Friday, October 3, 2008

Stormy Memories

"Thunderball" roared the announcer over the load speaker as the ball was tipped out of bounds by the Rockford Lightning. I can still hear the deep sound of the announcer's voice ringing through my head, and I can see the amusement on my dad's face when I asked him why they kept saying "thunderbowl".

The Quad-City Thunder joined the CBA (Continental Basketball Association) for the 1987-88 season (I was 9 at the time). At the time, it was the only "major" sports team in the area other than a single A baseball team (at the time the Quad-Cities Angels). The QC Thunder played in Wharton Field House, a local high school's gymnasium. As such, the court was smaller than regulation. This resulted in the Rockford Lightning's coach Charley Rosen to declare that playing against the Thunder was like playing in a phone booth. This was the start of a rivalry between the two teams (kinda sad, I know). Whenever the Thunder would take on the Lightning, at least a couple times a game, they'd play the following over the load speaker: "Ring. Ring. It's for you, Charley."

The Thunder started off pretty strong attendance-wise, but is it really that hard to sell out a high school gym? In 1993, the Mark of the Quad Cities opened (what a lame name for an arena, huh? and yet better than the i wireless center that it's known by now), and the Thunder moved their home games there. The Thunder won the CBA championship for the first time during their first season playing in the Mark. A couple years later, minor league hockey came to the Quad Cities (the Quad City Mallards). Hockey was much more popular in the area, and the attendance of the Thunder sufferred. The Thunder managed to win one more championship (in the 1997-98 season) before finally folding to poor attendance in 2001.

I remember going to one of the games in those last few seasons, and there couldn't have been more than a few hundred people in the 12,000 seat arena. They would have been better off going back to the phone booth.

One of my lasting memories of the Thunder or more appropriately the CBA was the quarter-point scoring system to determine which teams made the playoffs. Under this system, the games were played in quarters rather than halves, and the team that scored more points in a quarter would get a point and the team that won the game would get 3, so a total of 7 points were up for grabs each game. The theory was that this would keep things interesting in the 4 quarter even if the overall score was a blowout, but that really wasn't the case. I remember being confused as to why the Thunder (or usually, the other team) wasn't trying harder to win that 4th quarter point after winning the first three.

I can't believe that Oklahoma City decided to bring the "Thunder" moniker back. I'm not sure I'd want to name my basketball team after a team that recently went defunct, but I imagine the OKC team will get a bit more support. I suppose it could have been worse. They could have been the Oklahoma City Okies.

1 comment:

gforce said...

Safe to say you have more fond memories than I do! Great job making me re-live much of my youth.