On Friday afternoon while you were watching your NCAA tournament bracket go up in flames, Grantland released a fascinating look into our local media’s strained relationship with the Oklahoma City Thunder and its players.
In particular, the article spends a lot of time focusing on the Tramel / Westbrook “feud” from January. You know, the one where Russ said out loud what thousands of Oklahomans have said to themselves while reading Berry Tramel columns over the years: “I don’t like you.”
In a way, Berry Tramel is the protagonist of the Grantland story. He, along with several other members of the local media, were interviewed by Grantland staff writer Bryan Curtis:
A few weeks ago, I met Tramel in a diner in downtown Oklahoma City. A tall, thin, gray-haired man, Tramel has covered sports in the city for 37 years. “I’m a lifer,” he said with happy resignation. He was looking at me over the rims of his glasses. Anyone who has shared a press box with Tramel can tell you this is his signature gesture.
That was the funny thing about Tramel’s conflict with Westbrook. He and Westbrook weren’t mad at each other. Never had been, really. They didn’t even know each other, despite sharing a locker room for seven years. “I could have been from Syracuse for the way he acted,” Tramel said. “[But] that’s not really Russ’s fault, I don’t think. I think the culture created that.” By “culture,” he meant the invisible handcheck that pushes reporters away from athletes. The disconnect that permeates monthly YouTube clips starring Westbrook or Marshawn Lynch or Phil Kessel. What created such a culture? Follow me, if you will, into the Thunder locker room …
When I read “culture,” I figured Berry was referring to the Thunder Ministry of Propaganda. That’s the name we coined a few years back for the powerful communications wing of the franchise. The Ministry’s goal is to control and influence the minds of the people (Thunder fans) through its own state controlled media (Fox Sports Oklahoma) and a constant barrage of corporate propaganda.
Just try watching a Thunder game on Fox Sports Oklahoma. You’ll never hear anything critical about the Thunder or see a highlight from an opposing team or player. It’s like they refuse to acknowledge that the other team exists or let the game take on its own narrative. For example, some dude from the Timberwolves could unleash a double 360, behind the head, SportCenter Top 10 dunk on, say, Andre Roberson and Fox Sports Oklahoma will not show a replay. They’ll just ignore what happened and talk about Roberson’s tough defense and effort.
The Ministry really shows its power inside the Peake. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m at an NBA game or inside a dystopian young adult fiction novel. You think that artificial “O-K-C” chant gets old on TV? Imagine having a Stormchaser in your section demanding you clap along when the Thunder are up 15 against the Bobcats in the 3rd. Just leave me alone and let me watch the game, and while you’re at it, buy a scoreboard that only shows player stats. Actually, disregard that request. The scoreboard would probably just show how many charges the players take in a game or keep a running tally of how much money they donate to charity.
Anyway, what were we talking about again? Oh yeah, the Grantland article. Thanks to it, we now get to see how the franchise treats, respects and interacts with the free press that’s supposed to provide the fans some fair and balanced coverage of the team.
Here are some notes..
I thought this moment between Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson and Darnell Mayberry was kind of funny:
So, in case you’ve been living under a rock, Russell Westbrook is not only the Thunder’s resident honey badger and precious guy, he’s now a spokesman for True Religion. (Also, for those of you like me who have never bought jeans outside of the jeggings section at Kohl’s, True Religion makes things like jeans and also shirts, but mostly jeans.)
If you haven’t watched the ad, go ahead and watch it up top. Seriously. Do it. It didn’t convince me to buy a pair of True Religion jeans, but I have a longstanding feud with the fashion industry where I refuse to wear anything but Levi’s and American Apparel hoodies. Not even Russell Westbrook can break that. But it did convince me that maybe there’s hope for all us butt-lusting ladies out there now that Derek Fisher is gone.
I present to you Exhibit A:
There are a lot of things you probably know about Oklahoma City Thunder GM and Executive Vice President Sam Presti. He was a Rhodes Scholar; enjoys planning, flexibility, and patience; popularized the phrase “Oklahoma Standard;” lucked into Kevin Durant; and will go down in history as the man who pulled the trigger on one of the worst, most one-sided NBA trades in NBA history. (See Harden, James.)
But there are some other things you may not know about Sam. From what I’ve heard, he’s a bit of a micromanager. Ever wonder why the Thunder routinely has one of the most boring pre-game videos in the NBA, featuring blocks, charges, and dives out-of-bounds in favor of exciting highlight reel dunks, alley oops and game winning shots? It’s because that’s what Presti wants. He wants everything to be about the team and defense, and not the individual accomplishments of the players we pay to see.
Presti is also a musician. It’s rarely brought up, but it is briefly noted in his Thunder bio:
An accomplished drummer, Presti has produced three music CDs with all proceeds benefiting the Extra Ordinary Needs Fund at Children’s Hospital in Boston.
An accomplished drummer? That’s kind of cool, because it means Presti and I share the same favorite muppet. Is there a cooler muppet than Animal? You know that when Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem go out on tour, Animal always got the best groupies. It also explains why the organization routinely features those boring Thunder drummers.
Anyway, I bring all this up because Jeff Wade, a sports radio host from Dallas, somehow got his hands on one of Sam Presti’s early CDs and tweeted a pic of it yesterday. The CD was released in 1999, one year before Presti began an internship with the San Antonio Spurs that would eventually lead to the every-man’s-dream-job that he has today.
Yesterday afternoon, the day after their sports department was widely criticized around the country for how they handled Berry Tramel’s edited, link-troubled column about Russell Westbrook’s “I don’t like you” dig, NewsOK.com plastered the following ad for their sports department all over the site. I’m sure it was just a coincidence, and had nothing to do with crisis management:
As a bad Seinfeld impersonator would say, who’s the ad genius that came up with that one?
I guess the message they’re trying to convey is The Oklahoman’s local sports coverage is the best because they have the biggest sports team in the state. As a guy who gets most of his Thunder news from DailyThunder.com, I would totally agree. As I tell my lovers, bigger is alway better. It’s why McDonald’s cooks the best hamburgers, Walmart sells the best groceries, and the Blue Whale is everyone’s favorite animal.
I also like how the OPUBCO copywriters brag about how the sports department delivers “more stories, more content and more insight” than anyone else. Yeah, isn’t that the truth. Who doesn’t read a Jenni Carlson column in the morning and scream “Wow. What amazing insight?!” before taking their pills and masturbating to anime porn. Seriously, insight in The Oklahoman? That would be like us saying we provide more courteous, thoughtful and respectful commentary than anyone.
Anyway, this gave me an idea. We should have one of those Photoshop contest things where we create our own fake ads for the The Oklahoman sports department.
Here are a few examples I rushed out
The “State’s Most Trusted News” is back at it.
In case you missed it, Russell Westbrook gave one of the best regular season performances of his NBA career on Friday night during a blowout win over the short-handed, but still formidable, Golden State Warriors at Chesapeake arena.
He celebrated the performance by doing what thousands of Oklahoma City residents have wanted to do at least once or twice over the years. He told Berry Tramel that he didn’t like him.
Like most people, I kind of had a rocky start with Westbrook. I couldn’t come to terms with his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde playing style. On one trip down the court, he could take your breath away like Alexandra Daddario in True Detective and slam an electrifying dunk over a stumbling, overmatched defender. On the next possession, he could take your breath away via a punch to the gut by heaving a 23-foot pull up jump shot with 20-seconds left on the shot clock, leaving you red-faced and furious like you just watched the True Detective finale.
Over the past couple of years, though, Westbrook has grown on me. In fact, I can now say he’s officially surpassed Kevin Durant as my favorite player on the team. After several sessions of intense therapy, I’m now able to take the good with the bad, and marvel at Westbrook’s full-throttle, Hell’s Bells playing style. That attitude and confidence carries over to his off-court personality, which I equally admire. It’s so refreshing to hear a player on the Thunder speak his mind and do what he wants to do, rather than give the same canned response like:
“It was a good win. The coaches put together a great gameplan and I just trusted my teammates. We played hard and together on defense and gave great effort. When you trust your teammates, they make you better, and that leads to important victories over a great team like the Warriors. Did you get that for my HBO series? Who’s ready for some Fro-yo!”
Sorry, I got sidetracked. Let’s get back to the whole point of this blog posting.
After going silent as Russ’s post-game shenanigans hit the heavy-rotation on Sports Center and went viral on YouTube, Berry “Boomer” Tramel finally responded with a column today on NewsOK.com. It was preachy, heavy-handed, self-righteous, ignored certain truths, and came across as a little bit folksy.
It’s was also removed from NewsOK.com only a few minutes after being published.
Wait? What? They pulled a Berry Tramel column. BULLFEATHERS! Did NewsOK.com think it was Richard Hall clickbait (more on that later) or Jenni Carlson. Nope, according to NewsOK.com, they were having problems with “the link.”
Update on Berry Tramel's column: The link wasn't working on all formats so we're doing some maintenance. Some were seeing Article Not Found
— NewsOK (@NewsOK) January 19, 2015
@royceyoung the link wasn't working on all formats so we're doing some maintenance.
— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) January 19, 2015
That’s a new one. Yes, despite every other article on the site working fine, they’re having some “link problems.” Let me just say that as a guy who has published thousands of blog posts and doesn’t have any IT guys or web developers on staff, that we’ve never had that issue. If you buy that excuse, I got a premium Oklahoman subscription I’d like to sell to you for only $50 a month.
Obviously, the very logical conspiracy theory here is that Clay Bennett had his minions with The Thunder Ministry of Propaganda contact OPUBCO management to pull the article for some quick “editing.” That would make sense. Of course, what do I know? I thought Woody Harrelson’s father-in-law was behind all the murders in True Detective. I’m not good at conspiracy theories.
Anyway, after a few hours, NewsOK.com got their “link issues” worked out and put Boomer Tramel’s article back on the site, and oddly enough, it lacked very interesting and key sentence from Berry’s article.
As it’s edited now, this is how the columns ends. Mind you, this is after about 1,000 word of exposition and whining by Tramel:
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