This Thunder fan is a huge supporter of Lazar Hayward (Getty Images)
It's a little too easy, in the wake of news like this, to point to "one bad apple" and declare overreaction. We're not law enforcement officials. We don't do this for a living. We weren't there and we don't know better.
Now that we've shown respect to the Oklahoma City officials that decided to cancel the outdoor playoff game viewings at "Thunder Alley" during OKC Thunder games, in the wake of the shooting that marred the team's Game 5 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, it does appear that the city might be overreacting. Thunder Alley will remain open pregame, so you get to slap on your facepaint and buy a Thunder-sanctioned something or other, but once the game tips off, according to Dan Mahoney, Thunder vice president of corporate communications and community relations, those without a ticket can then "go to their favorite viewing establishment to watch the game."
Not to the big outdoor screen, where a cast of thousands watched the Thunder play in the team's opening-round series against Dallas, and the group's triumph over the Lakers. Undeterred, Thunder fans at Welcome To Loud City are attempting to streamline fan efforts to swamp the OKC mayor and city council with requests that fans without a ticket be given the chance to continue to watch the game outside. Considering that sports fans are often as superstitious (if not considerably more) than the players who play the game, we can understand if there are some jittery OKC backers worried about what's going to happen when next Thursday's Game 3 (the first contest in the Western Conference finals to be played in Oklahoma City) tips off.
Monday's shooting was scary, and with a crowd that dense (the shooting took place just a half-hour after the Thunder dismissed Los Angeles), the fans are probably lucky only eight people were hurt in all the chaos. Oklahoma News columnist and local radio guy Berry Tremel also passed along info that the atmosphere was "scary and ugly" during the Game 5 viewing, though he didn't go into specifics, and it's not hard to understand that a 5,000-strong sports gathering (even if most are rooting for the same side) could get real dangerous, real quick. Especially if alcohol is being served or allowed into the viewing area.
Tremel suggests taking the whole thing indoors, which would be a logistical nightmare that could cost the city heaps of money (even if a small fee is charged); and the roofed-in scene might make fans more uneasy than the open-air setting.
Or, with a week to go before Game 3, the city could write the Game 5 shooting off as an aberration. You're not going to prevent a wacko with a gun from doing what apparently comes naturally to wackos with guns when somebody displeases them, so you're going to have to boast some faith in your community and continue apace while learning and improving from a scene gone really, really wrong.
Because to cancel what has been one of the cooler aspects of this year's postseason (to an outsider) seems incredibly rash, especially when you consider that nearly as many people will be milling about (with the ability to cause great harm) before the game begins, even without the viewing party. Tossing potentially violent people back into bars to watch the game doesn't seem like the answer, and the payoff — with a city that is madly in love with its Thunder — seems too wonderful to pass on taking a chance at.
You've got a week, Oklahoma City. Make your voice heard and get that big screen back up. We're Americans, dammit, and we've earned the right to watch our giant TV.
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