I hate writing this column. I really do. Maybe it's just arrogance, because having visited other NBA arenas, even a muffled Peake is louder than what I've heard in other places. I'll go on record saying that yesterday's snoozefest against the Pistons was louder than the American Airlines Arena when the Heat won the Championship. But, the notion is undeniable. The Peake has been quieter this season. What's the problem?
First, I'd just like to dispel two reasons that I feel are flat out wrong about the decreased noise in the Arena.
Rich bandwagoners have bought up the lower bowl seats. I don't believe this one for a second. If you want to see a gentrified lower bowl, then go to Miami. I've never seen such an incredibly quiet crowd. But as far as the lower bowl Peake seats go, I'm still seeing the same people that I saw 5 years ago, and I've been a season ticket holder in the same spot for that time.
The thing is, a lot of the lower bowl seats are owned by the Thunder's sponsors. They give them out to different employees every game, meaning that whoever's sitting in certain seats can change a lot from night to night. So if you get the wrong crop of people, it can put a damper in cheering, but generally, a lot of the fans are going to their only Thunder game that year. So they're just excited to be there, and add to the energy. Otherwise, there hasn't really been a lot of movement. Every time I go to the seat relocation event, there's simply nowhere else to move your seats to, because there's not a lot of turnover.
If you want to know the truth, most of the people who sit along the sideline in the lower bowl are generally going to be pretty docile. They're always the first to sit down, and they payed a lot of coin for their seats. The real noise is always going to come from the baseline and Loud City. So don't judge the crowd by the fashionable people you see on TV.
OKC Fans are used to the NBA game, so they only cheer when things matter. I just don't think this is a valid argument wherever you go. Even at some of the most historic NBA arenas, you'll find loads of fairweather fans who don't know a zone defense from a technical foul. If there's a big second quarter run, fans will cheer. If the third quarter provides some exciting plays, fans will get excited. If you need any indication, listen to the crowd when someone makes a basket after an obvious charge. Or watch them argue an obviously correct call. The majority of fans in every arena don't have a complete understanding of the game, and anything that's exciting or seems to indicate victory will draw their cheers.
However, I do feel there are some reasons for the lack of excitement that are perfectly valid. What I believe to be the three most major reasons are listed below.
1. The Thunder haven't been as exciting as they were last year. Now, before you say it, the blame for this doesn't lie totally with James Harden's departure, though that's an undeniable part of it. For every play where Harden tangoed at the rim, Kevin Martin jacks up a three. But the main reasons for the lack of exciting play, I think, have been the lack of runs, the listlessness of Russell Westbrook, and the lack of a transition game. It's hard to say what the reason behind these problems is. Westbrook and Durant trained with Team USA all summer, so they could be tired. Kevin Martin doesn't have as much of a transition game, and will often slow down for a half-court set. And of course, Russell Westbrook just hasn't been getting to the rim as much as he used to, making him not nearly as effective at inciting runs. I mean, Serge Ibaka is extremely efficient, but he's most exciting to watch on the defensive end, so his offensive emergence has actually been a hindrance in terms of excitement.
2. The Peake has yet to see a premiere matchup. So far, the Thunder have seen Portland, Atlanta, Toronto, and Detroit at home. Atlanta is a playoff team, yes, but they've historically rated as one of Oklahoma City's least desirable matchups in terms of ticket sales. In fact, according to TiqIQ, the games against Atlanta and Toronto were two of the cheapest seats you could get this season. The only team to put up a fight so far has been Atlanta, and when the game came down to the final seconds, you better believe that the Peake got loud.
3. Oklahomans like winning. Anybody who follows OU football knows that if the team wins less than 10 games in a year, support just won't be there. And lots of old people will demand that OU go back to the wishbone. During the Sooners' 8-5 season back in 2009, I remember OU sending out an email practically begging students to come to a home game against Texas A&M. I know the comparison to OU football might seem irrelevant, but it's all we really have to compare to. The Thunder haven't experienced a disappointing season yet. Every season's result has been an improvement, so it's hard to tell how fans would react if the Thunder failed to meet expectations. Especially since the new car smell is slowly fading away.
Looking at all of the reasons above, it might seem like the outlook for noise at the Peake is quite grim. But I think that this is just a temporary phenomenon. Will Thunder fans ever cheer for a 23 win team like they did in Season 1? Heck no. It's just not possible. But once things pick up, the season rolls along, and games start to mean something, the old noise will be back. And it's not like the arena hasn't seen flashes of excitement, especially at the end of the Hawks game. Fans are just biding time with their salad, waiting for the main course to arrive. Only a starving man would devour a salad. But you'd be hard pressed to find a non-vegetarian that wouldn't love to dive into a high quality sirloin steak. And once the season picks up and football ends, this steak will finally arrive.
For my part, I'll always be psyched. And if you're lucky enough to get tickets to a game this season, I hope you will be too. We've got a reputation to keep! THIS IS OUR HOUSE!
What do you think about the lack of excitement in the Peake? Is it temporary, or a worrying trend? Is there anything that can be done to fix it? Let us know! Vote in the poll, post a comment!