Enid fans cheer on Thunder
ENID, Jun 13, 2012 (Enid News & Eagle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Miami's Shane Battier received the pass, turned and let go of a three-point shot.
"Ugh," a Thunder fan eating at Wings To Go quietly muttered, shaking his head. The ball had yet to reach the basket, but the he knew Battier's shot was going in, the first points in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
However, a quiet groan soon turned into a restaurant of loud applause as Kevin Durant quickly responded, scoring the Thunder's first points.
Sudden momentum changes and the tug of emotions are not uncommon in basketball, especially for a championship event involving a home team in a state as passionate as Oklahoma.
As much as many Thunder fans would have loved to attended Game 1 in Oklahoma City, ticket prices from online sellers soared into four, even five figures. Nosebleed seats were going for $300 each, not the ideal price for a family night out.
Instead, local fans gathered in places such as Wings To Go, Buffalo Wild Wings and Callahan's Pub and Grille.
Despite having about 18,000 fewer people than at Chesapeake Arena, the atmosphere still was there. Plus, the food is cheaper, the seats are comfortable and, albeit on TV, James Harden's beard still is 20 feet away.
"It's nice to sit here," said J.R. Garcia as he watched the game from his front row seat at Wings To Go. "It's not too crowded. It's fun."
Local restaurants have gone all out to add to the game atmosphere.
Buffalo Wild Wings had custom-made shirts from the Thunder ordered before the season, and employees wear them during every game. Callahan's waitresses wore an assortment of blue OKC shirts. Wings To Go had all of its employees wearing Thunder shirts, but there was one who had to undergo a bit of a makeover.
"We had a Heat fan working who tried wearing a Heat jersey," Wings To Go owner Brian Hacker said, laughing. "We had him get a Harden shirt and put it on."
Each establishment offered a different appeal to its customers. Wings To Go consisted of a family friendly atmosphere, while Buffalo Wild Wings had more of a sports bar feel. The mood at Callahan's was relaxing, yet there still was a strong sense of passion from Thunder fans.
"It's nice to be in a chill atmosphere to be able to watch the game live, and be involved with it," said Candace Lumpkin, who watched the game at Callahan's with her friend Samantha. "It's nice to be able to experience it in your hometown and have an outlet to watch the game."
The Thunder have called Oklahoma home for only four years, yet there are strong bonds between the team and its fans.
"The Thunder have brought all the people out of the woodwork," said Brandon Reyes, who watched the game with his son at Wings To Go. "Usually on Saturdays during college football it's orange and red everywhere. The Thunder is a combined effort here."
___ (c)2012 the Enid News & Eagle (Enid, Okla.) Visit the Enid News & Eagle
(Enid, Okla.) at www.enidnews.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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