Thunder ready for trip to Spain despite injury to Payne

By Michael Kinney

The Oklahoma City Thunder are taking their new cast of players thousand of miles away to get some bonding time in. As the team is still learning each other names and game, they are leaving Sept. 30 for a week long trip in Spain where they will take on the countries two best basketball franchises in exhibition games.

However, the Thunder are leaving with a small dark cloud hovering over them. Coming out of the team’s annual Blue and White scrimmage Tuesday, backup point guard Cameron Payne suffered an acute fracture to his fifth metatarsal on his right foot.

Initially during the scrimmage Thunder officials said Payne had just bumped knees then stated he had tweaked his ankle. But late Wednesday that new turned to a fractured bone.

I feel bad for Cameron or any player that gets hurt,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “He has to sit out. But he’s in great hands here and his spirits seems to be pretty good. I think anytime some get hurt and doesn’t get a chance to do hat they love, I feel bad about that.”

Payne was seen at Oklahoma City’s practice Thursday morning wearing a walking boot on his right foot. There is no set timetable for his return to the lineup.

Payne is just a couple of months removed from having surgery to the same bone. However, the Thunder contend the injuries are unrelated.

Regardless, Payne will be out of the lineup for some time. That gives other guards on the team to showcase their skills and battle for playing time.

The Thunder will get their first real look at the entire team Oct. 3 when they take on Real Madrid in Madrid, Spain. Two days later they will take their show to Barcelona to face FC Barcelona.  Both games will be available on NBA TV.

Oklahoma City has several players on their roster who have experience playing in the Spanish Basketball League. They include rookies Alex Abrines and Domantas Sabonis and veteran Kyle Singler.

Besides their work on the court, all three are going to be counted on as tour guides for the team.

Obviously, some players asked us to show them around because me and Alex (Abrines) know Spanish,” Sabonis said. “To be their translator or something. It’s going to be a fun trip.”

Abrines was born in Spain and is already looking forward to getting back home to get some home cooking.

I told them to expect a lot,” Abrines said. “They have been asking for like everything. Restaurants, where to go. I will help the best I can. I know Barcelona more than Madrid. I will take care of them.”

National Anthem protests has brought social activism back to NBA

 

By Michael Kinney

Ever since the shooting death of Terence Crutcher on Sept. 16 by a Tulsa police officer, the eyes of the world have focused on Oklahoma. The death of the unarmed black man at the hands of Betty Shelby in the middle of the street was caught on a dash cam video and by a hovering helicopter.

While it took a couple of days for the nation to discover what took place in Tulsa, it quickly stoked the fire of the national debate surrounding police, the national anthem, the American flag, police brutality and the alarming rate of young black men being killed by police.

This version of the debate began when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made the decision to sit then kneel during the playing of the national anthem. It started with one athlete, but has since spread to other sports at every level of competition.

With the NBA reporting to training camp last week, it was basketball’s turn to take center stage.

That includes Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, who was asked at media day about the shooting death in Tulsa and the non-violent protests Kaepernick started.

“I think it’s very important — more importantly, I think a lot of people don’t realize the families of all these young men, their mothers, their brothers, sisters, uncles, I think it’s very important that we understand how important the families feel about the situations,” Westbrook said.

According to data compiled by The Guardian, 223 unarmed citizens were killed by law enforcement officers. Even though blacks account for only 13 percent of the population, they made up more than 33 percent of the deaths.

Conversely, Caucasians make up 62 percent of the population and 45 percent of the unarmed killings in 2015.

“And me being an African-American athlete and having a voice,” Westbrook said, “I think it’s important that I make a stand and know that something has to change. I think I don’t have an answer. Obviously nobody has an answer. If that’s the case, it would have been (fixed), but I think it’s important that we figure out what we can do to help improve what’s going on.”

Over the past few decades, it would be hard to point out a time when so many pro athletes had decided to use their popularities to speak up on social issues. In the ’80s and’90s, the example was set by players such as Michael Jordan that it was best to keep their mouths shut as to not to offend potential shoe buyers. And as branding became a popular phrase being thrown around, players refused to make public stands.

But that has seemingly changed. There have been other instances in the past few seasons where NBA players have dipped their toes into social activism such as with Trayvon Martin. But nothing like we are seeing now as super stars and role players starting to speak out.

For Cleavland’s LeBron James, it’s the fear he has for his own son’s safety that is foremost in his mind when he talks about the need for the conversation to continue about police brutality.

”You tell your kids if you just apply and if you just listen to the police that they will be respectful and it will work itself out,” James told the Associated Press. ”You see these videos that continue to come out, and it’s a scary-ass situation that if my son calls me and says that he’s been pulled over that I’m not that confident that things are going to go well and my son is going to return home.”

Westbrook has never been one to speak out on topics. While he has done immense work in the community, he had chosen to keep his opinions to himself.

But the most recent deaths of men of color by the police has seemingly pushed him to a point where he feels a need to do more.

“I think for me personally, me growing up in inner city and being able to see different things on a night-in and day-in, day-out basis,” Westbrook said, “that hit home for me just being able to see different things that’s going on globally and getting an opportunity for other people across the world to be able to see it and now I think it’s getting to a point where obviously there’s something that needs to be changed on that aspect and you know, I’m going to use my voice as much as possible being able to relay that message.”
However, Westbrook hasn’t said if he or any of his teammates will follow the same path of Kaepernick and kneel during the national anthem during NBA games this season. Yet, he does expect some type of demonstration to be made throughout the league.

“Obviously some players feel differently than others because I think based on how people were brought up, where they were born, how we were raised,” Westbrook said, “a lot of things comes into play, you start talking about political views and different things going on around the country. But I think different guys, some may stand up, some may not, but it will be interesting to see.”

Presti looking forward to seeing ‘new’ Thunder come together

By Michael Kinney

After tumultuous offseason in which the Oklahoma City Thunder lost its best player and resigned its leader, general manger Sam Presti didn’t show any signs of stress or worry when he met with the media Wednesday afternoon.

That included when he was asked about the most controversial topic in sports today, the National Anthem protest. It’s a NBA rule that players must stand during the National Anthem, but players around the league have hinted at making some kind of gesture during the season.

“Our viewpoint on it is obviously we’ve had players and staff stand for the National Anthem over the past eight years,” Presti said. “We’d love to see that continue. At the same time, our players have the opportunity and ability to express themselves as people, and we respect that above all… we have good relationships with our players. We want to work with them. We want to learn how we can help them take the symbol and try to create platforms for action. And I think that’s one of the great roles that any organization can play, especially here in Oklahoma City, which is great, given our relationship with the community.”

Presti was just as encouraging when talking about the upcoming 2016-17 season.

“Our approach to each season has been the same,” Presti said. “We want to build great habits. We want to understand that the work that we put in each day isn’t going to necessarily give us immediate results, but we’re working towards building the best team and finding the best version of ourselves every year.”

Whatever the best version of the Thunder turns out to be, it will undoubtedly have Russell Westbrook leading the charge. The spirited point guard signed an extension over the summer that will keep him in Oklahoma City at least through 2018. That was enough to lift up a disheartened fan base still reeling from the loss of Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors.

However, once the season begins Oct. 26, it will be all about what Westbrook does on the court to lead his team into the post-Durant future.

“I would say for anybody as a leader, you know, coming into a different environment and different circumstances, I think the expectation would be that you would continue to grow and evolve I think, and I think that’s his expectation,” Presti said. “So there’s opportunity across the board for our entire team, our entire roster, entire staff, and that’s where I think a lot of the excitement and enthusiasm comes from. But Russell has been a player and person that’s evolved every step of the way, and I think this is another opportunity for him to do that.”

Along with Westbrook, the Thunder return key veterans such as Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Andre Roberson and Anthony.

Newcomers such as Victor Oladipo, Ronnie Price, Ersan Ilyasova, and Domantas Sabonis are expected to be key performers.

“Victor is definitely a player that presents great athleticism, great speed, high-character, professionalism, and a competitive spirit that we value,” Presti said. “How that fits into an entire team, that’s to me the path of the season for us.”

One player who will not be in the lineup for at least the first 14 games is forward Mitch McGary after he was suspended by the NBA. But with 16 players under contract heading into the season, there is no guarantee he will have a place on the roster when he returns.

“For me, I’m disappointed in the fact that he’s in that situation. He’ll be with us in training camp with an opportunity to compete,” Presti said. “All that being said, I think it’s going to be a competitive camp. We’ve got probably more deserving players lined up to come to camp than we have roster spots. But I think that’s a strong position to be in as a team, as an organization. We’re excited about that. I know the coaches are, and we’re probably going to have some tough decisions to make.”

Oklahoma City’s annual Blue and White Scrimmage is set for Sept. 27 at John Marshall High. Their first two preseason games will take place Oct. 3 and 5 in Spain when they take on Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. They return home Oct. 11 for a game against Dallas.

Sooners looking to run through Buckeyes (if given the chance)

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN, Ok. — The University of Oklahoma and the Ohio State Buckeyes. They are two of the most storied college football programs in the nation.

The two football factories have combined for 12 national titles, 80 conference titles and 1,739 victories. It would be hard pressed for any two teams to take the field with a stronger resume than the Sooners and Buckeyes.

Yet, none of that will matter when the ball is kicked-off at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Memorial Stadium. The past will not make a difference to the hundred or so young men on the field. For them, it’s all about carving out their own bit of college football history.

Both teams see this game as a must win, but that is especially true for a Sooners’ squad that has already felt sting of defeat this season.

Oklahoma loss to then No. 15 Houston in the season opener. It’s what prevented this contest from being a top-5 matchup. The loss also spread some doubt on just how high this team can reach this season.

But all of that can be forgotten with a win over No. 5 Ohio State.

“This week is going to be amped up,” Mark Andres said. “I know everyone around here is excited about it. I know we’re excited about it. Everything is just going to be one step bigger. It’s a big game. Everybody knows that.”

Coming off a throttling of ULM last week in the home opener, the Sooners regained a small piece of their swagger back. But they know the Buckeyes are an entirely different beast to contend with.

With coach Urban Meyers at the helm, OSU won a national title two years ago and was in contention to make the College Football Playoffs last season.

But even after seeing boat load of players head to the NFL, many analyst believe this could be the most talented Buckeyes squad since Meyers arrived.

One of those players is quarterback J.T. Barrett, who is now back in charge of the offense full time after a revolving door at the position since his injury two seasons ago. His ability to run with the rock and direct the offense will once again put the OU defense under the microscope as they face a mobile signal caller.

It won’t just be Barrett the Sooners have to deal with. Mike Weber, Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson all have the ability to make plays in an offense that is quite similar to the Houston Cougars.

“(Playing Houston will help us,” Obo Okoronkwo said. “We will be more familiar with that type of offense. That always helps. Just because you have seen it before, you can react faster. You know what’s coming.”

For Oklahoma, the offense game plan will once again come down to identity is going to come to the party. Is it the one where Baker Mayfield is slinging the ball around the field looking for big plays in the passing game. Or the one where Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon get behind their huge offensive line and dictate terms to the Buckeyes.

In past big games, the Sooner have tried to put the game on Mayfield’s shoulders. But on a night like this, Oklahoma’s best weapon is its running game.

There may be no more important person for Oklahoma that offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. Since joining the Sooners last season, he has change the style of the unit. However, he has, in the past, seemingly forgotten about the run game and the horses he has in the backfield. If that happens tonight, the Buckeyes talented defense can just pin their ears back and go hunting for Mayfield. .

“That’s their strength on defense, they are good everywhere,” Riley said of OSU. “They will be a challenge up front, challenge for our wideouts, for Bake, for everybody. It’s a great challenge and hopefully we’ll play well and be a tough challenge for them to.”

On a weekend that is full of high quality games, Oklahoma and Ohio State stands out. It’s one the players, coaches and fans can all get behind.

The Buckeyes are expected to have a large contingent of OSU fans in the stadium. So there will be intensity on and off the field. That seems to be the way the Sooners want it.

“I don’t think there is any way you can prepare for this type of game,” Andrews said. “It’s going to be crazy.”

Story ran in the Yukon Review

Bartender lets her passion for art pour out

By Michael Kinney

When Friday night customers walk into Skinny Slim’s, one of the first people they see is Haley Dennis.

The 26-year-old is often found behind the bar of the Bricktown establishment, serving beer or making the rounds, chatting with customers.

Dennis calls it the best bartending job she has had since she started in the profession at age 18.

However, to really see what Dennis is passionate about, walk into the same bar on a random Tuesday evening, when the crowds are light.

On those nights, the Lawton native might be huddled at the end of the bar with her laptop, working on a talent she has been cultivating since she was a kid.

“Growing up with severe childhood ADHD, you couldn’t get me to sit still for much of anything other than drawing,” Dennis said. “It made me feel empowered; I could create anything I could think of and make it come to life. It allowed me to express myself at a young age. Now that I’m older, I use drawing as a way to relax. I spend so much time around people, while I’m working, drawing is almost like an escape for me.”

Dennis wants to turn those talents into a career.

Her first big break came earlier this year when she had an idea that would combine two of her favorite things.

She decided she wanted to start designing beer labels for burgeoning Oklahoma City brewery Elk Valley Brewing Co.

“I absolutely love craft beer, everything about it,” Dennis said. “Brewing is art, and it’s so similar to art culture. There’s a community of people who love it, who breathe it. They love talking about it, creating it, consuming it. My love for craft beer met my passion for creating art, and it was harmony. It’s a perfect situation for me.”

Elk Valley is owned by John Elkins, a Midwest City native.

He started the brewery in 2013 and moved all of his operations to Mustang Brewing Company in 2015.

“I brew the beer I love to drink, which includes several styles,” Elkins said. “So I would say we’re eclectic. I try and brew interesting beers that the beer geek as well as the intro beer drinker will enjoy.”

Dennis and Elkins met two years ago when she was working at Oak & Ore craft beer bar.

Midnight sketches

Despite a hectic schedule that includes 12-13-hour bartending shifts, Dennis didn’t hesitate to approach Elkins with her desire to become his label designer.

“My initial reaction at the time was honored that she wanted to work with me,” Elkins said. “However, I had a label designer that I was very happy with. I told her that if something happened and I needed someone, I would call her. Well, four or five months passed by and my label designer had to step aside for her full-time job. I had seen some of Haley’s sketches and liked her creativity. So I called Haley and talked to her about some of the things I needed. We were excited to get some specifics designs on paper and get started.”

Since then, Dennis has created two labels for Elk Valley.

The first was a simple format based on the flavor of the beer, Apricot Le Ferme.

Since it was her first design, Dennis said it took her close to three weeks to plan it out and put all the elements together while still working full bartending shifts that had her up as late as 4 a.m. some nights.

Dennis’ second label was a more personal concept.

After the June 12 mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 people were killed, she scrapped her original idea of all black-and-white and went for one that showed unity with the LGBTQ community.

It features multiple colors over a black background.

“I spent a lot of time in Orlando. My little sister is part of the lesbian community there,” Dennis explained. “She had a couple of friends die in the tragedy. It hit home for me, and I wanted to put a little bit of myself into each of the labels. I thought, ‘What better time than now?’”

Elk Valley and Dennis both seem to be coming into their own at the same time. That might be why the combination has been a natural fit.

“Her labels fit the beers they were made for very well,” Elkins said. “They were eye-catching, creative and playful, which certainly match what I try to do here with my beers.”

Dennis wants to continue designing labels and hopefully make it a career. Until then, she will tend the bar at Skinny Slim’s. When a customer orders a beer that features her design, she knows she is heading in the right direction.

“Art is expressing yourself,” Dennis said. “I want people to kind of see me when they see my art. I want people to know me when they see the label.”

Story can be found in The Oklahoma Gazette 

Sooners avoid trap, pummel Warhawks

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN –  The University of Louisiana Monroe could easily have been a trap game. Sandwiched inbetween a pair of top-15 opponents, a bad showing  could have easily been on the table for No. 14 Oklahoma.

However, the Sooners dropped the hammer early on the Warhawks then cruised to a 59-17 victory in the home opener at newly revamped Memorial Stadium..

“We just wanted to play harder,” Samaje Perine said. “Last week we started kind of hard, but it fizzed out early on in that game. It was just a matter of playing harder throughout the whole game. I feel like we did that for the most part. But, like I said, we still have a lot of work to do. We are starting off on the right path.”

Even though Oklahoma announced a new record of 87, 037 for the attendance, there were hundreds of empty seats inside the stadium. But that didn’t seem to matter to the players who were looking to get the taste of last week’s loss out of their mouth. So they took out their frustration on the Warhawks.

“We just had a hard time stopping them in the first half,” ULM coach Matt Viator said. “We could not stop them in the first half and we couldn’t convert on third down. That was really the summary of the first half. We knew they would be tough to stop if they were clicking, and they were clicking. Give them credit, they’re obviously a really good football team and they played well.”

Oklahoma started the game just like they wanted. Running the ball with Joe Mixon and Baker Mayfield hitting short passes to move the chains. That led to the defense sucking up to near the line of scrimmage and Mayfield making the Warhawks pay with a 39 yard touchdown strike to Mark Andrews down the middle of the field.

The Sooners followed the same game plan on their next possession. This time it was  Perine who did most of the work on the ground before Mayfield connected with Dimitri Flowers for another touchdown pass.

Perine added a touchdown late in the quarter in which he seemingly ran over half the ULM defense to put Oklahoma up 21-0.

As efficient as the Oklahoma offense was to start the game, their defense was just devastating. They held the Warhawks to a total of 75 yards in the opening quarter. Their tailbacks was often swallowed up by the entire OU front four before reaching the line of scrimmage.

By the time Mayfield hooked up with redshirt sophomore Nick Basquine for a 62-yard scoring bomb early in the quarter, ULM’s heart had been ripped out of the game.

“I thought he was really good,” OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said of Mayfield. “He responded like we all expected and made some of the small corrections that we needed to make from game one. He lead us, he was patient, had a great mindset all week and really took some steps forward.”

The Sooners ended the first half leading 42-0. But it was their 459 total yards to the Warhawks 129 that told the story of the half.

“Defensively, in the first half, we were excellent,” Stoops said.

The Sooners defense finally cracked on the first possession of the third quarter. A busted assignment in the secondary led to a 74 yard touchdown catch for the Warhawks.

Some of the same issues that plagued OU against Houston started to appear and ULM took advantage. They outscored Oklahoma 17-3 in the third to cut the OU lead down to 28 points.

But that would be as close as the Warhawks would get the rest of the way. Austin Kendall tossed a touchdown pass to AD Miller to extend lead to 52-17.

“I liked what the young guys did,” Stoops said. “I thought Austin Kendall was excellent.”

It was the first touchdown of the young career for Kendall, who is a true freshman.

Mayfield played only the first half and still racked up 244 yards and three touchdowns. Mixon led all rushers with 125 yards on 14 carries while Abdul Adams added 95 yards. Perine tallied two touchdowns.

With Ohio State coming to town next week, the Sooners hope they have knocked the kinks out of the system. They know they will see a much different team in the Buckeyes.

“I just know we’re going to keep getting better,” Jordan Evans said. “Going to practice, keep executing our calls, no mental busts, and keep winning games. You can’t really judge how good you are after two games, we just know we can get better.”

Eisenhower comes up just short in Del City

By Michael Kinney

DEL CITY – One week after a second half collapse against MacArthur, Eisenhower found itself in a down-to-the-wire contest. Facing Del City on the road, Ike had every opportunity to claim its first victory of the year and the first one for new head coach Mike Burris.

However, in the final seconds, the Eagles were unable to make the big play when needed and fell 41-34 to Del City at Robert Kalsu Stadium.

“We played a lot better,” Burris said. “We did a great job of rotating our line and kept them pretty fresh. Just ran out of gas there at the end. We had a good play called, just didn’t work out.”

With 7:18 left in the game, Eisenhower (0-2) trailed by seven when it took over the ball on its own 20-yard line. Ike needed to go 80 yards just to have a chance to tie the game.

However, Ike was only able to get one first down and were forced to punt with 4:25 left on the clock.

It was up to the defense to keep the team’s hopes alive. And that’s what it did when it forced a fumble and recovered the ball near midfield.

Quarterback R.J. Fisher drove the offense down inside the 10 yard line and had three shots to get into the end zone. The Del City (2-0) defense, however, held Ike and forced it into a 4th-and-goal from the six-yard line with 54 seconds left.

Fisher took the snap and rolled to his left. He had the option of running or throwing into the end zone. He chose the latter and tried to hit Kinyon Parker, but the pass was deflected and DC held on to win.

“I think we called the best play we could have called and they just defended it well,” Fisher said. “Maybe I should have kept it. We’ll see on film.”

Despite the defeat, Eisenhower left the game optimistic about their performance.

“i feel like the team gave a lot of fight,” Mookie Douglas said. “We didn’t pull it out on the fourth down over here, but I’m real proud of my team. We gave effort. A 100 percent effort this game.”

Marquell Calcote got the game started off with a 70 yard kick-off return down to the Del City 30 yard line. It put EHS in prime scoring position right off the bat.

The Eagles drove the ball down to the 3-yard line before they were stuffed on three straight plays. Burris chose to go for it on fourth down and put the ball in the hands of Fisher. He hurried down the line and drew the defenders to him. At the last second, he pitched the rock to Kenneth Graham, who went untouched into the endzone.

However, it took Del City less than three minutes to respond with their own 80 yard drive and score to even the contest at 8-8.

Graham put Eisenhower back on top when he sprinted 49 yards down the right sideline for his second TD of the first quarter.

It looked like the Del City was going to answer right back with another score when they drove the ensuing drive down to inside Eisenhower’s 20 yard line. But on third down, Del City’s receiver caught a slant in front of the endzone and was about to walk in for a touchdown when Bradley Washington came out of nowhere to level the wide-out and knocked the ball loose. EHS recovered the fumble.

But that only delayed the scoring. DC quarterback Christian Hoover threw two more touchdown passes for Del City to give them a 22-14 advantage heading into halftime.

Coming out of halftime, it was Eisenhower’s defense that made the first big play. Tre Harris came up with an interception on Del City’s first possession. That led to a Fisher touchdown run that tied the game at 22-22.

Hoover and Fisher exchanged touchdown passes late in the third quarter to keep the game tied. Fisher’s was a 30-yard, high arcing bomb to Kinyon Parker. The two signal callers had their own personal duel going.

“After that it just gets personal,” said Fisher, who threw for 320 yards. “He isn’t better than me and we’re going to compete. At the end of the day we’re going to compete.”

Fisher then connected with Douglas for a quick pass into the flats. Douglas scooped it off the ground in the endzone and turned it into a 98-yard touchdown to put EHS up 34-28 heading into the fourth quarter. Douglas had eight catches for 141 yards.

“I just knew the team needed a play, a big play,” Douglas said. “I’m a big time player and I needed to come get it. I needed to get the touchdown.”

Even though they are 0-2, the Eagles head into their matchup next week with Lawton High feeling like they can earn that first victory.

“We just need to keep a good head on and let go beat Lawton High,” Douglas said.

This story first appeared in The Lawton Constitution.

New renovations should improve fan experience at Oklahoma

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN – Oklahoma Athletic Director Joe Castiglione announced a couple of years ago that Memorial Stadium was going to get a face-lift. After watching other major college football programs around the country update their home fields, the Sooners decided it was time to do the same.

When OU opens its doors Saturday for the team’s 2016 home opener versus Louisiana-Monroe, fans will get their first look at Castiglione’s (nearly) completed vision.

“When you think about what this project has been since we broke ground, it’s truly amazing,” Castiglione said. “I don’t even want to engage in any kind of hyperbole about the magnitude of this project. But just to refresh your memories, we broke broke ground last August. We were able to get some work done around the football season in 2015. But the majority of the work started as soon as the Kansas State game was complete.”

The minute the game against the Wildcats ended, Castiglione has gotten the same question over and over. Will the stadium construction be completed on time?

“When we started this project, we didn’t give the contractor any alternative,” Castiglione said. “It had to be ready when our first home game occurred Sept. 10. The project has been going very, very well. There is a lot to do and they are taking every chance to get as much work done in a day and night as one can.”

The reason why fans and outside observers were concerned the stadium wouldn’t be completed on time is due to the enormous size and details of the $160 million renovation project. Work on the outside of the stadium will be ongoing throughout the season.

“Mother Nature has been very good to us as well,” Castiglione said. “We’ve had some weather events, but as we always know, it could be worse and we’ve been able to make good use of a lot of dry weather, and again, staging the crews and sequentially working through various aspects of what they needed to do and when, we were able to make things happen and keep it rolling on a smooth timetable…. By the time we get through with this project, we will probably past the one million (work) hours mark for construction.

The new seating capacity of Memorial Stadium has been raised to 83,489. That’s an additional 1,500 to 1,800 seats that have been installed to make Memorial full enclosed.

“Most of the seats in the South endzone were bench seats originally,” Castiglione said. “So we took out about 35 percent of the South endzone and reconstructed the new endzone around it.”

Other new attributes of the stadium include more than 450 televisions, a new WIFI and cellular service, a fan plaza, escalators and a new sound system.

You all don’t know this about me, but I love music of every genre. I do,” Castiglione said. “But I started tuning it out after I had heard Janis Joplin for the 50th time in a row when they were testing it. I guess whatever it was testing it, that must be something with that song that allows the engineer to test the various ranges of the sound system. But it played over and over and over again. I haven’t been out there since the day they were originally testing it. It’s an entirely different configuration between the type of speakers, the number of speakers.”

The biggest detail fans will notice is the new 8,750 square feet video board. It will be the second biggest in college football behind Auburn. In comparison, it’s still no where near as big as the video board at the Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium, which is 23,040 square feet.

Yet, according to Castiglione, even he was surprised by the power and brightness of the new video board at OU.

“Two days (after video board testing began), at about 5:15 a.m., I was leaving my house in the morning to come over and work out. I turned from Tecumseh Road to the on-ramp of Interstate 35,” Castiglione said. “Usually, when it’s dark, you can see the Embassy Suites lit up in green. It was obliterated because there was what looked like a strobe light showing going on between red, white and blue colors.

“At first, I didn’t know what it was. I wasn’t tracking that at that time in the morning, that could be the video board. That’s when I realized, this is a whole different viewing experience.”

Michael Kinney is a freelance writer and can be reached at Eyeamtruth@gmail.com

Sooners prepared for early season road test

Sooners, Cougars ready for big opening weekend

Michael Kinney Media

By Michael Kinney

The first weekend of the college football schedule kicks off with a avalanche of top-shelf games. Several contests feature both teams ranked in the top 20, to make this one of the most exciting opening weekends in recent history.

Many credit the College Football Playoffs as the impetus for creating such early season matchups.

However, for Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, this is nothing new. He has often stated that the Sooners have schedule top competition since he arrived in Norman.

That is the case once again as the third-ranked Sooners will take on No. 15 Houston Saturday at the NGR Stadium, where the hashtag #Htowntakeover originated.

“It’s all I’ve been thinking about,” Jordan Evans said. “Been looking forward to it since last year. I was talking today and said we play Saturday. There is no more waiting. It’s actually here. I’m very excited just looking forward to…

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