OKLAHOMA CITY —
The scene immediately after the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 106-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night was pandemonium. I’ve never been a part of an NBA Championship celebration, but I imagine it to be something like that.
There were somewhere between five and seven thousand fans watching the game outside the arena in Thunder Alley. Add to that the 18,000 flowing out of the arena, and you’ve got quite a scene.
Upon exiting on the north side of the building, I was immediately in the midst of a sea of blue shirts. Sporadic chants were breaking out all around, and there wasn’t a second when you couldn’t hear someone screaming “Thunder Up!”
While many fans were standing around and taking in the scene, and some of them were staying put in an attempt to reconnect with the rest of their group, the majority of the mass was moving east, away from the arena and toward Bricktown, where most of the parking was.
It was an exciting spectacle, but unstable at best. Obviously, many of those present had consumed more than their fair share of alcoholic beverages. Some handled that more gracefully than others.
What should have been a night of basketball, fun and celebration ended with police sirens, arrests and ambulances.
As most have probably heard by now, the night culminated with a shooting that resulted in the injury of eight people. As of the time I am writing this, none of those people died, fortunately.
But the potential for tragedy in a situation like that is high. There were many children present, and a bullet fired in whatever petty dispute that occurred after the game has no prejudice or judgment. It could have hit anyone.
It’s unfortunate that during such a milestone moment for the basketball team that has brought the entire state together, it has to be overshadowed by violence. That the news has to update the health conditions of victims, rather than spend time talking about the record crowds that came just to watch the game outside.
Oklahoma City is a growing city that is building a good thing with the Thunder and its loyal and enthusiastic fans. But, if incidents like Monday night continue to occur as Thunder games become bigger and bigger events, that good thing can be ruined.
There is only so much that law enforcement or Oklahoma City Thunder staff can do to prevent incidents like that. It is up to the citizens of the city and all those attending to be responsible, and to understand that reckless behavior can put a blemish on the experience that has the nation looking at Oklahoma City and seeing the best fans in the country.
Oklahoma City wouldn't be the first city to cause trouble celebrating a sports victory. Far worse things have happened in the name of celebrating success in sports, but OKC doesn't need to add its name to that shameful history of immaturity and senseless destruction and violence.
The nation is now watching Oklahoma City, and Monday night is not the impression we want to give to people who probably don’t know much about our city and state.