developmental Football League) with the same drive and focus we had in the WFL," he said.
The semi-pro football concept is interesting. The players and coaches obviously have the game ingrained in their core. Just because their college career is over and the NFL did not come knocking, why stop playing the game they love?
But what makes an IT specialist by day turn to the mike at night? Oh by the way Harbin also dabbles in announcing for the Bishop Kelley Junior Comets, 7th-9th grade, JV and some varsity if needed.
"I've always loved football, watched Monday night and ESPN a lot, but while listening to a game on the radio I heard Chuck Cooperstein call a game," Harbin said. "He made it sound like you were there and I love that. I knew I could do it. I just had to find the opportunity. It's not as easy to get into as one would think. I've also found out not everyone can do it."
The Nathan Hale graduate hopes his experience leads to a fulltime gig in sports. He landed the Thunder job through a church acquaintance. The Bishop Kelley position was earned through simply talking about sports at work. Someone overheard his conversation about the Thunder and he was in the door.
Now the work begins. He has the chops. When you hear him call a game, there is no doubt his voice translates. There is no color commentator when he does the broadcasts. Everything you hear is all Harbin, all the time.
"The hardest part of the job would be the leg work. You have to get info on your opponent," Harbin said. "You have to have something to fill space during time outs, injuries and halftime. On television they have the stats and stories available so there isn't really any downtime, but semi-pro is so different because there isn't a huge following. You have to call or email coaches or others on their staff to get their rosters and their star players' stats."
He is no Marv Albert or Gus Johnson yet. Information Technology pays the bills. However, he would not trade his "hobby" in.
"I'm doing something I enjoy and like they say if you do what you like then it's not considered work," he said. "I get to go to different cities and stadiums. When the Thunder won their first World Bowl it was held in Shreveport, La., where the Liberty Bowl is played. I was able to tour the press box and see all the different offices and had my own room to call the game."
The old guard in Tulsa sports will one day pass the torch or die on the job. Maybe they will see fit to give Harbin a turn. He would be up to the challenge. Visit oklahomathunder.net for team information. Visit blogtalkradio.com and search for Oklahoma Thunder to hear the games live or after the fact.
If all else fails maybe Harbin can be the announcer for the Professional Bull Riders. Probably not but that is as smooth a transition as you will get today.
The PBR's nationally-televised Built Ford Tough Series will return to the BOK Center on Aug. 12-13. All 40 riders will ride on Friday and Saturday. Forget Angry Birds, what about Angry Bulls?
Homebred Okies include top 10-ranked riders L.J. Jenkins of Porum, Austin Meier of Kinta, and Ryan McConnel of Atoka.
"Tulsa is definitely one of the events that I want to win every year," Meier said. "The events in Oklahoma are special because it is nice to know that all your family and friends can be there rooting for you in person instead of watching on TV."
Tulsa will be the 21st stop on the nationally-televised series. The 29 stops included 23 states. The season began at Madison Square Garden, and culminates Oct. 26-30 in Las Vegas.
That's right, Tulsa splitting the Big Apple and Sin City. The Vegas-based Finals is where the 2011 PBR World Champion will be crowned and awarded the $1 million Built Ford Tough bonus.
Sounds like a rumble headed our way.
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