What Are We Wrong About?

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love history.

I was a journalism major at OU, but I took so many history electives that when I met with my advisor before the start of my senior year, I asked her what I needed to do to get a minor in history.

“Hold on, let me look,” she said. After a minute of keyboard pounding, she looked up and said, “You’ve already met all the requirements. You just need to declare it.” I stood up, pointed my index finger into the sky and said, “I declare it!”

One of the things I enjoy about history is seeing the evolution of theology, products, architecture, etc. over time.

The past 150 years have brought about unprecedented growth in technology and medicine. Just think — in 1870 there was no such thing as a light bulb and “doctors” used leeches to let “poisonous” blood out of people who were sick with a wide array of ailments.

Even when humans get something right, we can go too far. The X-ray was invented in 1895, but within a decade or two it was being used on healthy people’s feet to determine their shoe size. Then those same people started getting cancer.

It’s easy to laugh at things like bloodletting and X-raying healthy feet, but we have to remember that those people were operating with the best knowledge they had at the time — just like we do today. In 100 or 200 years, what will people be laughing at us about?

The coronavirus situation this year is what got me thinking about this topic. For awhile, it seemed like the story changed every day. Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask, actually do wear a mask. We need ventilators, we’re out of ventilators, do ventilators really help?

Now that we’re several months into it, the story is only changing every week instead of every day. Still, it’s interesting to see people jumping on that day’s information like it’s the gospel truth — or ignoring it entirely if it doesn’t fit their political ideals — only to have a whole new set of data come out 24 hours later.

I don’t pretend to know the end result of this deal. I do believe we will come up with an effective vaccine and that this will be but a blip in the road of history. But I could be completely wrong.

In the year 2200, what will our descendants have to say about our generation?

People my age or thereabouts have lived through the beginnings of a technological revolution. I grew up with landlines, dial-up (read: slow-ass) internet, cassette tapes and a VCR. Things are only going to advance from here.

Here are my half-baked predictions.

  • Instead of complicated tax codes, credit card gouging and bank accounts, everyone will have one “bank account,” operating in a global currency like Bitcoin. Taxes, loans, deposits and purchases will all flow in and out of this account. You won’t use a card to access this but rather a chip planted under your skin. This will also contain your ID/passport so you won’t have to carry that around. Regardless, I think future generations will be appalled by how complicated our current system is.
  • I don’t have a good guess as to what it will look like but I’m already surprised we haven’t found a faster mode of daily transportation than cars. I picture a Jetsons-like situation with “highways” in the air, except the vehicles won’t look like traditional cars and different altitudes could exist for different speeds of travel and “exits.” Regardless, I think future generations will be appalled by how inefficient and harmful to the environment our cars were.
  • I think we will figure out a universal healthcare system that gives everyone a basic standard of care. There is enough money on the earth to take care of the essential needs of everyone without making rich people poor, and this will be a crowning achievement for the generation that installs it.
  • We will make a collective interpretation of when life begins and use it to draw a line on when women’s rights end and human rights begin. Everyone (except maybe a fringe element that doesn’t count) believes women have the right to control their own bodies. Everyone believes it’s not ok to take someone else’s life. We’ve been over-complicating this issue. At what point does human life begin? Whenever that is, another person doesn’t get to unilaterally decide to end that life. Seems logical to me that it begins with a heartbeat, since that’s how we define the end of life. But maybe people will decide it’s a different time. Regardless, I think future generations will look at this the way we look at slavery, wondering how society allowed this to exist and call it progress.
  • A sport that hasn’t been invented yet will surpass hockey and baseball in popularity. In 1920, boxing, baseball and horse racing were the most popular sports in America. Only one of those remain in the top three, and it’s hanging on by a thread. I’d bet on basketball remaining very popular, since it’s the easiest game for anyone to find a place to play. I wouldn’t be surprised if football’s health risks relegate it to niche status eventually, but now it’s so popular that it will take awhile to knock it off the pedestal. Baseball has been trending the wrong way for years and shows no signs of bouncing back to top-tier status. I don’t know what the new sport looks like or will be called, but if basketball and football can rise from nothing to the top in 180 years, so can another new sport. Heck, maybe it’ll be an old sport like lacrosse making a revival. It has good gambling/fantasy potential and it’s really fun and fast-paced to watch.
  • Religious beliefs of any kind will be mocked by mainstream society. I don’t really need to add any commentary here. This is the way things have been trending my whole life, so it isn’t exactly a bold prediction. But religion dates back as far as humanity itself, and while I don’t think it will ever disappear, it’s weird to see it being pushed to the margins like it has been.

What do you think the people of 2200 will think of us? What areas of society will be drastically different? Which of my predictions do you think are as foolish as bloodletting? Leave a comment so I can delete it and block you if I don’t like it. That’s the way we roll in 2020. (Just kidding I won’t do that. Would love to hear everyone’s thoughts!)

Lists

  1. Yes, I’m bored.
  2. Opinions my own. Your disagreements will be heard, then summarily dismissed.

High School Memories

  1. Making dumb videos with Chad and Kevin
  2. Junior prom
  3. Getting a 15-yard penalty for our football team from the press box
  4. Getting threatened by the band for making fun of them in the newspaper
  5. First kiss (Twas a bit sloppy)

College Memories

  1. Meeting Missy
  2. Dominoes, PlayStation football and the Seinfeld/Conan/Cheaters nightly trilogy at the apartment
  3. All the OU football games (especially the national championship)
  4. Banter and invaluable experience in the OU Daily newsroom
  5. Baseball road trips to Arlington, Houston and St. Louis (plus a graduation celebration trip to KC, STL, Milwaukee and Chicago)

Lawton Memories

  1. The camaraderie with the sports staff at the paper (as well as fun trips to Dallas, Miami, Phoenix, Houston and Kansas City to cover OU football games)
  2. Running pick and roll with Chuck at the Y
  3. Post-poker Whataburger or Junction with Spike
  4. Everyone (especially the youth group) at Carriage Hills Christian Church
  5. Meeting and working with so many great coaches and athletes at the local high school

Cool Sports People I Interviewed at The Lawton Constitution That You Wouldn’t Expect To Give An Interview to The Lawton Constitution

  1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  2. Sugar Ray Leonard
  3. Bryce Harper
  4. Pete Carroll
  5. Your favorite OU football Heisman winner

Vacations with Missy

  1. Costa Rica
  2. Paris
  3. Chicago
  4. Playa Mujeres
  5. Surprise Vegas birthday weekend
  6. India
  7. San Antonio/Houston spring break trip
  8. Miami
  9. Phoenix
  10. Thailand

My Idea of a Good Time

  1. Laughing with family and friends
  2. Pickup Basketball
  3. Playing bridge
  4. Beer at a baseball game
  5. Cigar on the back porch

Pickup Basketball Trash Talk Lines

  1. We need to switch the teams up?
  2. Want me to guard him? (Yes I will trash talk my teammates)
  3. Get a drink of water, Marcus
  4. 7-0 skunk?
  5. Good effort

Things Heard in My House

  1. Loud screaming
  2. Loud crying
  3. “That’s not fair”
  4. “I’m telling”
  5. “Can it wait a minute? I’m trying to poop in here”

Cereals

  1. Peanut Butter Crunch
  2. Cheerios
  3. Captain Crunch
  4. Banana Nut Crunch
  5. Bite size Frosted Mini Wheats

Fast Food Restaurants

  1. Whataburger
  2. Chipotle
  3. Raising Cane’s
  4. Schlotzky’s
  5. Little Caesar’s

OKC-based Restaurants

  1. Charleston’s
  2. Johnnie’s
  3. Swadley’s
  4. Tucker’s
  5. Ted’s

Non-alcoholic Beverages

  1. White Monster
  2. A&W Root Beer
  3. Pure Banana Snow Cone Juice
  4. Peach Tea Monster Rehab
  5. Coke

Alcoholic Beverages

  1. Bourbon/Rye Whiskey
  2. IPA
  3. Other craft beer
  4. Red wine
  5. Everything else sucks

Rock Bands (2000-present)

  1. Chevelle
  2. Breaking Benjamin
  3. 10 Years
  4. Staind
  5. Seether

Rock Bands (1990-1999)

  1. Nirvana
  2. Weezer
  3. Tool
  4. Pearl Jam
  5. Stone Temple Pilots

Obscure 1990s Rock Bands I used to get down to

  1. Starflyer 59
  2. Poor Old Lu
  3. Blenderhead
  4. Roadside Monument
  5. Joe Christmas

Rappers

  1. Eminem
  2. Lupe Fiasco
  3. Tupac
  4. Jay-Z
  5. Ice Cube

Non-rock, non-rap musical artists

  1. Radiohead
  2. John Mayer
  3. Coldplay
  4. Wilco
  5. Travis

Sitcoms

  1. Seinfeld
  2. Curb Your Enthusiasm
  3. How I Met Your Mother
  4. Parks and Rec
  5. Family Guy

Saturday Night Live Cast Members

  1. Will Ferrell
  2. Eddie Murphy
  3. Chris Farley
  4. Jimmy Fallon
  5. Andy Samberg

Dramas

  1. The Wire
  2. 24
  3. Boardwalk Empire
  4. The Practice
  5. Law and Order

(Side note: Season 1 of True Detective is the greatest season of drama ever but as a full series it doesn’t make the list.)

Non-Fiction TV Shows

  1. 30 For 30
  2. Impractical Jokers
  3. HBO Real Sports
  4. Shark Tank
  5. Pawn Stars

Baseball Movies

  1. Field of Dreams
  2. A League of Their Own
  3. The Sandlot
  4. Major League
  5. 42

Non-baseball movies

  1. Rounders
  2. Anchorman
  3. The Departed
  4. Rain Man
  5. The Big Lebowski

Philadelphia Eagles (1985-present)

  1. Randall Cunningham
  2. Brian Dawkins
  3. Reggie White
  4. Brian Westbrook
  5. Jeremiah Trotter

Chicago Cubs (1985-present)

  1. Ryne Sandberg
  2. Greg Maddux
  3. Anthony Rizzo
  4. Sammy Sosa
  5. Ben Zobrist

Baseball Stadiums I’ve Been To

  1. Wrigley Field
  2. Fenway Park
  3. Kauffman Stadium (KC)
  4. PNC Park (Pittsburgh)
  5. Target Field (Minnesota)

Baseball Hats I Own

Sporting Events I’ve Covered

  1. 2000 Orange Bowl
  2. OU vs Nebraska 2000 (#1 vs #2)
  3. OKC-Golden State 2016 NBA Western Conference Finals Game 6 (that one hurt)
  4. 2007 Fiesta Bowl (OU vs Boise State)
  5. 2002 NCAA Final Four

NBA players

  1. Lebron James
  2. Michael Jordan
  3. Don’t @ me

My Prof Dropped the N Bomb

I was playing poker Tuesday afternoon when I glanced at my phone and saw a story from OU’s student newspaper, the OU Daily, that made my jaw drop.

One of the journalism professors — one of my journalism professors — said the n-word in class. He was attempting to make a crappy analogy, not actually calling someone that name. But it’s 2020 and you’re in the most woke place in the entire state. Seems pretty crazy.

The professor’s name is Peter Gade, and this is the story I read Tuesday afternoon. There are a lot more details there for anyone interested.

Unsurprisingly, the story gained legs pretty quickly. It made the front page of Wednesday’s Oklahoman. The OU Daily has done several follow-up pieces. The National Association of Black Journalists chimed in. The Student Government Association chimed in. OU’s Black Emergency Response Team chimed in. The interim President of the whole university chimed in. Gade himself chimed in, apologizing.

(Please click on all these links and read the work OU’s current journalists are doing. It’s free and will probably show how much better the students are now than the one who used to write for them 20 years ago.)

I took Gade’s class as a sophomore. It was one of the “weed out” journalism courses that left many changing their majors. It ended up changing my life.

Well, the class itself didn’t change my life, but in that class I became friends with Keith Dinwiddie. We wound up rooming together for our last two years at OU. It changed his life more than it changed mine, as his future wife ended up moving into the apartment below ours and they now live in her homeland of France. He visited Oklahoma a month ago and I got to see him a couple of times. I still consider him one of my best friends.

Funny thing is, Keith and I had several debates about Gade. Keith loved him. I loved him too — when he actually talked about journalism. He clearly had a great grasp on the big picture of journalism, and that manifested in him getting a couple of books published on the subject. He always encouraged a back-and-forth style of lecture, allowing students to jump in with questions or comments that kept the discussion flowing.

What I hated about Gade is that for some 20 minute portion of every lecture he would go on a political tangent. And that back-and-forth style would backfire when it came to these tangents, since there were a couple of poor saps who would counter Gade’s far-left opinions with their far-right opinions. He’d always take the bait and spend the next several minutes shooting down those dissenting views. It would frustrate me to no end because I didn’t care what Gade or anyone else in the class thought about politics, but I couldn’t just walk out because when the political tangent was over we’d be back discussing things that might be on the final exam. Keith didn’t mind those sidebars like I did. Ironically it sounds like one of those off-topic rants is what got him in trouble.

I can’t claim to know Gade personally, but I will say that he never said anything remotely racist while I was in his class. He was pretentious, but that certainly isn’t a unique quality among college professors.

On one hand, I feel a little bad for him because I don’t believe he is a bad person. We all make mistakes, especially when it comes to saying things we regret. On the other hand, it’s 20 freaking 20. That’s literally the one word you can’t say. He could throw the F word out there right and left. He could probably drop a C bomb if it wasn’t directed toward a student. But you can’t say the N word.

He should lose his job over it. At OU he would forever be known as the guy who said the N word. It would undermine all of his legitimate work. And it would be a pretty bad look for the school after the SAE scandal to punish students but let a privileged professor off the hook.

How times have changed. When I was a student, the President of OU and some of his top aides were touching dudes inappropriately. Everyone knew it and talked about it, but it didn’t cost him a damn thing for another 15 years. Now a random professor can’t get away with a single stray word without a press release from 40 different organizations and a town hall meeting.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing, it’s just the way it is. I would say I’m not the biggest fan of the “gotcha” culture that unites in piling onto people who make egregious mistakes because it makes them feel morally superior. Gade knows he screwed up. Even if it costs him his current job, it doesn’t mean he’s unqualified to speak about journalism ever again. Heck, he’s probably learned quite a bit about the power of modern journalism through this incident.

When I was working for the OU Daily and taking Gade’s class, my stories didn’t reach anyone until the next morning. This incident happened at around 10:15 a.m. I was sitting at a poker table in Goldsby and read about it just a couple of hours after it happened. Then I got to read several of the updates throughout the day. The next morning I read The Oklahoman’s version on the front page. It was interesting to think about the difference. Used to be, that Oklahoman wrap-up version was all you had.

Several of my former Daily peers are now in leadership positions in Student Media at OU. The students who work for the OU Daily are learning by doing, just like we did. And they’re doing journalism in real time, just like it’s done in the real world now.

I had trouble with the dial-up internet connection in Miami trying to file a story about the dadgum national championship football game.

The times, they are a-changin.

Also, don’t say the N word.

Update: Gade is stepping down from teaching the class for the rest of the semester.

http://www.oudaily.com/news/ou-professor-peter-gade-to-step-back-from-journalism-capstone/article_569ea45e-4f5e-11ea-a95f-1708f5d10449.html

Charity

In the month of December, our household gets eight pieces of mail per day. Four are Christmas presents Missy ordered on Amazon, and four are letters from nonprofits soliciting donations.

Some of these places we’ve never even donated to. But it’s the end of the year, which means not only Christmas but also end-of-year tax deduction season.

Seems like an appropriate time to share our family’s thoughts and actions on charitable giving.

I grew up in a family that always stressed giving back to God. Every Sunday, I watched my parents put a check into the offering plate. A mailman and a schoolteacher with three kids, we were the definition of a middle class family in the 1980s and 1990s. We had everything we could ever need but not much more, so I understood the sacrifice my parents made by giving up 10% of their income every week. They didn’t view it as a sacrifice, however. They just saw it as being obedient to God.

So when I got my first jobs as a 16-year-old, writing for the local newspaper and bagging groceries at the old Buchanan’s, I immediately got in the habit of tithing that 10% from every paycheck.

I’m proud to say that I’ve maintained that habit for the past 25 years, although my reasons for doing so and the places that the money goes to have changed quite a bit over that time.

For years, I just gave the 10% to my local church, be it in Oklahoma City or Lawton once I moved there. It’s a habit that the church writ large does a relentless job in helping form.

I don’t want to make this post into a theological debate, and I don’t want to dump onto an institution that on the whole has done great things and helped countless people both in a spiritual and physical sense.

To put it simply, many churches (including the one we currently attend) believe that the Bible instructs its followers to give 10% to their local church. I used to share this but no longer do. You have to jump through some Biblical hoops to come to this belief, and I’d be happy to discuss it with anyone who wants to but don’t want to get into it here.

In a recent sermon at Draper Park Christian Church, my friend Clay Atchley did a great job of showing how Jesus and his disciples embodied the spirit of giving in a more extreme but less formulaic manner. The early church essentially gave everything to everyone. Instead of setting aside 10% of your pre-tax carpenter’s paycheck, you literally opened your home up to anyone who needed a place to stay or a meal to eat, even if it left you with nothing.

I also believe in helping others from a social/political standpoint. I want less government in my life. Less taxes. But we as a society have to take care of the less fortunate people who can’t take care of themselves. That means everyone who can needs to chip in so we can keep the government out of it. And yeah, we take the tax deductions when we donate.

Over time, I have been moved to give less and less money to the actual church and more and more to a variety of people and organizations. I should point out that thankfully Missy and I are in lockstep on this so it hasn’t been a source of friction.

Despite my changing views, the amount we give is essentially the same. But where I used to view 10% as a Biblical amount needed to be obedient to God, I now just view it as a good number that allows us to make a difference.

Because of poker, our monthly income fluctuates quite a bit. At the end of the month, we sit down and decide what to do with that 10%. Usually one or both of us has something on our heart so that’s what we’ll do.

About once per year, that 10% does go back to our church. I believe our church does a lot of great things for people.

Sometimes, our support goes to charities that we’ve personally volunteered with. The Regional Food Bank, Special Olympics, City Rescue Mission, Cookson Hills and Habitat For Humanity all fall under that, and I know I’m leaving some great ones out. Some of those have a religious element to them and others don’t, but Missy and I believe in what all of them are doing and love being able to help a little.

Many times, our 10% doesn’t involve an official organization. If some of our family or friends is in a time of need, we will help. It’s this kind of thing that I believe embodies what Jesus and his disciples were trying to communicate.

I don’t write any of this to make us seem like great people. Missy is great. I hate myself a pretty high percentage of the time — doing our monthly donations is one of the times I don’t.

I’d also love to learn about new places or causes to donate to. What moves your heart to action? Put them in the comments so we can learn more.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Tax Deduction Season to you all.

Side Dishes

This week I’m bouncing from topic to topic like they’re side dishes at Thanksgiving. My transition game is going to be on fleek. (Gotta be honest, never understood that phrase).

Since my title is “Side Dishes,” I may as well start with Thanksgiving. I ate a lot of food, but the hardest thing to digest was the new Martin Scorcese movie, The Irishman. Missy and I watched an hour per night for three straight nights. I enjoyed the movie, especially Joe Pesci and Al Pacino, but three and a half hours is way too long. I would never sit in a theater for a movie that long.

My opinion on the movie echoes most of what I’ve seen online and heard on podcasts. The CGI stuff trying to make Robert DeNiro look like he’s 30 was a stretch, and they needed to trim at least 45 minutes off of it.

The main reason I mention The Irishman is that it once again proves how different my movie taste is from Missy’s. She likes about 90% of movies that she sees while I like about 10%. Yet somehow my 10% is the 10% she doesn’t like.

The most glaring example of this is another Scorcese film, The Departed. Missy and I saw it in the theater when it came out, and when it was over the first thing I said was, “That’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.” She said, “That’s one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.”

The main reason our tastes differ is that Missy prefers her movies have a happy ending, like 90% of movies do. Personally I find those movies boring and predictable, which is part of why I loved The Departed. I think Missy was actually enjoying the movie up until the elevator scene at the end, which was my favorite part.

Speaking of elevators, I feel compelled to point out some incredibly stupid yet all-too-common human behavior involving elevators. I stayed one night in a hotel this week and watched this same event take place on two separate occasions.

I was on the seventh floor. The first time I went down from my room to the lobby, the elevator stopped on the third floor. A guy walks in, holds his finger out like E.T. and spends a few seconds hovering over the “lobby” button before realizing it’s already been hit.

An alien on a diet of Reese’s Pieces and Coors is smart enough to know that if there are other people in an elevator that’s going down, it’s going to the lobby.

By me. Obviously.

I mean, where the hell do you think I’m going? Just gonna go cruise the second floor and see what’s going on…

In some fancy places, I suppose there could be a gym or a restaurant on a different floor. This wasn’t one of those places so there’s no excuse. Even still, the default response to stepping on an occupied elevator going down is to assume that the lobby button has been pressed. Just stay cool, glance to confirm, and look at your phone to avoid human interaction like a normal person. I’m not saying you can’t look at the buttons, but 999 times out of a thousand when other non-employee humans are on the elevator it’s going to the lobby.

I thought E.T. guy was baffling until I encountered the lady from my second elevator voyage. I was checking out and had my bag with me, She was already on the elevator when I got in and she asked me where I was headed. I said, “Oklahoma City.” She said, “Oh. But what floor are you getting off on?” I said, “The lobby.” She said, “Oh, ok! Me too!” I wanted to ask her in which direction the sun came up this morning but figured she had a 75% chance of failing that test. I hate to be mean to a nice person like her but I don’t mind being mean to someone that stupid.

Speaking of elevators, the Oklahoma Sooners are on one that’s headed for the College Football playoff. (A bit of a stretch there but I’m committed to this transition bit.) A few weeks back I wrote about how flawed this year’s team is. I thought they’d lose another game before the postseason, be it against Oklahoma State or in the Big 12 title game against Baylor. Those flaws were on display again today as back-to-back turnovers let Baylor back into it, and back-to-back defensive breakdowns in the fourth quarter darn near lost the game.

But you have to give credit to these Sooners. Other than those two lapses, the defense was amazing today. Has been since that bad first half against Baylor a few weeks ago. And OU overcame those turnovers on offense as well as injuries to a few key players like starting running back Kennedy Brooks.

Before I keep talking about OU, I have to give props to Baylor. What an amazing job Matt Ruhle has done in just three years there. From 1-11 to 11-1. The Bears were clearly the best team OU played this season despite talent that doesn’t seem to be anything above average by Big 12 standards.

Unfortunately, the three teams that will be joining OU in the playoff have quite a bit more talent than Baylor. And a fair amount more than the Sooners themselves.

If you’re halfway realistic, you have to know this. OU will be a double-digit underdog in the semifinal. If it happens to win that game, it will be a double-digit underdog in the championship game. Doesn’t matter how these teams are seeded. So it’s stupid to even start down the “OU always chokes in the playoffs” road. It’s like saying Kansas always chokes against OU. No, Kansas loses to OU because its team isn’t nearly as good, and OU loses playoff games because it plays against better teams.

Having said that, OU should have beaten Georgia in the semifinal two years back. Georgia was the higher-seeded team but OU had them on the ropes and failed to deliver the knockout blow. Still, if those teams played 10 times Georgia probably wins 6 of them. It certainly wasn’t a terrible loss, it was just frustrating because OU had a legitimate chance to win a national title with that squad and didn’t do it. Last year’s game isn’t even worth discussing. OU’s defense was terrible and Alabama blew them off the field. At least the Sooners played hard till the end and made the final score look respectable.

OU’s path to improbable playoff success hinges on two things, one of which seems achievable. The Sooners need to control the clock and shorten the game. That’s what you do when you have less talent than your opponent. Under Lincoln Riley, the Sooners have been good at sealing victories in the second half by running the ball and draining the clock. This time they’ll need to do it the whole game to take away a couple of possessions. This will be even more important in what’s called the “middle eight.” That’s the last four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half. Riley needs to manipulate the clock to have the last possession of the first half, ideally culminating in a score. Then you either get the second half kickoff, drain more clock and score again or get a defensive stop and repeat the process. Clearly, it’s easier said than done. But it’s an important part of pulling off an upset. Throws off the favorite’s timing by making their offense sit on the bench for the better part of an hour and gets them a little anxious. Baylor actually did half of it today, scoring at the end of the half to take a 13-10 lead and getting the second half kickoff. But this was before Ruhle subbed out the crappy backup QB for the amazing third-string QB so Baylor had to punt.

The other thing OU will have to do is win the turnover margin. This seems like more of a longshot. The Sooners have gotten away with turnovers by having way more talent than anyone on the schedule, but those days are over. Jalen Hurts will have to value the football. And a defense that has been very solid will have to do even better by forcing a turnover or two. It’s no fluke that OU’s turnover margin sucks. Just look at how many times Hurts doesn’t know he’s about to be hit or throws it right to a defender. Then look at how many times those things happen when OU’s defense is on the field.

No matter how much Alex Grinch preaches turnovers, they haven’t exactly flowed freely. And I’m not really knocking Hurts, he’s been excellent overall. It’s just that anyone who won’t win a Heisman seems like a disappointment after the past several years. Nevertheless, the turnover thing has to change if OU wants to snap its playoff losing streak.

Will the media be singing Sooner praises when this season is over? Only time will tell, but today my daughter sang baby Jesus praises as part of the Canterbury Youth Voices choir.

Hold on, I have to clear room on my mantle for the Pulitzer after that transition.

Addie had her Christmas choir performance today and she was amazing. This led to a full day, and a full belly for yours truly. You see, Addie had two performances today. I took my car and brought Addie early when she had to be there to warm up. Then Missy, my mom and the kids met me up there for the first concert. We were all very hungry so afterwards we went to Tucker’s. I ate a lot. Then Missy, mom and the kids went home while I waited for Addie’s second performance to end.

Addie is in the middle, on the second row from the top.

Naturally, Addie was then hungry. And I wanted to reward her for doing great. She wanted her favorite restaurant, Olive Garden. I was not hungry at all but what are you going to do when those breadsticks show up? The waiter also gave me a bowl of soup even though I didn’t order an entree. So I ate that too. Then he brought a free dessert because we were there celebrating. Also, I’m sure he wanted a bigger tip, which he received. So naturally I had to sample the dessert to make sure it wasn’t poisonous. I feel like I’m going to burst.

Kind of like I’m bursting with pride at these Hall of Fame transitions…

Hawk took a pic at Addie’s concert. Seems like an appropriate ending to an amazing blog filled with great transitions.

Lower Your Expectations, Raise Your Happiness

Life can easily be viewed through the lenses of investment and expectation.

Usually, those are correlating figures. The more we invest, the more we expect. If I pay $200 for a 1982 Honda off Craigslist, I won’t be surprised or terribly disappointed when it doesn’t start in two weeks.

If I get a babysitter and take Missy to a nice dinner, I’m disappointed when the restaurant fumbles the reservation and we have to wait an hour for our table while some douchey OSU fans ham it up on the table that’s supposed to be ours. Not that that’s ever happened to us.

If I had gone to an inferior restaurant that didn’t take reservations, I wouldn’t have been surprised to have to wait an hour for a table on a Saturday night. I probably would have gladly bought a beer and waited at the bar. Instead, the house gave me free beer and I was still unhappy because my expectations were not met.

In poker, when you miss a draw and end up with bubkes, you might be a little disappointed. But losing a pot of the exact same size when you have a full house and your opponent makes four of a kind stings worse because you expected to win the pot.

The same applies to our sports fandom, and after this weekend’s games it seemed like a good time to look further into this truism.

On Friday, the Thunder beat Philadelphia in overtime to improve to 5-7 on the season (this is being written before the Monday/Tuesday games vs the Clippers and Lakers). Had this exact game been played last season, OKC fans would have been something between relieved and annoyed. In fact, last season the team started 0-4 and you’d have thought the Devon Tower was collapsing, the way people talked around here.

This year, different story. Russell Westbrook and Paul George are gone, and with them went the expectations that this team could make a playoff run. Now we can just enjoy Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and look for the pieces that might surround him when OKC returns to national relevance.

The win against Philly was cool and unexpected because the Sixers are legit title contenders and OKC simply outplayed them.

This current version of the Thunder is a little weird. Three of their top players — SGA, Chris Paul and Dennis Schroeder, all have similar builds and similar games. The team’s top shooter, Danilo Gallinari, will surely be traded to a contender sometime before February.

This team isn’t going to win a ton of games, especially in a loaded Western Conference. But it’s proven it can beat a top-level team when it plays its A game. That and the youthful energy that’s been lacking in OKC over the last several years make it a team worth watching, even if you have to turn off the TV in the third quarter of a blowout loss once every few games.

The last two Thunder seasons have been frustrating as all getout. Games that should have been won were lost. Playoff runs that should have been long ended in the first round, and those series weren’t all that competitive. If this year’s team gets knocked out in five or six games in the first round, we’ll be thrilled. It’s all about expectations.

One more Thunder/expectation note: Chris Paul has been a little disappointing. Not that he isn’t a solid player, but I expected more out of him than he’s produced so far. I enjoy watching the savvy veteran moves he produces and he rarely makes mistakes, but he can also go fairly significant stretches without making any impact on the game whatsoever. If he were, say, D.J. Augustin making the veteran minimum salary, I’d be thrilled. But for $40 million a year I expect a little more. Just sayin’.

Was hoping for more of this from CP3.

This season of OU football has been all about managing expectations. I bought into the Alex Grinch hype, at least a little bit. Things had to get somewhat better on defense, right? And sure, the offense is going to take a small step back without a Heisman winner running it, but with Jalen Hurts you figured you’d get a steady hand who wouldn’t lose the game for you. I thought the Sooners had a pretty good chance to be a playoff team.

For a couple of months, they stayed on that path. The competition was weak, but that wasn’t their fault and they blew the doors off of everyone. Hurts looked great.

Then came Texas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor. Yes, OU ended up winning three of those games. But the Sooners have pretty convincingly shown that they aren’t a playoff-caliber team.

And that’s fine. We just need to lower our expectations.

The Big 12 is a solid league this year, but there aren’t any great teams in it. West Virginia and Kansas are clearly at the bottom of the heap, but everyone else is capable of beating everyone else. A playoff-level team like OU’s last two iterations wouldn’t be playing four coin-flip games in a row against decent but not great competition.

I’m not making any long-term judgments on Grinch at this point, but it’s clear that he can’t do anything significantly better than Mike Stoops with the exact same guys on the field. Hopefully he can when he gets better talent on the roster, but the talent isn’t changing this season.

It’s also clear that Hurts doesn’t protect the ball the same way that Mayfield and Murray did. OU also clearly misses having Hollywood Brown and a loaded offensive line. It’s still an excellent unit that can score any time, but it’s not on the unstoppable level of the last few years.

If you put this OU squad in roughly the same basket as the top six teams in the conference, it’s been a great season. Nothing wrong with 9-1 and almost assuredly being the favorite in yet another Big 12 title game come December.

The Baylor game this weekend was a good example of both ends of the expectation meter. You went in hoping the Sooners could revert to their September form and show the world they were in fact national championship contenders. Those crappy halves against K-State and Iowa State were just flukes.

Any ideas like that vanished somewhere between when Hurts just laid the ball on the ground and when Baylor’s mediocre offense waltzed into the end zone for the fourth time in a quarter and a half.

When it looks like your team is going to lose 52-21, you just hope they fight back and make it respectable. When everything breaks right and you pull off the greatest comeback in school history, that’s pretty cool.

Entering the game, most OU fans would not have been thrilled if you told them the final score would be 34-31. The way it played out, everyone was happy.

Yes, I understand that technically OU is still alive for the playoff. I wouldn’t be shocked if everything breaks right and the Sooners get in. We’ve seen it several times in the recent past. But this team probably has at least one more loss left in it, and if it gets to the playoff it’s not going to be a pretty sight. Personally, I hope the Sooners run the table, continue their dominance of the Big 12 and then face Alabama in a non-playoff New Year’s Day bowl. That’s a game they can win, and it would be cool to see the Hurts v. Bama thing.

A college football expectation segment wouldn’t be complete without a shoutout to the Texas Longhorns. Enter every season with a top-five recruiting class and a top 10 national ranking, which gets your fans talking all kind of silly mess. Then go 7-5 and roll the dice in the Independence Bowl. But those recruiting classes…

Suck it, Texas.

My other two teams are on opposite ends of the expectation spectrum. The Cubs had a meteoric rise that took them from terrible (2014) to the NLCS (2015) to World Series champions (2016) in a three year span. With loads of young talent, everyone assumed it was a dynasty in the making. Under those circumstances, the next three years were very disappointing. Take the expectations out of it, and reaching the NLCS (2017), having the best regular-season record in the National League before losing in the first round of the playoffs (2018), and narrowly missing the playoffs while still finishing with a winning record (2019) would be a pretty solid three-year run.

On the flip side, my Philadelphia Eagles went into 2017 expected to be an average team. Picked to be in the 8-8 neighborhood by just about everyone. Somehow, everything clicked and the Eagles jumped out to a great start. Then Carson Wentz, who was a lock to win the MVP award, tore his ACL and Philly had to turn to journeyman Nick Foles. Again, expectations were set back to zero. I didn’t think they would win any of their playoff games, but everything broke right. They took down the New England dynasty and won their first Super Bowl. It was pretty freaking cool.

Last year’s Eagles lucked into the playoffs and somehow won a playoff game when a Bears field goal bounced off the upright and the crossbar before landing in the end zone. That wasn’t a Super Bowl, but it was pretty freaking cool.

This year’s team is 5-5. I expect them to lose every game the rest of the season. Wink wink.

Disharmony and Displeasure

I’m sure many of you saw the feel-good story about George W. Bush and Ellen Degeneres attending the Cowboys-Packers game this weekend.

If not, here’s a link to it.

Seems like the kind of story you couldn’t possibly dislike — two people reaching across the aisle and embracing a friendship that transcends political beliefs. It’s exactly what our country needs right now, to realize that we all want what’s best for the country even if we disagree on what that means.

And yet, it’s 2019 and we can’t have nice things.

About 10 seconds after I read the first story, I started reading the backlash to it from people on Facebook and Twitter. Many on the left think Bush is literally pure evil and undeserving of any positive attention whatsoever. They’re still mad about him trying to thwart same-sex marriage and appointing conservative justices to the Supreme Court, which is currently hearing a case on whether it’s OK to fire people simply for being homosexual or trans. (For the record, I definitely do not think you should be able to fire people for no other reason than that).

Many also pointed out that since both Bush and Degeneres are wealthy and white, they are nothing more than an example of privilege and shouldn’t get to teach any of us anything because they don’t know what it’s really like out there.

I’ll go on the record and say that overall, I didn’t approve of the Bush presidency. I blame him for getting the Republican party away from being fiscally responsible. Now the reds spend as much as the blues and neither side is interested in doing anything about our country’s massive debt.

I still think he was genuinely trying to serve our country and take it in the direction he thought best, just like his successor Barack Obama. Can’t say I was a big fan of his either but I also believe he thought he was doing what was best for our country.

Could we as a country just start with that premise? It would make a world of difference. Sometimes I disagree with Missy’s parenting decisions (and I’m sure the feeling is mutual), but I know she wants what’s best for our kids and our family. If I focused only on those differences and said that Missy was an evil person who wants our household to fail, we probably wouldn’t be married for long.

Do you really think George W. Bush is sitting there at the Cowboys-Packers game thinking about how to suppress LGBTQ rights? Could we possibly just have one positive political story without assuming that half the country is evil and wanting to ruin everything?

You survived Bush. You survived Obama. You have survived Trump, so far anyway. If you don’t like Trump, please vote against him next year. Get other people to vote against him. One of the beautiful things about our electoral system is that you’re never stuck with anybody for very long.

That brings us to Ukraine and this whole impeachment mess. Really, it’s more of a joke than a mess. Let’s just be honest, democrats can’t believe they lost to this clown and they don’t want to wait the 4 or 8 years to get rid of him. They’ve been talking about it literally since before he even took office.

Is he doing improper stuff? Of course he is. We knew he would and he has. Is it impeachable? Not unless you want impeachment talks about every president from now until the end of time.

If Trump just flat out said you won’t get your aid unless you find something on the Bidens, then I’d possibly think it’s worthy of removal from office. I have no problem with further investigation on the subject. But so far, the quid pro quo has only been heavily implied. When directly asked, it was made clear that there was no quid pro quo. Also, the funds were released before any of this became news.

Kicking someone out of the highest office in this country for implying something seems pretty damn stupid to me. I missed the official list of what qualifies as “high crimes and misdemeanors” but I doubt implications are on it.

I’d be willing to bet that every president in our country’s history has implied a quid pro quo in a similar situation. You know what they call that? Politics. It’s been three years since you lost the election. Better to move on to the next one.

Judge Judy, your verdict please.

Now that you’ve all quit reading, let me move on from complaining about all of you to complaining about two specific businesses. We can all get behind that, right?

A couple of weeks ago I took our van into Eskridge Honda to take advantage of the “oil changes for life” thing that we got when we bought it. Quite a ripoff that program is. It’s supposed to be free but you have to pay $30 for an oil additive every time you get one or else your engine warranty is voided.

So I get the oil change and they tell me I am also in need of a new battery and some transmission fluid. Those things haven’t been changed in a long time so I make an appointment for that too.

The morning after the battery and transmission fluid were changed, there’s a massive puddle of oil in our driveway. I take the van in and they say it was either a faulty gasket or someone screwed up. They fix it for free but it cost me 30 minutes of my life waiting for it.

Just a few days after that, our van won’t start. Battery = no bueno. I take it back in and ask if the same guy who changed our oil put in the battery. Didn’t get a response on that but evidently there was nothing wrong with the battery itself. The connection from the battery to the van was loose. So far, we haven’t had any more issues with it.

The crazy thing is that Missy’s parents came down to visit last weekend and their car battery died when they tried to leave. Had to get it replaced (not at Eskridge). And the other day, I took our other car to Riverwind to play poker and when I tried to leave it was dead. Riverwind jumped it for me and when I went to O’Reilly’s to get a new one, they said my old one still tested out OK. I don’t think I left a light on or anything but I don’t know what happened. It’s worked fine the last few days.

What hasn’t worked fine is the basketball shoes I bought a couple months back. I’d had my previous pair for about five years and they were great, just finally wore down. My feet are shaped weirdly so for whatever reason I’ve always had to wear Nike’s. They’re the only brand that isn’t super uncomfortable.

So I went to the Nike store in west OKC to get new ones. My options are always limited because I wear a size 14 and they don’t carry 14s for every model, but I thought I lucked out by finding some KD’s (Kevin Durant’s shoe) on sale in a 14. They fit great and felt fine, but after playing only 7 or 8 times the sole on the right shoe literally came out. And I can promise it wasn’t because I was so quick and explosive that the shoe couldn’t handle it.

So there you have it. KD has no soul — I mean sole.

Poker Cheating Scandal

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

“Bad press is better than no press.”

The game of poker is putting those sayings to the test this week with the Mike Postle scandal.

If you aren’t familiar with what I’m talking about, here’s the gist of it: a guy in California named Mike Postle has been (very credibly) accused of cheating in poker games that are being broadcast on the internet.

If you’ve ever watched poker on TV, you know there is special technology which tracks every card in the deck so they can show the players’ hole cards. At Oklahoma City’s finest casinos, they just use a regular deck of cards. But for these live streams, which bring free publicity to the card rooms that air the games, they use the technology (called RFID) to track the cards. And when there is technology to track every card, we know there is technology (not to mention plenty of financial motivation) to pass along that information to a player in the game.

This particular case is fascinating, both because of the scant evidence available on the surface and the overwhelming amount of evidence available once you get into the weeds. You can spend hours poring over this stuff, feeling like you’re solving the JFK murder. I don’t need to do that here. Other people have already done it and they are better at it.

This Ringer story does an excellent job summarizing the whole affair. I highly recommend reading it even if you care nothing about poker. If you’re more of a visual person and want to see some video evidence, I’ll link to one of the many, many YouTube clips on the subject. Joe Ingram, Doug Polk and others have been on top of this case from the get-go, and they’re seeing their online viewership skyrocket like Mike Postle’s winrate.

I’ve been getting texts about this pretty regularly over the past 48 hours, some from people who don’t really follow poker much but ran into something on Twitter or saw Scott Van Pelt’s segment on SportsCenter last night.

It’s good for poker in the sense that it gets people talking about and interested in poker. It’s bad for poker in the sense that it reinforces old stereotypes about the seediness of the game and those who play in it.

Poker has come a long, long way in the 150 years or so since it became a thing. It used to be played in bars or on riverboats where it was less a game of skill than a game of who could cheat who more effectively. Or shoot a gun the fastest. The only rule involving cheating was to not get caught.

But 50 years ago the World Series of Poker was created, and gradually over that time poker has become a more and more legitimate and socially accepted game. I’m confident that my mom is at least a little bit less worried about me getting shot, robbed or cheated than she was 15 years ago.

At it’s best, poker is a really interesting game of skill involving players seated around each other at a table. The table setting allows for joking around, watching sports together and occasionally having an interesting discussion. There’s a sense of community.

Any time you inject money into the equation, there’s motivation and opportunity for cheating.

I remember a few cheating “scandals” from my Lawton days. There was a particular home game. I never played in it, but I kept hearing stories about how one guy would win these crazy pots — a straight flush against four of a kind, or four of a kind against a top full house. After a couple of these highly improbable hands (I’ve played for 15 years and never been involved in one like that), people got suspicious and found out that the guy was rigging the deck. Not regularly, just for these specific pots.

In a sense, that’s the low-tech version of the Postle scam. People in Lawton got suspicious because of the unlikely nature of those crazy pots, and people in California got suspicious because Postle was literally winning more than was humanly possible. His results were so far beyond the norm as to be impossible without knowing what cards other players held, and from that premise the investigation sprung.

On their own, the videos really don’t prove anything. You have to combine them with the fact that he essentially never lost or never made an incorrect decision to know something was up. Had he been less greedy, he could have gotten away with this for much longer and made much more money in the long term. All he had to do was throw away the absurd hands (many of which you can find in the videos) and stuck to making the right decisions on the halfway decent hands or the ones that would make a shred of sense if you were watching the live stream consistently. Just like the guy in Lawton could have kept getting away with it if he had settled for slightly less improbable hands that might have netted slightly smaller pots but would never have been detected.

Another “scandal” in Lawton involved a guy who supposedly put fingernail marks in the aces so he could tell if you had one. At other times, there were rumors of two players signaling each other what their cards were. Sure, those things have value. But to capitalize fully on that value, you’d probably have to be smart enough or good enough at poker to be able to beat the games straight up. And if you can do that, you don’t need to cheat and risk being banned from the casino. The people involved in those rumors were terrible players who lost most of the time, so as far as I was concerned they could do whatever they wanted and I wouldn’t mind playing against them.

There isn’t one single instance in which I thought I was getting cheated in a poker game. At the same time, I’m 100 percent sure I have been cheated at some point. I’ve played too much for it to never have happened.

The point is, it’s not something I worry about in the least. Maybe if I played in those live stream games it would be something to consider. But like I said, poker is a community. And around here, I know about 98% of the people I play with. We have fun and joke around with each other.

So have fun with the Postle investigation; it’s entertaining as hell. But don’t let it taint your perception of poker or the fine, upstanding people — specifically those named Matt Franklin — that play it.

Boycott Football?

It’s a hard time in history to try to enjoy anything.

You’re not allowed to make fun of anyone, and you’re not allowed to watch anything written, acted, produced or directed by anyone who has sinned. A recent study found that two in three Americans have been Me-too’ed.

I can’t even make the above statement without adding a disclaimer that sexually harassing people is totally not OK.

I recently watched the latest Dave Chappelle special on Netflix. I loved it, mainly because he goes out of his way to make every single viewer feel uncomfortable at least a few times. In doing so, he exposes the hypocrisy of the entire present-day culture, where you’re allowed to be as mean as you want to people you philosophically disagree with but can’t say anything to anyone else. Chappelle just scorches everyone.

While I wholeheartedly approve of everyone taking themselves a lot less seriously, I am having a bit of a personal crisis over the great game of football.

The other day there was a great story in The Oklahoman about Rickey Dixon. Dixon was a national champion and All-American at OU before playing several seasons in the NFL. But because of football, he now has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He’s only 52 years old but his quality of life has steadily been declining for the six years since he was diagnosed and it seems he doesn’t have much time left.

It’s not an isolated case. In the past 15 years or so the long-term toll of football has become more and more evident. We’ve learned a lot about CTE and the brain damage caused by football, which leads to ALS, dementia, migraines, severe personality changes, and other side effects that can best be described as no bueno.

If every single football player had these symptoms, nobody with a conscious would watch football. But of course that’s not how it is. Many ex-players are fine. And football is undoubtedly safer than it’s ever been before, although it will take several more decades before the current generation of football players is old enough to examine what kind of difference better helmets, less hitting in practice, and stricter penalties are having.

Where do we draw the line? If we can all agree that we shouldn’t watch football if 100% of players are facing ALS or early-onset dementia, where is the tipping point? 50%? 25%? 10%? 5%? 1%? Does it make a difference if the players with these bad outcomes made life-changing money because of football? Should I boycott college football but not the NFL?

Prominent author Malcolm Gladwell is among those leading the charge to boycott playing or watching football. I have a couple of friends who have decided to join him.

Personally, I find it much harder to watch football games that don’t involve OU or the Philadelphia Eagles. No matter who is playing, I hate seeing guys laying on the ground writhing in pain. Nowadays it’s enough for me to turn the channel if it’s not one of my teams.

Nevertheless, I enjoy watching my teams play now as much as I ever did. I’m sure that’s partly because both of my teams have been really good lately and entertaining to watch. OU is winning Heismans and breaking offensive records like nobody’s business. The Eagles have won a Super Bowl and the “double doink” game in the past two seasons. But there’s also a nostalgia involved. I can’t imagine a day when football is completely canceled and Missy and I are walking on the OU campus on a Saturday and looking at six-foot weeds growing on Owen Field, nary a soul in sight. Football is such an integral part of the experience of attending that school.

Football is also an integral part of the American Sunday experience. My dad didn’t even have a favorite NFL team, but every Sunday after church he parked on the couch and we watched whatever game was on TV (unfortunately this always involved the evil Dallas Cowboys). Now that I’m the dad, I love killing a Sunday afternoon by parking in my big recliner and watching the Eagles or the Red Zone channel.

I’ve never been a fan of boxing or the UFC, simply because those sports seem barbaric to me. The whole goal is to hurt a fellow human being. It’s not that far removed from a time when people crammed into the Colosseum to watch lions rip apart slaves or prisoners. At least in football, the goal is move the football into the end zone. People getting hurt is merely a byproduct of that, not the actual goal. Still, I’ve seen a handful of boxing/UFC pay-per-views with my friends, purely for the social aspect of it. Is that wrong?

My dad was ahead of the curve when it came to football parenting. He wouldn’t let me play, specifically because of the long-term health risks. Even before I had two boys, I’ve said they won’t play football. There are lots of other sports out there that won’t scramble their brains, and of course the overwhelming majority of football players will never even get a college scholarship from the game, much less a lucrative NFL career. Is it OK for me to watch a game I won’t let my sons participate in because it’s unsafe?

Yes, I understand the whole “there’s risk in everything” argument. I accept the risk of my son tearing his ACL playing basketball because that can be fixed with little-to-zero long-term effects. I accept the risk of dying in car accident or being gunned down by a madman in public because you can’t live life being scared of everything that could possibly go wrong.

Football has always been in third place on my list of favorite sports. I would say the CTE revelations have widened the gap between football and my top two sports, but I still can’t get there as far as boycotting it completely.

To me, football carries too great a risk to allow my sons to play. And yet I still feel OK about watching other people play for my entertainment.

Is that hypocritical? I really don’t know. For better or worse, that’s just where I am with it right now.

Letters to Westbrook and Presti

The Thunder is in turmoil.

Paul George demanded a trade and got one. The Thunder gave Jerami Grant away for basically nothing. Now it seems like Russell Westbrook will be the next to go.

Things are happening so fast that Russ might be traded before I finishing writing this column.

Sam Presti may or may not have asked for my opinion before pulling the trigger on the George deal. He really didn’t have a choice on that one — it would be supremely foolish to pass up that bounty of players and picks while also digging most of the way out of luxury tax hell. Presti may or may not care about what I have to say when it comes to Westbrook. Sam’s a busy guy right now, so I’ll just leave my minority opinion right here for him to get to when he has time, probably while pooping.

Dear Sam Presti,

Don’t trade Russell Westbrook.

Oh wait. You kind of have to trade him if he wants to be traded. Would be bad for the locker room and unfair to him after everything he’s done for us. Give me a minute Sam, I’ll be right back.

Dear Russell Westbrook,

Stay here.

We rolled out the red carpet for you when you decided to stay, and we’d love to roll it out for you again. We’ll roll it out 41 times a year. That doesn’t include preseason games but it does include postseason games, of which there will probably be zero. Which is your uniform number, if that somehow makes it cool.

We’ll go bonkers every time you’re introduced with the starting lineup. You might win a few more games in Miami, but they won’t go bonkers for you during the intro like we do. They don’t even show up until the end of the first quarter.

You might win a few more games in Detroit, but they won’t go bonkers for you during the intro like we do. Their pregame intro cheers are drowned out by all the car alarms going off in the parking lot.

You might win a few more games in Houston, but they won’t go bonkers for you during the intro like we do. Their cheers are drowned out by James Harden and Chris Paul flopping and trying to get fouls called on their opponents for pregame handshakes.

And Orlando? Surely that’s not a real thing.

We love the passion and effort you play with. Sure, we’ve complained about how you can’t shoot, rarely play defense and start chucking even more than usual when the game is on the line. Those things were frustrating when we actually had a chance to win something, but now that we suck you’re free to do any and all of those things as often as you’d like.

We know you like to occasionally glance at the stat sheet, get those triple-doubles and 20-20-20 games and whatnot. It’s probably not great for the team but whatever, keep it up. Think about all of the franchise records you could absolutely smash if you stay here four more years.

KD who?

He’s number two.

Russ gave him a toothache.

Smashin dem records like a cupcake.

(copyright pending)

No matter what you decide, your legacy here is safe. You’re getting the statue and the jersey retirement. But if you finish your career here, you could be the guy everyone immediately thinks of when anybody says “Oklahoma City” for the next 30 years. Like Stockton and Malone with Utah, MJ with the Bulls, Bird with Boston or Magic with the Lakers.

I went to some games that first season the Thunder were in OKC, your rookie season. You were backing up Earl Watson for God’s sake. Those teams were boring. I don’t mind sucking but I don’t want to be boring.

Flaws and all, we love you, Russ. And no matter what, you’ll never be boring. So please stay.

Dear Sam Presti,

OK, I talked to Russ. Pretty sure he wants to stay now.

So please don’t trade him.

I’ll concede that it would be the best thing for the team. You just traded for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is also a point guard. He needs to have the ball a lot and be the starting point guard. Russ will also hamstring the payroll because he makes more money than God.

But in this age of player empowerment and superteams chasing dynasties, it’s easy to forget what it is that the NBA sells.

It’s entertainment. The product is entertainment. Season ticket holders are attending a Thursday game in November to be entertained. There are no championships on the line that night. Or on Tuesday in March. Or at the All-Star game. Or even at a conference semifinal in May. Sure, those high-stakes playoff games are more entertaining than the regular season games, but without fans buying tickets to see all 30 teams play 82 games per season, none of the rest of it is possible.

I’d prefer it if OKC could have another title contender, but those things are hard to come by under optimal circumstances.

I’ve been hearing about all the great players and assets Boston has stacked up over the last eight years and at the end of the day their best player just bolted and some might call them the Oklahoma City of the East, a decent squad with no real chance to win anything important.

I’ve been hearing about how smart Daryl Morey is, but at the end of the day he’s stuck paying a disgruntled and half-washed Chris Paul $45 million a year because no other team wants him, and the Rockets seem to be clearly behind both L.A. teams in the Western pecking order.

Of course you don’t need me to tell you any of this, since you had three Hall of Famers on your roster at the same time and never won a championship. (You wanted me to give you the unvarnished truth, Sam. Take it like a man.)

The point is, championships are hard to win, even moreso for a small market. It seems like Oklahoma City is more like Utah, Sacramento and Portland than any other franchise, cities where the NBA is the only major league in town. Utah and Sacramento have never won a title and Portland hasn’t won one in my lifetime. So while it would be awesome if we could win one, the reality is that may never happen.

Which brings me back to entertainment. You’re in the entertainment industry, and 11 years ago you drafted one of the most entertaining players in the history of basketball. People watch Thunder games just to see what he is going to do. Re-read the first four words of that last sentence. People watch Thunder games. Russ singlehandedly makes the Thunder relevant and watchable. Entertaining. Just by drafting him, you’ve successfully done the most important aspect of your job.

So don’t screw it up now. With Russ on the floor, we will buy tickets and turn on Fox Sports Oklahoma. Even if you don’t replace the crappy announcers.

It’s not like you were going to get a great young player in a trade for Russ. The main benefit would just be dumping his salary. But he more than earns his salary for what he provides in entertainment value to the fans of Oklahoma City. So just keep him.

You’re a bright guy, you can figure something out. Thunder Up.