The Devon Tower cuts through the sky, slicing an opening in the Oklahoma City landscape and creating another touch of expansion to downtown.
This city has changed a lot since I first stayed 32 years ago. It’s changed in the six years since I left The Oklahoman newspaper, too. The Ford Center became the Oklahoma City Arena then became Chesapeake Energy Arena. Construction and growth … it’s evident all over town.
The same drive that took me by Bricktown also carried me to Stockyards City, by Cattlemen’s Steakhouse. That area of town a reflection of what Oklahoma City once was, what, deep in its heart, the city is today. Sure, the energy companies have made their billions of dollars in statements on the landscape, but it’s not the heart of the city.
Oklahoma City is, and always will be, a Cowboy Town.
This is a metro area of more that 1.2 million people spread across the Plains, yet the atmosphere is still small-town. There are those that want to make Oklahoma City what it’s not, those who’d prefer not to see cowboy hats and dually pickups and, quite possibly, horseback rides within the populous. I worked with a few at the newspaper here.
Unfortunately that viewpoint is still seen in some circles, and some of those have enough power to make a difference. When I worked the rodeo beat, we went from a weekly column and regular “game” coverage of rodeos across the state to writing about the sport just a few times a year. The paper, which had covered the NFR every year from 1965, quit sending a reporter to write about the sport’s year-end championship after 2002.
Each year, two major ProRodeo championships will take place in the Oklahoma City metro area — the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping and the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo. There also is the International Finals Rodeo, the year-end championship for the Oklahoma City-based International Professional Rodeo Association. The local paper has covered the events, as proof by THIS story, but covering rodeo is not a priority. Management can say it’s because of economic times that have hit the newspaper industry, that staffs are smaller, that budgets are tighter, but that’s not reality.
What is? The writer who is assigned to cover rodeo is an old-school reporter who cares about telling good stories, but he’s in a tough situation. Tonight, instead of covering the opening night of the steer roping finals, he will be assigned to a high school football game instead because his editor places a higher priority on that.
I’m glad to be back in this Cowboy Town, and I’m excited to share the wonderful storylines about this sport, this championship, this city. The history here, whether at State Fair Arena or the Lazy E or the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, is awesome. It’s a valuable legacy on this city, this community.
It’s just unfortunate others don’t realize that.