I have been able to visit nearly every state in this great nation. There are a few remaining, but thanks to my previous life as a vagabond announcer, I’ve covered most of them and have a few tales about each one.
I was reminded in some song lyrics about Oklahoma ("Oklahoma Stars" by the Turnpike Troubadours, check it out). For some reason that state tends to hold more career-defining moments than any other. Maybe as we continue through the adjusted sports world of COVID-19, I will share a little about each one. But, back to Oklahoma. What a state that has been to yours truly.
My first-ever real radio trip as a play-by-play announcer occurred in Tulsa, Okla., in 2000 as my alma mater Point Loma Nazarene University played in the NAIA National Basketball Tournament. It was also a big deal because it was the first time a game would be carried live on the internet. It was a big campus production to pull off what we can simply do from our phones these days, but off to Tulsa I went on now defunct TWA Airlines for what would be the first of my hundreds of thousands airline miles in my career.
Things went well until right before game time when my equipment wasn’t jiving with the phone line and I could not get a connection back to San Diego. So, I asked our sports information director to borrow his cell phone (I didn’t have one yet) and I called the biggest game of my young career from a cell phone courtside. According to the listeners, they couldn’t tell the difference; crisis averted.
Fast forward about half a dozen years later and I’m filling in as an announcer for the Bakersfield Blitz Arena 2 football team and we are playing the Oklahoma City Yard Dogs in Oklahoma City. We land during a tornado warning and I endured one of the most frightening storms in my life that evening. The next day we lose the game at the brand-new Ford Center (more on that place later) when our kicker misses the game-winning field goal. By the way, my limited arena football stories are plentiful and unreal at the same time. Probably a few more tales from that as well coming in short order.
Another half-dozen years later I am with the Cal State Bakersfield baseball team taking on Oklahoma in Norman for a three-game series. First time visiting OU, great campus and facility, nice people, interesting hotel. They put us up in the Sooner Legends hotel, which was an old Ramada Inn that an Oklahoma superfan bought and decked the halls with great historic Oklahoma athletics photos, some not-so-great action paintings and themed each room around a legendary athlete. Mine was an All-American lineman, I believe.
I remember some of us asking our baseball coach, Bill Kernen, who the athlete was in his room. Coach Kernen was a brilliant baseball mind but did not follow football too much. He said, “I think it’s a running back, some guy who set some record and got drafted by the Vikings I think.” Three of us simultaneously said “Adrian Pederson!” One heck of a “some running back.” Unfortunately, COVID-19 claimed the Sooner Legends Hotel as a victim; a four-month closure was too much to overcome.
It was four years after that I made my final professional trip to the state as CSUB men’s basketball was sent to the Oklahoma City Regional in the NCAA Tournament. I walked back into the Chesapeake Energy Center (formerly the Ford Center) this time in a much bigger capacity than arena football and a much bigger tournament than the NAIA gig some 16 years earlier. It was a magical couple of days there in that city once again with the stakes higher than ever. Ironically, we were playing Oklahoma of all teams. It was not lost on me then and I am reminded now just how much the state of Oklahoma has mattered in my journey through it many times.
Funny thing is during all those games (basketball, baseball, arena football) I never left that state with a win, not one, 0-5 all-time. Unless you count memorable experiences and career moments I will never forget. I will count that as a flyover state victory any day and claim I am undefeated in the Sooner state.
Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are his own.