If you were in the Ford Center for the dark days of Thunder basketball, you'll know that the experience of that first season wasn't just marked by bad play. It was marked by absolutely deplorable presentation quality.
On television, you had crews who were used to running High School Football games all of a sudden thrust into the role of televising a live professional sports event. The result was a lot of miscues. I have bad memories of the feed on my TV going out, making me miss large chunks of the game because KSBI didn't know what they were doing. I can remember one specific occasion where the entire third quarter was broadcast as a slideshow of images, accompanied by very odd static noises. Even when things were going right, it wasn't much better. Very early on, every commercial break was accompanied by loud, repetitive trumpet noises. By the end of the game, you wouldn't be blamed for having your finger hovering over the mute button.
Still, the television experience was nothing compared to what was awaiting you at the arena.
Those four words will forever resonate in my head, no matter how many times I try to eradicate them. During that first season of the Thunder's existence, as I saw my team crushed by team after team, I was forced to listen to this blasted song at least 5 times a game. Worse than the beat was the implication that you were supposed to rapidly clap your hands for the entire shot clock.
The season is too far in the past for me to remember other specifics, but I do know that there were precious few songs in the Thunder's repertoire, and that the team had very little in the way of graphics and signage. When I was down in the tunnel during one game, I noticed that the stormchasers were literally throwing T-Shirts out of inside-out Supersonics bags. Basically, the team had a lot of work to do, both on and off the court.
Today, things have changed dramatically. Obviously, things will never be perfect for any one individual. I doubt the people running the arena would approve my usual playlist of Funk, Rap, 80s pop, and Chillwave music. And I cringe every time I have to hear an Indie Rock version of Oklahoma, or "Tonight's Going to be a Good Night".
Still, I'm overall satisfied with the approach. Unlike some places, Oklahoma City doesn't have a lot of local music flavor, unless you count the unusual rock of The Flaming Lips or the slow-paced country tunes of Garth Brooks and Toby Keith. All of them are totally unplayable as arena beats, so the Thunder resort to mostly contemporary pop, mixed in with some timeless popular hits. As once referenced by a certain Memphis blogger, they're basically in line with ESPN Jock Jams.
But where I think the DJs behind the scenes really hit their stride is when they need to get the crowd amped. This is usually coming out of a time out. It's hard to come up with specific examples, because I think that a lot of the songs are re-mixes or original beats. The songs are pretty catchy, usually feature rally lyrics, and make you want to dance. It's not to everyone's taste, and it's not Mozart, but it accomplishes its' goal of putting me in the mood.
The arena staff also does a good job of producing on-court beats. I will admit that they play defense chants too much and annoyingly pump in artificial sound sometimes. But they do a good job of varying it up, and take a lot of solid portions of catchy songs and integrate it into the action. Some of my favorites are the intro to Big Boi's "Shutterbugg" when the Thunder are on offense, or the famous beat from Yello's "Oh Yeah" when the Thunder are on defense.
I know, I'm no music expert, and my taste is probably deplorable. And I also know that the Thunder probably aren't anywhere close to touching the Top 10 NBA teams in terms of music. But I think we can all agree that the in-arena musical presentation has come a long way. Hopefully, given time, they'll develop their own unique flavor. That or they'll finally stop torturing us with the Black Eyed Peas.