Folks around here think of Oklahoma City the way cab drivers think of Uber.
I was told that author Sherman Alexie might not be easy to get ahold of. I was told the National Book Award-winning Seattleite could be elusive.
Even so, I emailed his PR rep Friday morning to see if Alexie would be willing to share his thoughts on the Warriors-Thunder series, which has turned all of Seattle into Golden State fanatics.
“I passed your request onto Sherman and his assistant,” she said. “I think Sherman is on the road for his new kids’ book, so not sure he’ll be able to get back to you.”
That was at 11:03 a.m. I got a phone call at 11:07.
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“I would root for the New York Yankees against the Thunder!” said Alexie, a former Sonics die-hard. “I would root for the 1970s Raiders against the Thunder! If Donald Trump were running against the Thunder, I’d have to seriously consider who I’d be voting for. If the Thunder win the championship, I might have to stop watching professional basketball.”
As far as Seattle basketball fans go, this was a pretty tame response. Folks around here think of Oklahoma City the way cab drivers think of Uber.
And this month’s city council vote rejecting the Occidental street vacation only amplified the animosity. In the eyes of the Emerald City, the Thunder’s jerseys are bright red.
You saw it all over Twitter when OKC stole Game 1 on Monday. There was distress, disgust, and a gigaton of rage.
Even Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, who has been in town since 2011, was taken aback.
“Dang,” Baldwin tweeted, “I didn’t know the hate for OKC was that bad in Seattle.”
Oh, it’s that bad. Or in some cases, that sad.
Former UW basketball player Elise Woodward has experienced an emotional shift toward the Thunder over the years, although it’s not necessarily for the better. The Seattle-based sportscaster used to feel those same anger pangs whenever OKC would appear on TV, but fury is now the secondary sentiment.
“Every time I watch, there’s a tinge of sadness and it won’t go away. I thought it would, but it hasn’t,” Woodward said. “The anger is still there, but it’s mostly sadness. The sadness is with my kids. I loved the team and the bonding experience it created, but they hardly remember. It just sucks.”
So count Woodward among those celebrating every Klay Thompson triple or Steph Curry splash. Count her among the Puget Sounders who will be watching Sunday’s Game 3 from the upper deck of Golden State’s bandwagon.
The Warriors may be the most lovable team in American sports, which makes them easy to root for anyway. But even if it were the Lakers, Blazers or any other former nemesis, they would be the much lesser of two evils here.
Of course, this isn’t the first time the Thunder have been one round from reaching the NBA Finals. In fact, four years ago, former Sonics play-by-play announcer Kevin Calabro was in Oklahoma City when the Thunder beat the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.
Working for ESPN at the time, Calabro found himself surrounded by euphoria as the franchise formerly known as the Sonics celebrated a conference title four years after leaving Seattle. And he remembers how he felt: lucky.
“I was lucky, because when they brought everyone out to the floor, they were facing away from me, so I didn’t have to look into their faces during the ceremony,” said Calabro, adding that he tried to get a flight home that night but couldn’t. “Essentially, I was thinking that if there was any positivity to glean from this, it was ‘yeah, I don’t actually have to see the celebration.’ ”
For what it’s worth, Calabro has since reconciled any ill feelings he may have had toward the Thunder. He will be calling Sunday’s game for ESPN Radio alongside Hubie Brown, and would have no problem with an OKC victory.
“I’ve moved on,” Calabro said. “I don’t think dwelling in the past is going to make the situation better.”
That’s a healthy perspective, but you may want to check your phone, Kevin.
I’ve got a feeling Mr. Alexie will be calling any minute.