Sunday, July 21

Press Pass: Tennis in Tulsa

UCLA men's tennis was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I championship tournament. But the visit was an "eye-opening experience" for the writers who went to cover it. (Charlie Levin/Daily Bruin)

UCLA men's tennis was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I championship tournament. But the visit was an "eye-opening experience" for the writers who went to cover it. (Charlie Levin/Daily Bruin)

TULSA, Okla. — We’re going to start by getting the bad stuff out of the way. So, let’s begin with sports.

Our trip to Tulsa ended, unfortunately, as a huge athletic disappointment. Not only did UCLA men’s tennis lose in an upset to Oklahoma in the quarterfinals of the 2016 NCAA Division I men’s tennis championship, but Hanson’s Warriors were absolutely obliterated by the Thunder in Oklahoma City in game three of the NBA Western Conference finals. We guess we weren’t good luck charms.

Second, cheap Tulsa food sucks. One of Charlie’s favorite hobbies is travelling to new cities and trying different cheap food. He’s usually in awe of the selection from street vendors and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. But when he plugged in his request on Yelp, Chik-fil-A came up as the fifth best option. We knew it would be a long two days.

Finally (Tulsa was great, we promise!), Tulsa drivers are essentially LA drivers but with more room to maneuver. We got cut off or honked at at least twice every time we drove. Now, Charlie’s no mathematician, but even he knows those are pretty bad statistics considering that our trips usually lasted for no more than five minutes.

But our trip to Tulsa still proved to be a fun, eye-opening experience. So now we can move on to the good.

The single greatest thing about Tulsa is the people.

We hailed an Uber – yes, they have this trendy transportation in the Bible Belt – upon arrival at the Tulsa airport. We chatted and laughed like old pals with our driver for the entire 20 minutes it took to cross the quaint downtown area to our hotel. As we got out of the freshly cleaned pickup, the realization struck us that we had never spoken as much as two sentences to an Uber driver in LA.

The friendliness followed us for our entire stay. Tulsa’s DoubleTree receptionist welcomed us with warm cookies. Another Uber driver gave us an enthusiastic tour of an uninspiring part of town as we drove to our destination five minutes away. A waitress at a local eatery explained the menu and why the bacon cheeseburger is her favorite, as if it were a well-guarded secret.

These are not huge things, but you’d be surprised how much it made a difference.

We thought at first that maybe we were just used to LA, a place known for cold and snobbish people. Nope. Tulsans are just really nice people.

This all makes sense when you consider how many UCLA-connected people we met here. Two out of the 10 people we talked with at length either went to UCLA or had a close family relative that went to UCLA (Charlie can do that math – 20 percent). Thus, to continue his academic analysis, UCLA =nice people. We digress.

Finally, and arguably most importantly, it was a phenomenal experience covering a sporting event in a pressure-filled, foreign atmosphere.

The NCAA had a great setup at the beautiful Michael D. Case Tennis Center on the University of Tulsa campus, and the staff made sure that everything ran smoothly and efficiently, making our lives much simpler.

And nothing could replace witnessing hundreds of fans – mostly from Oklahoma – pulling for their favorite school. Throughout the entire tournament, chants of “Boomer Sooner!” and “O-hio!” were countered with chants of “UC-LA!” and “Cali-fornia!”. After every winner the crowd burst into a boisterous cheer, after every unforced error, a collective groan. Even the players fed into the crowd. Georgia’s Jan Zielinski drew the ire of the crowd after protesting a non-call by the umpire, so after he won the next point, he turned around, pounded his chest and yelled, “Come on!” at the Oklahoma fans behind him.

We were also provided with media passes (Charlie’s still wearing his because he thinks it’s cool) and were given great access to the teams, which greatly helped us to write and analyze the matches alongside real, big-person writers.

We have to say, we were half-expecting to be treated like some unpaid interns – flies on the wall that nobody really wants there. Not the case. To be treated like real journalists capable of producing quality work was special and humbling. Some people even mistook us for athletes (we make a very convincing argument). We did get free food – a godsend given we’re still broke college students – and we haven’t had enough time to take off our rose-colored glasses, so take that with a grain of salt.

So, because this article is filled with third-grade math equations and ill-constructed statistics, we thought we’d conclude with one more in the spirit of randomness: Tulsa positives > Tulsa negatives.

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Sports Producer for Video

Levin is a sports producer for Video. He was previously a contributor for Video and a reporter for Sports.

Senior staff

Wang is a Daily Bruin senior staffer on the football and men's basketball beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the men's tennis, women's tennis and women's soccer beats. Wang was previously a reporter for the men's tennis beat.

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