Updated 1/5/2009. I don’t write many “opinion” pieces and usually just try to stick to the facts, Jack. This article is an exception. Click here to skip down to why this article is even necessary, four months after the team was officially named.
The Background. From July 2, 2008, when Professional Basketball Club, LLC, announced that its NBA team was moving from Seattle to Oklahoma City until the official unveiling of the team’s name on September 3, 2008, personal preferences about the team’s new name abounded and it was fun speculating about what the name would, could or should or should not be. Oklahoman sportswriter Berry Tramel advocated “Boomers” as the name of Oklahoma City’s NBA team in a lengthy August 25, 2008, article on the subject. Click the image below for the fully readable text of his article or just click here:
Salient excerpts from that article read …
Mets, Jets, Nets? If those hokey-at-first names can be launched in New York, why couldn’t Oklahoma City have played off Sooners and gone with Boomers? [Emphasis supplied]
* * *
Dwayne Wade and the Heat have made the nickname work for Miami. Now Oklahoma City’s NBA team must embrace whatever nickname it chooses. [Emphasis supplied]
I assume that he meant that the “embracing” should be done by everyone who supports the team and not just by the team itself. Before the name was announced, Doug Dawg had no problem with anyone advocating their preferences (I had mine, too), pro or con, and all of that discussion was good. Especially good, though, was Berry Trammel’s implied suggestion that the name, once chosen, should be embraced — at least, that’s my interpretation of what he said, above.
On September 3 at a ceremony at Leadership Square, the expected name became official: And the winner was (and remains) … the Oklahoma City Thunder!
So, why is this article even necessary, four months after the team’s name became official? It’s because Mr. Tramel didn’t follow his own good advice about embracing the name once it became official and he leads at least a small group of followers who informally want the team to have a different name — not an officially different name, just an effectively different name. The means he’s chosen to accomplish that is for the “nickname” to have a “nickname.”
Listen to what he had to say in the following September 11, 2008, video clip at the Oklahoman’s website:
Some thunder cracked the other day and I got to thinking about the sound it makes. And all of the sudden I had a nickname for our nickname. * * * The Boomers were the group that petitioned the government to open the unassigned land but had the scruples to wait until the firing of a pistol, or, yes, boom of a canon, to start the land grab.
The part about hearing thunder cracking strikes me as a bit disingenuous since he’d already proposed Boomers as the team’s name in his August 25, 2008, Oklahoman article, and the article didn’t mention anything about his thunder-cracking epiphany even though he then expected the team’s name to be the Thunder at the time.
Regardless, good reasons exist NOT to take Berry’s advice about the Boomers nickname-nickname.
- First, the initial advice he gave was his best — accept the name and go on. The name has been chosen and it is NOT the Boomers. Nothing good comes from rehashing the team’s name over and over ad nauseam.
- Any nickname-nickname should come naturally. If a nickname-nickname does come to exist, it doesn’t need to come from the bully pulpit of a sportswriter who insists on having his own way — and for reasons that have nothing to do with the sport itself, the “sport” part being Berry Tramel’s legitimate turf. We don’t need sportswriters telling us what our team’s nickname-nickname ought to be. The tasks of journalists are to report and interpret the news; it is not within their province to attempt to create it.
- Boomers is a divisive nickname-nickname. I’ll get to Oklahoma history below, but, setting that history aside for a moment, contemporary use of Boomers is associated with the University of Oklahoma. Even though Payne County is named for the initial leader of the Boomer movement, very few, if any, identify Boomers with any place other than O.U. sports. The Boomer Sooner fight song is certainly not a part of O.S.U. lore. If you want to read articles about O.U. sports, you can go to O.U.’s “BoomerBytes” …
… of if you want the latest O.U. Sports news, you can go to O.U.’s “BoomerBlast” and get on its e-mail list …
The Thunder is not well-served by having a nickname-nickname which stirs the divisive pot of college loyalties and/or acrimony — not if the team is to be and remain inclusively identified as Oklahoma City’s team.
- The nickname-nickname appears to be unpopular. I have no scientific polls to back up such a claim, but you can read this poll at OkcThunderFans.com. At the time that this article was written, 53 fans had voted and 82% either hated or disliked Boomers as the team’s nickname-nickname.
- Last but not least, Berry has his Oklahoma history upside down. Yes, the Boomers were one of other groups of people who lobbied Congress to open the Unassigned Lands for settlement before the April 22, 1889, Land Run actually occurred. That part is correct. But the part about the group having “scruples to wait until the firing of a pistol, or, yes, boom of a canon,” is absolutely 100% false. Nothing could be further from the truth and the 2nd part is dead wrong. While it is true that David Payne and his group did lobby Congress to open the Unassigned Lands for settlement, it is COMPLETELY FALSE that they “had the scruples to wait until the firing of a pistol …” The Boomers made repeated illegal incursions into the Unassigned Lands BEFORE “the firing of a pistol” or the “boom of a canon.” David Payne actually sold tracts of land in the Unassigned Lands to unwary buyers BEFORE the 1889 Land Run. Can you say “fraudulent land sales?” The Boomers by their forays into the Unassigned Lands BEFORE the firing of a pistol or the boom of a canon were criminals, law-breakers, and were most often forcibly removed back to Kansas by the Buffalo Soldiers (black cavalry units) stationed at Ft. Reno but on occasion some were taken to Ft. Smith for federal prosecution. See this article for much more about that. The people who DID WAIT until the firing of a pistol or boom of a canon at the start of the land run were not Boomers at all.
So, why this article today? As is evident in Berry’s Oklahoman stories and in his blog, he persists in his campaign. In his newspaper stories, the Oklahoman’s archives reflect the following:
September 30, 2008:
But let’s be honest. This is a two-way street. If you’re one of those fans who would prefer the Hornets had stayed, you can’t be mad at any of the Boomers for lamenting leaving Seattle.
October 15, 2008:
Turns out, the Boomers might have a clue on this entertainment thing.
October 26, 2008:
Like those Boomers of 1889, the Promised Land has been reached. * * * Those Boomers of 1889 settled the land with the notion they would do great things. I see no reason to believe the 21st-century Boomers will do anything less.
October 29, 2008:
Clay Bennett, who brought the Boomers to town, talked the other day of what the NBA can do for OKC. * * * Make us forget, for one priceless night, all our differences and focus on our commonalities, starting with the desire for the Boomers to make a basket.
October 30, 2008:
Less than an hour before tipoff, NBA commissioner David Stern visited the Thunder locker room and had a message for these maiden Boomers.
November 3, 2008:
These Boomers won’t get within 20 games of the postseason. * * * The Thunder’s sellout streak ended at one, with a crowd of 18,163, but apparently that is no big deal to the Boomer brass, else they would have kept selling season tickets instead of creating a waiting list.
November 26, 2008:
The Boomers left believing they’ve turned a corner, not down Victory Lane just yet, but at least they’re suddenly competitive, which is major improvement. * * * Yes, the Boomers are 1-14.
December 22, 2008:
Brown, whose team is 23-4, the virtual converse of the Boomers, painted a rosy picture of OKC’s future, raving about Westbrook and praising new coach Scott Brooks’ player rotation.
To their credit, Thunder beat-writers Darnell Mayberry and Mike Baldwin haven’t used the term when referring to the Thunder, nor have John Rohde or Jenni Carlson or any other Oklahoman sportswriter that I could locate. At the Oklahoman thus far, Tramel is alone in this.
In Berry’s blog, it is the same. In this November 29 blog post which was sort of a bulk reply upon various e-mail topics he’d received, he said,
Enough college football. Let’s talk about the NBA. Some readers inquired why I occasionally refer to the Thunder as the Boomers. Jason wrote, “I wanted to let you know that you are, in my opinion, turning off OSU fans in the process. I am guessing that one of the things you local media war lords want to do is generate excitement about the teams, but your nickname will have the opposite effect. If that nickname were to stick, OSU fans, who are currently pumped due to Mason and Lucas on the team, would become weaned off due to the obvious OU connection. I am an OSU fan, but not a rabid, Sooner hating OSU fan. So if Boomers hits me the wrong way, it will do more for the typical OSU fan.”
Doesn’t sound like you’re a rabid Thunder fan, either. Lucas was cut weeks ago. Anyway, generally speaking, OSU fans wake up looking for ways to be offended. I guess a little history lesson is necessary. Boomers are the sworn enemies of Sooners. OU fans have adopted Boomer Sooner as a slogan because of their silly fight song. But Stillwater was the Boomer capital. Payne County is named for David Payne, the leader of the Boomer movement. Boomers are a big part of our state heritage. It’s a fine secondary nickname for the Thunder.
Bill wrote, “I am making an assumption that this is some reference to Boomer Sooner or the like. Now, I have lived in OKC long enough to know that OU sports are king and everything else takes a back seat. If Oklahoma City wants to be a big-league city, it needs help to create an identity separate from OU. If, however, you are merely using the term to describe the team as young, the appearance of an OU reference still exists.”
Actually, Bill, neither is correct. Any team with a singular nickname needs a sidekick, and Boomers is perfect. Thunder booms, and Boomers are part of Oklahoma history.
Wrong again about history, Berry. Boomers were NOT the sworn enemies of Sooners. If by that he meant OU and OSU, OSU has never identified with the term “Boomers” and doubtless never will. If by that he meant history around the time of the April 22, 1889, Land Run, the Boomers and Sooners were in no way enemies of each other — they were simply different and unrelated sets of lawbreakers who used different means to attempt to get a jump on the “pistol being fired or the cannon being boomed.”
And, most lately, it looks as though a piece of Berry’s campaign is to give the Ford Center itself a nickname-nickname, the “Boom Box.” See his January 2, 2009 blog post and search for “boom box.”
Oh, my! I guess that Thunderdome simply wouldn’t do. What’s next, miniature boom boxes affixed to our shoulders, or what?
Aside from this nickname issue and Berry’s position on internet fan forums, I usually enjoy reading Berry Tramel’s columns, even when they become far-fetched from time to time …
But, on this Boomer thing, it’s way past the time for Berry and everyone to put down the silly, divisive, and historically false statements made to support his Boomers nickname-nickname stuff and get on with just being, pure and simple, Thunder fans. At least, that’s how I see it.