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Why I’m a fan of the Oklahoma Sooners
by Kartik Rajendran
When my family made the move from India to the United States decades ago, we first settled in the great college town of Norman, Oklahoma, where my uncle’s family who’d sponsored ours for immigration had been living for many years. My uncle, a professor and administrator at OU through the 1980s and ‘90s, actually gets most of the credit for teaching me all about American sports, and my two older U.S.-born cousins get the rest. Truth be told, the first football game I remember watching was Notre Dame taking on West Virginia. My initial attention was fixated on the Irish’s helmets, which I thought were really neat!
Forgive me, though, for I was only six and had never before seen the crazy game of football. (I will mention, however, I was a pretty damn good cricketer at that age.)
My fickle infatuation with Notre Dame’s shiny gold helmets thankfully didn’t last long, and pretty soon the colors of the Crimson & Cream comfortably took over. I remember my cousin, Vijay would fill me in on all things OU football and basketball daily, and I’d eat up all that knowledge with the endearing enthusiasm of most kids that age. About a month into my indoctrination, I knew all about Coach Switzer, the wishbone, Mookie Blaylock and the Kansas Jayhawks, who had recently robbed the heavily-favored Sooners of the 1988 college basketball crown and were the epitome of evil.
It was also during this formative time that I figured out all I needed to about the Pokes, the state of Texas and the acquired distaste for the color orange, as well. I hadn’t completely forgotten about Kapil Dev and my beloved Indian cricket team yet, but it had become abundantly clear that they’d need to make room for the Oklahoma Sooners fast.
My family moved from Norman a couple of years later when my dad completed his master’s at OU, and after briefly living in the Washington D.C. area, we returned to Oklahoma when I was still in elementary school. I remember being in awe for days when my cousins would take me to see the Sooners live — one of the first games I remember being the 1993 All-College Basketball Classic in Oklahoma City. And I could never forget one of my favorite memories as a kid: my first-ever live football game featuring Colorado taking on the Howard Schnellenberger-coached Sooners in 1995. The game’s result was rather painful (38-17, not OU), but the experience has endured ever since and likely will through this lifetime.
I won’t lie — I couldn’t help but become a fan of Colorado and Florida State football back in those days, but despite my growing love for the sport overall, Sooner football still had my heart through those rough years of the late ‘90s. No matter the frustrations of that odd season with Schnelly on the sidelines or the brutal John Blake years that followed, OU’s chant would never die.
Also, my cousins still never let me live down the fact I once rooted on the Buffs.
The road inevitably always led back to Norman, and after graduating high school in Bartlesville, I officially headed down to my old stomping grounds for my college years, which kicked off with the unexpectedly magical second season of the early Bob Stoops era. My high school class evidently arrived to campus with the Midas Touch and had no idea the renewed love affair with Oklahoma football about to take over our lives for the next four years and beyond. The undefeated Sooners won their seventh national title during my freshman year, and I was fortunate enough to even see an OU men’s hoop squad reach a Final Four as a sophomore.
Stoops and company, of course, made two more BCS title game appearances when I was an undergrad and had it not been for Carmelo Anthony’s one-man crushing of the Big 12 in the ’03 NCAA Tournament, I’d have been telling my grandkids about witnessing back-to-back Final Fours as a student.
To this day a piece of me still hates you, Carmelo.
Well over a decade later, the rollercoaster ride of this love affair hasn’t let up one bit. Though fans have witnessed a hefty share of heartbreaks for the Sooners since the resounding success of 2000, we’ve also seen our share of highlights, as well. As most of us have come to know, the love for sports truly knows no bounds or borders. So, I suppose it’s no surprise that there is and always was only one Oklahoma, even for a kid who began his life halfway across the world from Norman.
Boomer Sooner, and Live On, University.
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