NBA Finals Blog: Fish out of water

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MIAMI - THURSDAY, June 14 - 10 p.m. (Jeff Tavss, Producer)

There's a lot of great things about Jen Herrera. She's a good reporter, she's a good person, she can cut a rug and she can't make heads or tails of the European debt crisis just like the rest of us.

BUT of all the great things about Jen, my favorite is her down-to-earthiness. No, I'm not sure that's a word, but since my middle name is Webster (as in the dictionary, and no, it really isn't but it helps the story) I can make up any word I want. There have been two examples during the NBA Finals so far that have reminded me of her down-to-earthiness.

While the rest of us were excited to head off to Oklahoma City, Jen's feelings were a bit muted. Sure, she's a Heat fan but she's also a HUGE fan of her girls and didn't want to leave them. Seriously? You think Diane Sawyer ever felt that way? Barbara Walters? Or another anchorwoman that I can't think of right now? No way! That's what makes her cool. What doesn't make her cool is when she doesn't think it's funny when I told her about a recent study that said 98 percent of young children forget what their mothers look like within two hours of them leaving on a trip to NBA no-mans-land. I would advise against doing that. Let's just say that the sun has burned lesser holes in someone's head than her stare did to me that day.

The second moment of down-to-earthiness came during the first quarter of Game 2 between the Heat and the Thunder. Having finished her work for the late shows, Jen and her photog, Marcel, came up to press row to enjoy some of the game. Having been in press row as many times as I've been invited to a SI swimsuit party (zippo), Jen was going all out for her Heat... Marcel too! The early Battier "3"... bonkers. A LeBron jumper... zonkers. The cotton candy dude walking by... complete bedlam. It was then that I had to inform Jen that there is no cheering on press row. Why? Probably because middle-aged, overweight, and dateless-at-their-high school prom men get a certain satisfaction out of not letting anyone know that hard work on a basketball court is appreciated.

Well, you should have seen Jen's face. Heartbroken. Devastated. Perplexed (what do you want, I don't have a thesaurus). I think it was at this point that she realized, like the rest of America, that sports reporters, producers, etc. are the epitome of loserness and there is no hope for us.

But the reason why this makes Jen so great is that she handled that realization with class. She walked away and let it be... leaving me alone with my thoughts, thinking wistfully of my prom night and how much better it would have been if I had had a date.

THURSDAY, June 14 - 5:50 p.m. (Victor Oquendo)

During one of my morning reports in front of the Chesapeake Energy Arena, a man drove by and screamed, "Can't go home yet, I have to take another victory lap," this was at 5:30 in the morning.

I thought this person was going to drive in a circle and head home. Instead he pulled over.

In my line of work, things like that happen all the time, and more often than not, the person is a little off their rocker.

A 75-year-old man got out of the car in a blue basketball uniform. Put on a black mask, a pilot's hat and a black cape. Then he pulled out a 1970 blue Schwinn bicycle and started his victory laps.

I thought this person was completely insane, until he came over and introduced himself.

"I'm Captain Thunder and I love this basketball team."

Remember this is all happening before the sunrise, just a few hours after game one. I've been up all night and can barely keep my eyes open and this 75-year-old man is riding around in front of an arena with mask and cape on.

"You will never find another group of fans like us," said Captain Thunder. "This team is very special to us, we believe in them and they believe in us."

Captain Thunder then gave me a shirt, which he custom made, that said, "You must believe, you will achieve." The shirt also had a giant picture of him printed on the front. He then offered to let me ride the bike, I took him up on the offer and he went home, but not before screaming,  "Hiyo Thunder."

Sure, he's a little crazy, but more than anything he cares about the team and  he's having a lot of fun.

In my first blog I wrote about the town and how they embraced this team. Now that I've seen the fan base firsthand, I know exactly what to expect in game 2.

I feel pretty strongly when I say that even if the Heat win tonight, the fans won't stop screaming, the music won't stop blaring and Captain Thunder won't stop riding his Schwinn.

TUESDAY, June 12 - 10:11 p.m. (Jeff Tavss, producer)

Before the NBA Finals began, it was mentioned how incredibly loud the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City could get.  Well, I'm here to tell you... it's loud, but it's all "fake loud."  

Don't know what "fake loud" is?  You know those body parts on South Beach that seem a little too perfect?  Well, you know they're fake (or you should know).  

The noise in OKC during Game 1 is just like that.  Yes, it's loud, but it's completely manufactured. 

The noise blaring through the loudspeakers is NEVERENDING.  It is constant. Constant like "Call Me Maybe" is on the radio.

And speaking of "Call Me Maybe," tone it down Carly Rae. I mean, yes, you're right; It IS crazy that you're giving a guy you just met your phone number. Have you never seen those movies on Lifetime where the guy seems normal at first and then ends up being the demon spawn of Charles Manson and Lindsay Lohan?  Chill for a bit, Carly Rae... get to know the guy first. If you have a good time and run the proper background checks through various state agencies, THEN give him your number.  

Anyway, the noise never ends. During the action, during timeouts, and during the time when the dumb Thunder mascot tries to give away free Internet service to a pimply-faced kid who's only going to use the Internet for one thing. It.  Doesn't. Stop!

See what I'm saying?  It's all fake. It's never fan-generated. It's all prompted by a guy high above the arena who pushes a button to play, "Y'all ready for this???"  

Real noise comes without the help. Real fans know when to get behind their team with a well-times chant. In Oklahoma City, it's amateur hour at the 4H club

Yes, you can knock Heat fans for our tardiness, but we know how to jump around without being blasted with the song "Jump Around."

I'd get into this more, but now they're playing the "Hokey Pokey" and I think it's time to put my left foot in.

MONDAY, June 11 - 5:15 p.m. (Victor Oquendo) - Green grass, a lot of it.

That's basically all we saw when our plane landed in Oklahoma City.

PHOTOS: Share your Heat spirit!

It was more of the same driving into "downtown" Oklahoma City. No billboards advertising the latest vodka or night club, just more grass, bales of hay and pickup trucks.

Downtown Oklahoma City is a small area compared to downtown Miami. It's made up of a couple museums, parks, restaurants, a bunch of banks, the Chesapeake Energy Arena and a baseball stadium for a minor league team. The buildings aren't very tall and there aren't too many of them.

PHOTOS: Heat in Oklahoma City

All of that was expected.

What surprised me, though, was how quickly the green grass, bales of hay and pickup trucks get replaced by Oklahoma City Thunder banners, signs and gear.

You can't drive a block in downtown Oklahoma City without seeing the Thunder logo displayed in an office window or a team flag flying high in front of a building.

For years now, I've heard all about the Thunder fan base and from watching them on television you can tell that they are passionate, but seeing it in person is different.

This city has embraced this franchise like only a small market town could. "Beat the Heat" signs are all over the place.

I don't live far from the American Airlines Arena and I grew up in Miami. I don't recall ever seeing anything quite like this in South Florida. There's an overpass here wrapped in Thunder blue donning the team logo.

I've only been here for a few hours now, but judging from everything I've seen so far, the Thunder fan base is living up to its reputation.

The energy inside the Chesapeake Energy Arena is usually described as "collegiate" and that description matches the surroundings too. Tomorrow night's game one will be the true test. We'll get to see how loud they really are.

Last week LeBron James put one of the most loyal fan bases to sleep when we scored 45 points against the Celtics in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Let's see if he can silence the one of the loudest fan bases in the finals.

MONDAY, June 11 - 11:51 a.m. (Will Manso) - It's the NBA Finals matchup many expected before the season. I know I did. During our Heat preseason show, both I and our Local 10 Heat analyst, Chris Perkins, felt these would be the two teams left standing. And here we are. 

That opening paragraph wasn't meant to brag, especially since it wasn't exactly a stretch that we would be at this point. Instead, I bring it up to point out how crazy an NBA season can really be.

PHOTOS: Heat fans celebrate

Even in a shortened season, a number of teams seemed to have the inside track at a title shot. Remember when the Bulls were poised to be that team to go all the way? Well, a few injuries later and they didn't even make it out of the first round. How about the Spurs? They not only had the best record in the league, but they also had the Thunder down 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers, Celtics, Clippers and Pacers all had moments that also made you wonder. Yet, they're all home for the long offseason.  

Which brings us to the two teams that fought through the up's and down's to make it this far. We know the story of the Miami Heat. The team everyone loves to hate. LeBron James played his way to another MVP title, and Miami overcome the loss of Chris Bosh through most of the postseason to get to the Finals. They also came back from down 2-1 to Indiana and 3-2 to Boston.

Meantime, the Thunder roared through the playoffs by taking care of the Lakers and coming back strong against the Spurs. Kevin Durant may have finished second to LeBron in the MVP voting, but he's gotten the attention of the national audience.  It's his time to shine, and what better stage than the NBA Finals.

So, it's the Heat and the Thunder. Just how many of us thought it would be, but with some different twists along the way. No matter the road travelled, I think it's the best series the NBA and its fans could have hoped for.

MONDAY, June 11 - 5:30 a.m. - (Jeff Tavss, Producer) - What do you think of when you think of Oklahoma City?  Well, there's the much-beloved musical "Oklahoma," of which I actually know only from a scene in the movie "When Harry Met Sally." Then there's the... uh, that thing, you know... well, yeah... that's pretty much it.

But according to the rules of the NBA, it is mandated that both teams get the opportunity to host games in The Finals. How archaic is that?  I mean, seriously, didn't our basketball forefathers (Dr. James Naismith, Wilt Chamberlain, Air Bud and Dennis Rodman) ever consider that there'd be an outside chance that the hoops universe may one day run out of luck and be forced to hold its premier event in the same city that prides itself on being the home of the American Banjo Museum? I'm figuring they did not... or if they did, Rodman was the one who convinced the others that'd it be "funny," and he probably did it by singing the others a song on a banjo.

Anyway, that's where we're heading this morning.  The entire Local 10 crew of myself (a producer who no one will really listen to), Will Manso, Jen Herrera, Victor Oquendo, three photographers (they like to be called videographers because it sounds "awesomer," they're word, not mine, and an engineer named Joe who really drew the short straw as he had to drive our satellite truck all the way from South Florida to Oklahoma City.  If you have visions of Engineer Joe driving alongside Burt Reynolds in a "Smokey and the Bandit" remake, think again.  Our satellite truck maybe... MAYBE... can hit 60 miles-per-hour and it most certainly does not have a bitchin' Trans Am paint job.  Plus, Joe's refusal to grow a Burt Reynolds mustache is legendary in the television business... right alongside Jen's refusal to do the same.

So it's 5:30 in the morning as we're sitting on the tarmac waiting for our plane to take us to our destination.  It's ironic considering that I have flown over Oklahoma roughly one million times, but now I will actually land there!  First stop?  The American Banjo Museum!  Hey, when in Oklahoma City....

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