College graduation day is one of the most special days of a young person’s life. It’s a chance to reflect on the higher education experience and, amidst the pomp and circumstance, ponder what’s ahead.
As Coby Van Loan sat through the Oklahoma State University graduation ceremony at the COX Convention Center Saturday morning, she wasn’t thinking about her future. She was thinking about the Thunder in the Playoffs and a chance to help drape hundreds and hundreds of seats in Devon Energy Thunder blue t-shirts for Sunday’s Round 2 Game 1 vs. the Memphis Grizzlies.
As a member of the Thunder’s Event Crew, Coby has done the t-shirt mission before. But this time, her supervisor didn’t schedule her to help because it was graduation day.
“I was in the ceremony and I decided I really wanted to go. So I texted her in the middle of the ceremony instead of listening to the speaker. I just really wanted to be here, I didn’t want it miss it,” Coby said. So she shed the cap and gown in favor of a Thunder shirt and went to work with dozens of volunteers to create the sea of blue for Thunder fans, players, coaches and the national ABC television audience.
“I’m not from Oklahoma so I didn’t really understand how excited everyone was about the Thunder until I got here and got to see everything. The organization is so built around the community of it. It’s just a really cool event to come and do, especially with all the volunteers. Everyone is really excited.”
The message on the T-shirts that filled each of the 18,203 seats in Chesapeake Energy Arena for Game 1 of the 2013 Playoffs may have been a little bittersweet for one of the wonderful volunteers who was helping put them out before the game.
“Together” is a word that usually describes Suzie, pictured at right, and her friend Janet – but not on that day.
Suzie and Janet have been through nearly a lifetime together. They worked together at the Social Security Administration in OKC for 40 years. They go to church together at Forest Hill Christian, a church which has sent a loyal group of volunteers to help T-shirt the arena every year the Thunder has been in the postseason.
They went through the Murrah bombing together in 1995. And they were almost together in their fight against cancer.
Suzie is a recent cancer survivor, and the only reason Janet wasn’t there with her before Game 1 was that she had just started chemotherapy for her own cancer.
Even without her friend by her side, Suzie still describes the time spent volunteering to help prepare the arena as “fellowship time.” She and many of the church members who regularly join in the efforts see helping the Thunder as helping the community, giving back to a team that she says gives so much to our city.
Both Suzie and Janet are retired, and they want to spend their retirement time giving back and helping others. As she put it, “It gets you out of yourself.”
The group from Forest Hill is back today, laying out T-shirts and doing their part to help the Thunder and its fans prepare for Game 5. Just like our team on the court, they’ll rely on teamwork and togetherness to accomplish their goal. But unlike the players, this group will be done with their task for the day before tipoff.
The Internet is a wonderful place for people to share their unique talents. While I was looking for some uniquely talented Thunder fans recently, I stumbled across this video posted to YouTube by a girl who calls herself Alexey Drummer.
Alexey is a 10-year-old straight-A student from Las Vegas. She has been playing drums for three years and has already made quite a name for herself. Six months after she started playing, she entered the “Next Great Drummer” competition and won the beginner category; a year later, she won the intermediate category. She was also just named champion in the under-18 category for the “Hit Like a Girl 2013” contest.
We’re not the only ones who have been “Thunderstruck” by her talent. Alexey’s YouTube videos caught the attention of Eric Singer, the drummer for KISS, who is now her mentor. She has also impressed a few famous rockers like Tommy Lee, Neil Peart of Rush, Tommy Clufetos of Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper and Gene Simmons, the co-founder of KISS, whom she has met along the way.
Alexey wants to become one of the best female drummers in the world, and we think she’s on the right track.
You watch Grant Long offer his analysis on Thunder game broadcasts on FOX Sports Oklahoma, and you probably know that he played 15 seasons in the NBA. While in Houston, we ran into Grant’s college coach at Eastern Michigan University, Ben Bauer. We talked to Coach Bauer and learned more about Grant’s playing days at EMU.
The team is on the road, but Rumble always finds a good crowd he can entertain. This morning he joined the kids’ race at the OKC Memorial Marathon and helped the kiddos warm up – even stretching their vocal cords.
It’s a testament to the talents of our furry friend that he can lead a chant without being able to yell … Good luck to all the kids running this morning, and congrats to all the grown-ups who took part in this outstanding tradition!
Losing something we love can always be tough. Six-year old Addison Ransom and her four-year old sister Joslin spared no tears when their prized Homeland/Thunder flag flew off their mom’s car. Mom Ashley captured the reaction on tape and shared it with the world via YouTube.
The Thunder saw it and we dispatched Thunder Girl Alexis to Norman to make all right with these little girls’ world. Watch!
Oklahoma’s oldest radio station is no stranger to change. For over 90 years, WKY 930 AM filled OKC’s airwaves with programming that included Top 40, country music and talk radio shows. The station currently boasts one of the biggest regional signals in the Southwest among Spanish stations. Now known as La Indomable, they provide our Hispanic community with quality programming and play-by-play for Thunder home games as part of the 14-station Thunder Radio Network.
A few weeks ago WKY switched things up again by selecting a woman to call play-by-play on air, a rarity in radio for any sport. While our regular Spanish play-by-play announcer, Eleno Ornalas, is called away to announce Texas Rangers baseball games, Sandra Velazquez paved the way for future female sportscasters and called her first game when the Thunder took on the Knicks at home on Sunday, April 7.
Sandra, a columnist for ESPN Deportes, fell in love with the NBA as a kid and dreamed of one day watching a game in person. When she got older, she got a degree in journalism and immersed herself in all things NBA. Though she prefers to write about basketball, she worked for the Mavericks’ Spanish radio broadcast as an analyst for 10 years and provided commentary on the air.
Velaquez calls play-by-play for WKY
Sandra loves having the opportunity to share her passion for basketball and has announced three other Thunder games on the air since her debut, including Wednesday night’s Game 2 game against Houston. She hopes that her work on the radio will inspire more girls to pursue careers in sports reporting.
Talk about the Olate Dogs’ halftime show buzzed for days following Sunday’s Game 1, and it’s for good reason. Not only was it an incredibly entertaining act, but it touches on one of the most basic things we all seem to have in common: a love for furry little creatures doing human-like things.
While we can’t be certain whether dogs, cats or pigs (yes, pigs – see below) can be basketball fans, we do know for sure that many of our fans appear to enjoy bringing together their love of their Thunder with their love of their pets.
And we also know that we love the pictures they post when those two passions come together – like these:
When you’re watching close games – especially close playoff games – things can get a little intense. But we know we can count on our fans to stay in the game and keep rooting on their Thunder. Two examples we spotted as the minutes ticked down near the end of tonight’s game:
Thanks to all our fans whose hearts beat faster, whose voices yelled louder and whose cheers resonated throughout Chesapeake Energy Arena and around the world tonight!
The Thunder home crowd welcomed the Olate Dogs and their trainers, Richard and Nicholas, Sunday night during halftime of Game 1 of the 2013 NBA Playoffs. The energetic father-son duo and their eight pups are best known for winning “America’s Got Talent” in 2012, but their rise to the top didn’t happen overnight.
Richard Olate grew up very poor in Chile, the second youngest in a family of 22 children. In Chile, there are many dogs roaming the streets; at the age of 12, Richard got a dog and found that he might have a feel for training. He loved it so much that he put together a routine and booked his amateur act at schools and small circuses. After his older brother joined the act, the duo began touring with small circuses throughout South America. Shortly after they premiered in the U.S., Richard met his wife, Rebecca.
The family currently has 27 dogs, 18 of which traveled with them to Oklahoma City. Nicholas learned how to take care of them early on and began performing with his father at the age of 6. As he got older he was given more responsibilities and is now Richard’s right-hand man in everything dogs.
The Olate family, dogs included, is more than just inspiration to finally leash-train Fido. Through hard work and determination, they have taken their love of dogs and created an adorable routine that is entertaining, unique and includes tricks that would even make Lassie proud. We give them two paws up.