Shock sets new standard for pro sports in Tulsa on opening night.
TULSA, OK–You could tell there was something different in the air at the amazing BOK Center on last night.
Saturday night brought the debut of the WNBA in Tulsa, and the Tulsa Shock pulled off a very successful opening night last night, despite the 80-74 loss to the Minnesota Lynx. The execution of the game operatiuons had very few detectable glitches and miscues and it appeared as if the 7,806 in attendance enjoyed themselves enormously. This was a different game for Tulsa fans who were normally accustomed to minor league sports.
Fans got to see an awesome introductory video; indoor fireworks and yellow and red spotlights, a macot rappelling in from the rafters, hip hop dancers and the full utilization of the BOK Center’s state of the art scoreboard and other technology that has mostly sat dormant since the arena’s opening two years ago. The Shock management gave away nearly 8,000 t-shirts that had the sold-out arena awash in yellow. The grand lobby was festooned in red, black and yellow balloons and even the BOK Center’s ushers were in on the act , sporting "Hello, Yellow" buttons on their red blazers.
To put it mildly, the Shock went all out. A grand welcome to major league sports in America’s Most Beautiful City.
Still yet, this is not virgin territory for major league professional sports in Tulsa.
Tulsa has had two previous stints at the top of the pyramid of pro sports over the years. Some remember the Tulsa Roughnecks of the North American Soccer League. who lived in Skelly Stadium from 1978 to 1984 and won one championship in 1983. There was also the Oklahoma Outlaws of the USFL, who lasted only one season in Tulsa (1984) and featured the talents of Doug Williams, who went on to become a Super Bowl MVP with the Washington Redskins in 1987.
While we do have championship teams in hockey with the Tulsa Oilers (1993) and the Tulsa Drillers (1998), and more recently the Tulsa 66ers managed to make it to the NBA D-League finals this season, those teams are considered to be minor league. The Tulsa Talons made the switch to the major league arena football this season, but by and large the league they were most successful in was considered to be the "little brother" of the original arena league.
Make no mistake, the players in these leagues are indeed professional, as they are paid for what they do, but beyond the local fan gentry name recognition of individual players tends to stop at the border of Tulsa for all rights and purposes. The exception there being the Drillers, whose affiliations in major league baseball has produced such names as Sammy Sosa, Juan Gonzales, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez and Mark Texieria. Most recently, the Colorado Rockies pitching ace Jeff Frnacis has pulled a rehab stint with the Drillers last week.
With the Shock, the situation is going to change. For the better. It’s going to force the other professional sports in Tulsa to up their game. We will have national TV coverage on ESPN2 twice this season, next week when the WNBA defending champion Phoenix Mercury take on the Shock in the BOK and again when league MVP Candace Parker and the Los Angeles Sparks come into town in July. It’s a chance for both our arena and city to shine in the national spotlight.
Photos by: Kevin Pyle
The Shock are off and running. Coach Richardson commented last night about how the crowd helped get his team psyched to get the job done. "The fans provided a great atmosphere and the ladies wanted tom do so well." They fell short, of course, but one game does not a season make and you would be ill served indeed if you are a sports fan to miss the Shock in their inaugiral season. Get your tickets. Go to a game. They will, they will…SHOCK you.