NORMAN — From his seat in section 101 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Frank Crawford can see all the action.
Whether it’s coach Scott Brooks pacing the sidelines or Serge Ibaka swatting a shot into the stands on the other end of the court, the Oklahoma City native has a bird’s eye view at each Thunder game.
However, it’s not the view that keeps Crawford coming back to every home game. It’s the feeling of being in “Loud City” on those nights when the Thunder are in the midst of a stunning comeback, Kevin Durant is knocking down 3-pointers from 30 feet out, Russell Westbrook is throwing down monster dunks and the entire arena gets swept up in the hysteria.
“It’s electric,” Crawford said. “It raises the hair on the back of your neck. The crowd gets into it. You can barely hear yourself think and talk. You can’t talk to your neighbor. All you can really do is clap, cheer, yell and feel that little tingling sensation. So when they are on a roll, the crowd is on a roll with them.”
This has become a common occurrence at Oklahoma City games for the past four years as the team and its fan base have formed a symbiotic relationship, each feeding off the other.
“First, it helps you get into the game,” Choctaw’s Shawn Norman said. “It helps the players get into the game, and you can see that. When you see the players responding to the crowd, you want to get into the game as a fan.”
According to Dr. Kyle Toal, a cardiovascular surgeon at the Norman Heart Hospital, this is all part of the multidimensional model of momentum.
“I don’t think the fans plays a role in home court advantage,” Toal said, “but I think it does play a role in momentum. There is a physiological principle we learned in medical school called self efficacy. All it is the belief that you’re going to perform well. It so happens self-efficacy is determined by external factors.”
Over a 10-day span from Jan. 17-27, the Thunder played four homes games against Golden State, Sacramento, Portland and Atlanta. In each contest, the fourth quarter proved to be pivotal, emotional and full of action.
From Durant going for 54 points against the Warriors to him hitting a walk-off game-winner against the Hawks, the Peake was at a fever pitch. The common trait was the fans turning the intensity of the game.
“When the Thunder are making one of their comebacks at the Peake, there is a feeling of momentum and energy that increases as each point of the deficit is erased,” season ticket holder Eric Urbach said. “A run usually starts with a big basket, then maybe a block on the defensive end that starts a fast break that ends with a big dunk.
“It is like a boxing match when one of the fighters starts taking blows and you can tell that it is only going to take a few more punches to knock him out. You start to anticipate one opponent overtaking over the other, and it’s quite a rush.”
While this feeling may not be totally unique to Oklahoma City, it has become a staple of the team’s success. Brooks, Durant and Russell Westbrook have said over and over how “Loud City” has carried the team through stretches when the team just didn’t have “it.”
“The fan base is unreal,” Lawton resident Ron Medina said. “The critics made comments saying Oklahoma could not support a professional team. They were wrong. Sell-out crowds all the time. The fans cause havoc with the noise. Visiting players are just not used to the loudness. It is very deafening.”
Opposing players have taken notice of how Thunder’s fan base has grown.
“They probably have the best crowd in the league,” the Lakers Kobe Bryant said last year. “Their crowd is incredible.”
Heading into tonight’s nationally televised game against LeBron James and the defending champion Miami Heat, the Thunder are carrying a long home sell-out streak. Fans continue to return to “Loud City” game after game, wanting to experience the same euphoria of previous outings.
“The feeling can be addictive because you do get an adrenaline rush,” Urbach said. “After a big comeback win, the energy in the hallways of the Peake is penetrable. Everyone is charged. It is like walking out of a ‘Rocky’ movie. People are whooping and hollering and everyone has a little spring in their step.”
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