POSTED ON MARCH 17, 2010:
Shock it to me
WNBA makes moves to draw fans to season
In with the Old. Marion Jones, above, has run track and field in years past, but she hasnít played competitive hoops in more than a decade. Can she rub the rust off in time for the season tip-off at BOK Center?
You've got to hand it to Bill Cameron and David Box. Money, that is. I am convinced these two businessmen could scrape week-old State Fair popcorn off the Midway and sell it for $25, and you would feel like it was a great deal. They are persistent if nothing else and expert salesmen.
In case you forgot, Cameron and Box are the Oklahoma City businessmen responsible for converting the Detroit Shock into the Tulsa Shock. Yes, our very own little WNBA team.
These two could teach the full-court press to Rick Pitino sans adultery.
Their initial outlet pass was the hiring of Nolan Richardson back in September of '09. Richardson serves as the Tulsa franchise's general manager and head coach.
That sound you heard was blushing from old guard sports media members in T-Town. Their once-upon-a-time hero returned. Say what you will about Richardson, but his name and pedigree are unmatched in our city. Old school media members were giddy.
However, it was an obvious ratings ploy. Ratings you ask? It is akin to a fledgling sitcom trotting out a "guest star." Let's say Richardson is the equivalent of Betty White hosting SNL. Strong ratings move for one week but not a cure for overall unfunny.
Here is where Cameron Box (the duo's nickname) sold me.
I know what you are thinking. Big deal if they sold me. Here is the dirty truth. I'm 97 percent certain that I have my finger on the city's sports pulse. You cannot say the same for other sports writers in town. Answer this: Who eschews the fancy press box or press row to take in the games with the fans? This guy right here.
Anyway, "CB" (yes, I just shortened their nickname to a cute little acronym) succeeded when they brought Marion Jones into the T-Town family. Victory is theirs.
There are few athletes during my lifetime as polarizing as Jones. I find her story absolutely fascinating. If I were independently wealthy, I would sprint to the BOK Center and purchase seats behind the bench just to watch her every move.
She hasn't played competitive hoops in more than a decade. Can she rub the rust off? Will she garner playing time through her own merits or as another publicity stunt? If benched, how will a woman who once had the world bowing to her shoes react? The possibilities are endless.
Nothing beats a comeback story. The rollercoaster ride that is Marion Jones' life will take the next turn in our backyard.
Richardson claimed "we will Shock you" during a book signing at TU. I laughed. Now, I take back the giggles because they have indeed shocked me and the world. Eyes will be on T-Town come Saturday, May 15 for the first regular season WNBA game in Tulsa.
Also, is it really too late to bring Katie Smith to Tulsa? Imagine one of the best female point guards of all time tutoring Jones on the court. It seems unlikely that the best player with the Detroit Shock will join the team.
Here was Smith talking to ESPN.com in December: "I'm excited that Tulsa is a city that wants a team. I wish them great success, and I really hope it goes well and the people there love it. I have nothing at all against Tulsa. I just decided it's not the place I want to finish my career."
Sounds grim. Add in her ailing back and chances are slim. Then again, who would have thought "CB" could have pulled off the Jones coup. Never say never.
A few years ago, when the LPGA routinely stopped in Tulsa, the idea of the decade was hatched. Why illuminate undersized "exit" signs showing the way during an evacuation. A better idea would include a hologram of Annika or Tiger walking out the door. Nothing assembles a group of people together like a well-mannered golf gallery.
Here is another idea of the decade. I'm sharing this one with the BOK Center and any sporting event which books our venue.
If the home team fails to advance (or no home team is involved), falsely market a known commodity. This past Saturday saw Houston upset UTEP in the C-USA title game. A crowd of more than 8,000 was announced but maybe 5,000 were in the building. A lively crowd but nonetheless a smallish crowd.
However, the Quick Trip Center was elbow to elbow during the Home and Garden show.
People confuse easy. Cross promote and I bet many Home and Garden goers would have filled the BOK Center before they realized it was a basketball game.
Next year, we host a first-round NCAA Tournament pod. Someone needs to schedule an event in town opposite the games. A few "mistakes" in advertising and we can fill the BOK Center with would-be Tulsa International Auto Show attendees.
Brats and beers for the Pokes. Oklahoma State travels north to Milwaukee for a first-round showdown with Georgia Tech in the Big Boy Bracket. OSU earned a seven seed and plays Friday at 6:15pm. The winner is likely to face No. 2 seed Ohio State in the second round. The Buckeyes Evan Turner will be a top-two pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Good luck Pokes, if you advance.
The University of Tulsa slid into a NIT berth. TU takes on Kent State Wednesday, March 17 at 6pm. The Golden Flashes won the Mid-American Conference regular season championship. They are 13-2 at home. The two teams have never met on the court.
While the NIT is not what Jerome Jordan and Ben Uzoh envisioned at the start of the season, it is a fitting end to their tenure with the Golden Hurricane.
Coach Wojcik's teams have improved during his stay. They started as a non-postseason entity. Next, they played in the CBI tournament. Now, TU is a NIT team. Hopefully the postseason tournament exposure infects the returning Golden Hurricane team.
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