Summary: The history of Oklahoma City told through the comparative juxtapositioning of a season with the local NBA franchise.
My Thoughts: OKC has always been a place of big ideas, and the author will have us believe that for the most part they have been too big. The Land Run shouldn't have happened, the crazy scramble that founded the community in the late 1800s. I.M. Pei's urban renewal project in the 1960s and 1970s should never have been attempted. In the end, he tells us through his narrative, OKC is in the wrong place. As tornadoes grow in power with climate change - a phrase he never uses in connection with their growth, as the state is the farthest right in the union - they have made an increasing habit of attacking the city and its environs.
OKC, he says, has been built on a series of boom moments - the Land Run, the head-scratching agreement to allow sonic booms overwhelm the city in order to get a major airport, the spiriting away of the Seattle Supersonics to the middle of the country - and processes. The processes of chamber of commerce directors and mayors are mirrored by the Process of Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who makes personnel moves calculated for an end-goal and not short-term effect. But it's the negative booms, including the biggest of all, Timothy McVeigh's terror attack on the Alfred P. Murrah federal building, and the impacts of major tornadoes, that overwhelm the narrative in the end. We are left to think that hope is gone.
It's easy, thanks to the author's witty style, to get on board with Angelo Scott, a city founder, with Stanley Draper, long time head of the chamber of commerce, with Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, with civil rights activist Clara Luper, as they create, scheme and dream for the betterment of their city. It's hard to watch them crash when things go horribly wrong, but it feels like the story isn't over yet. Despite blight, unrealized dreams, terror attacks and tornadoes, it feels like the next kooky idea, the next it could only happen in OKC idea, the next scheme to bring the city back is only a train ticket away. Someone will step off a train, or rise up through the local schools, to bring excitement and enjoyment back to the city.
The story is told through the lens of the year that the Thunder traded away their star in waiting, James Harden, when they put all their eggs in the Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook basket. When Westbrook is injured and lost for the season, the Process is tested. Can the team rise again? In microcosm, the story of the Thunder becomes a stand-in for the story of the city.
Will the city rise again? Or should it fade away? We are left to answer this question on our own.