Oklahoma City more impressive than NBA game there

I had a rather non-traditional New Year’s Eve this time around. Midnight found me returning from a trip to Oklahoma City, where I took in my first National Basketball Association game.

By the time I left Oklahoma City that night, I had drawn a few conclusions about the trip as a whole.

The game itself didn’t impress me that much. The Hornets, who are playing in Oklahoma City this season after being forced out of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, played the Dallas Mavericks, the third best team in the NBA.

We watched the game from the cheap seats at Oklahoma City’s Ford Center: Section 307, Row K.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Ford Center, it’s five rows from the top, very near where the rafters meet the side of the building. We were so high that we couldn’t hear the ball bounce. If we were lucky, we could hear a referee’s whistle. Our seats were actually above the scoreboard, if that helps.

I would be lying if I said I enjoyed watching the game. Honestly, every high-school basketball game I’ve ever been to has been more exciting than the NBA game I watched.

I was especially annoyed by the pre-recorded “Defense” cheers and music that was played throughout the evening, even when the game was being played. I wasn’t expecting a pep band, but I wish the sell-out crowd of more than 19,000 would have been allowed to do a little cheering on its own.

Another major annoyance was all the promotions that took place. Every time a timeout was called, it was time for “one lucky fan” to shoot a half-court shot for a new car, or time for kids to try to make a layup for a free meal at Sonic. They even had a Dizzy Bat Race for a Hornet’s T-shirt.

As far as the “professional” basketball itself, it was disappointing. Both teams at least attempted to play defense in the first half, which resulted in a 44-44 tie.

The defense disappeared in the third quarter, but came back in time for Dallas to hold off the Hornets for a 95-90 win.

If those teams would have used as much effort as any given professional football team would have given, the score would have been more like 145-140.

As a whole, I was disappointed with the evening’s “entertainment” in the Ford Center. However, I was intrigued by how progressive Oklahoma City seems to be.

The Ford Center is a large, impressive facility. It almost has a welcoming feel to it. It’s situated between downtown Oklahoma City and Interstate 40, so parking isn’t convenient, but Oklahoma City’s Bricktown district-similar to Wichita’s Old Town area-is less than two blocks away.

I was amazed by how clean the entire area was.

As I was walking from our parking spot five blocks away, I started to think about what Wichita may be like if they ever get their downtown arena completed.

If Wichita could pull off a large arena, I have no doubt in my mind that the place would boom, especially if they could attract a big event like an opening round of the NCAA tournament, or maybe even an NAIA national championship event.

The thing I question about Wichita is whether they would be able to keep the area clean as well as Oklahoma City has.

I believe Oklahoma City should be looked upon as a model for other cities its size. Its location may not be attractive, but that hasn’t stopped them from being progressive. The city has managed to snag the NCAA Softball World Series, the middle rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament, and numerous big-name concerts on a regular basis.

It’s a city that is definitely worth visiting for a quick vacation.

So far, 2006 hasn’t been anything to complain about in my world. While I love the weather, I don’t like it because I have a feeling we’re going to get a blast of outrageously cold air when we’re least expecting it-like in the middle of baseball season or something.

I would encourage everybody to make the most of this new year.

See you in a month.

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