A Vintage coffee shop idea for the 2020s

Ed Coffee
Ed Godfrey enjoying his newspaper at a local coffee shop this past Spring

My friend Ed Godfrey may look like he hit his prime as a Stigler High School football star back in the 1970s, but he’s really a guy full of ideas for the 2020s

Ed and I like to meet in coffee shops across the OKC metro and solve the world’s problems over a cup of Joe.

Ed takes his coffee black, thank you very much.

Anyway, we were sitting in a local bagel place last week talking about a new family-owned coffee shop some friends of mine recently launched in Bethany. It’s called MentaliTEA and Coffee. The owners are Steve and Lisa Buck and their daughter Avery.

I had already sampled the Bucks’ new shop, and Ed wanted to know what it offered.

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MentaliTEA and Coffee

I responded that it offered a relaxing setting with great spots for conversation, along with the usual coffee shop menu of drip coffees, various espresso drinks, teas and pastries. It even offers hot biscuits.

Ed thought about that for a few seconds.

“I think we ought to open up our own coffee shop,” he finally said. “We’ll call it Vintage Coffee. No espresso machine. No fancy pastries. Donuts only.”

I laughed at the thought of a straight coffee-only coffee shop run by a couple of old school geezers.

“We’re going to offer only Folgers, Maxwell House and Sanka, which was my father’s favorite coffee,” Ed continued. “It’s like a step back in time.”

SankaHe was rolling now. It would be located not in the heart of the metro, but in a rural community where they might still appreciate coffee out of a can the way their fathers and grandfathers drank it

“We don’t need any baristas, either,” he said. “Pour it into a cup and stir it up.”

I was already seeing Formica countertops.

Ed also is the guy who had the excellent idea to connect community events across Oklahoma like the Rush Springs Watermelon Festival with the Oklahoma City Dodgers baseball team.

We haven’t seen any watermelon seed-spitting contests yet as between-inning entertainment, but it could happen.

Ed’s already working on outreach for his coffee shop concept.

He knows that I’ve worked for years with the Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup collegiate business plan competition. It’s an event in which teams of students from college campuses across Oklahoma pitch innovative ideas to panels of judges with thousands of dollars of cash prizes on the line.

“Maybe one of those college teams could take this idea and win the Love’s Cup,” Ed said.

It could happen.

Why the unvaccinated are taking a political stand

Unvaxxed

Back in early January of this year, I was pretty excited to snag an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccination at Mercy Hospital. Nimble fingers and computer savvy allowed me to find a time on the county health department website and complete the registration form before someone beat me to it.

So, I was able to secure both doses of the Pfizer vaccine before the end of January. Mercy ran the operation incredibly well and only allowed us to enter the facility within 15 minutes of our appointment.

That meant there were virtually no lines. Much appreciated, Mercy.

Similar vaccination sites were set up around the city, including a giant operation at the fairgrounds that could vaccinate hundreds at a time.

Then what happened?

Despite evidence that shows the COVID vaccines are incredibly effective, the numbers of people flocking to vaccine sites quickly dwindled. Health care providers anticipating a crush of people seeking protection from the potentially deadly COVID virus sat idly, waiting for patients who never arrived.

The need for vaccination sites that could handle hundreds at a time evaporated and most closed up shop. Now you can schedule a vaccination at your local Walgreens or CVS and have no trouble finding open time slots.

Oklahoma vaxxedI just peeked at the numbers, and while 46 percent of my fellow Oklahomans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, less than 40 percent of us have been fully vaccinated against COVID.

Those are pretty disappointing numbers, but I’m not surprised.

Just like wearing of masks over the past 15 months or so, getting the vaccine has been turned into a political statement. And we’re a Red state.

When I hear people say they don’t trust the vaccine or how it was developed, that’s not the real message I’m receiving.

To me, there’s no doubt that these are the same people who supported Donald Trump and bought into his BS about the COVID-19 pandemic being a hoax, yada, yada, yada.

Sure, there may be some people who are merely procrastinating.  But when you look at maps that show low rates of vaccination, the standout states with low numbers match up pretty well with the Red states that supported Trump.

And we’re watching COVID infections rise dramatically in the Trump hotbed states like Missouri, across the South and in Oklahoma.

So, what are the implications?

Well, we’ll watch our neighbors and our elderly relatives get sick. Some will die.  Even those of us who are vaccinated are at risk of infection because of our unvaccinated fellow Oklahomans.

All because of their proud vaccine resistance that has its roots in the Trump insanity.

A story in today’s edition of The Oklahoman reports a new poll that shows that the majority of unvaccinated Americans say they do not plan to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows 56.5% of Americans have gotten at least one dose, and 43.5% have not received one. Of those people, a poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 35% say they probably will not get the vaccine, and 45% say they definitely will not.”

As one who is proudly vaccinated, I reluctantly keep my mask at hand. I fear more disruptions loom in our future. All because of the unwilling who are making a political statement by shunning the vaccine.

So, what’s the point of all of my rambling?

What we’re seeing in the unvaccinated is a collective display of the Ugly American. The me-first. The selfish who would never consider doing something for the greater good.

That’s ‘merica. That’s “freedom,” as defined by Oklahoma Gov. Stitt.

Sadly, the pandemic is far from over. And it’s no fault but our own.

Guest blog post from Steve Buck: Thunder up!

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Guest blogger Steve Buck, with his wife Lisa, explains why he’s enthusiastic about the Thunder’s tanking strategy and its future.

Editor’s note: My friend Steve Buck and I have gone back and forth for months over the Oklahoma City Thunder. We’ve debated their tanking strategy to maneuver for better draft lottery position, as well as Sam Presti’s flipping of players for future draft choices. Steve is all in on the Thunder’s strategy, while I’ve mourned the loss of so many fan-favorite players. So, I asked Steve to write this guest post to provide perspective on why he’s so enthusiastic about the Thunder’s strategy and their future. Thank you, Steve. Here is his take:

By Steve Buck

For a decade, I enjoyed watching the Thunder find success. It was cool to see national networks regularly featuring our city and state as the team regularly showed up in the post-season. And the players who stepped on the court wearing our Thunder uni’s … Durant, Westbrook, Harden, CP3, George, Melo and so many others … extraordinary talents calling OKC home. It was fun to watch and celebrate victories and lament losses and injuries. But, candidly, as enjoyable as those teams were, I wasn’t really a fan, just a bystander enjoying the ride.

That changed in 20-21 though. I have entered fan mode.

To the reader who has enjoyed the decade of outstanding play from the club, you likely find it odd that I’d buy into the team in a year when, in terms of on the court success, they were simply awful. But in that poor record, I truly gained insight into the massive job in front of Sam Presti to sustain a small market club for the long-haul.

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Thunder at home during 2016 playoffs

As I tried to learn from observing, I caught glimpses in his approach that I have strived for in my own professional path … steadfast pursuit of a long-term outcome, commitment to principles, patience where necessary, preparedness to seize opportunity when presented and commitment to building a culture of respect and camaraderie for club players and employees. I’ve also watched roster development and seen the focus on fit as much as flash. I find that approach appealing.

I know my friends in the Thunder Fan World have struggled saying goodbye to the historic names that have played on our roster. The host of this blog post, for example, laments roster churn every time we discuss Thunder hoops. The churn has been painful. I get it. My daughters, for example, consider wherever Westbrook plays their favorite team.

But I have taken a more pragmatic view of the roster rollover… 1) it is necessary to meet the long-term objective of sustained excellence, and 2) professionally, we accept employer changes as expected so why do we not expect Thunder players to change employers with regularity too.

Why Jim Stafford can’t embrace the Thunder changes.

And now the current players. SGA, Dort, Poku, Kenrich, Baze and the rest of the ’20 – ’21 crew. They may not have won many games, but they sure played hard. Some knew it might be their only shot…and they gave every ounce of energy they had against elite competition.

I get it that there was some roster gamesmanship and the club needed losses, but it was still fun. And encouraging. And tantalizing.

Poku, for example. Geez, there sure were some duds. But there were also moments where you could see a unique talent that might just be a fit that pays huge dividends down the road. Dort. How can you not love a guy’s work ethic who could’ve gone south after being passed over in the draft but instead throws everything at self-improvement. And finally, SGA. I believe he can win a slew of games for us in the future. Yes, I know that each is an asset and might have to be moved, but I also know that Presti wants sustained excellence, so the churn must stop soon.

In financial markets, we are encouraged to buy low and sell high. We’ve run at a peak in the Loud City for many years. Last year was a temporary market set-back in terms of our NBA club. Seems like a great time to buy because I see historic gains for the club in the future. That’s why this bystander became a fan in ’20-21. During the empty arena season that was a debacle in the win-loss column I bought a ticket package for the 21-22 campaign – my first package purchase since the club has been in OKC.

I am very bullish on this club, our players and team leadership.

THUNDER UP!!!

Steve Buck is the President and CEO of a trade association in Oklahoma City and co-owner of Mentalitea and Coffee, a new shop opening soon in Bethany, OK.

I’m officially on the Tulsa Noodlers bandwagon

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I’m loading up on cold, juicy watermelon at the Rush Springs Watermelon Festival back in 2016

Five years ago this summer, my daughter and I took a short road trip down to Southwest Oklahoma to experience the famous Rush Springs Watermelon Festival.

We had a blast. The crowd was huge, the watermelon cold and delicious. We saw humongous melons that were entered in a beauty contest. We wandered through dozens of flea-market style booths and witnessed a seed spitting contest that was open to all comers.

A few days later, I attended an Oklahoma City Dodgers baseball game with my friend, Ed Godfrey, and told him all about the wonders of the Watermelon Festival.

As we watched one of the fan contests the Dodgers roll out nightly for its between innings entertainment — as do most minor league teams — Ed suddenly had an idea.

Why don’t the Dodgers incorporate the Watermelon Festival into the team’s between innings entertainment, he asked.

Before long, Ed was envisioning a marketing tie-in that included a seed-spitting contest for Dodgers fans while promoting Rush Springs and the Festival.

Ed was right on the mark. The Dodgers are missing a huge opportunity by not teaming up with a Rush Springs Watermelon Festival or any of the dozens of festivals around the state that celebrate everything from peaches to cowchips to Woody Guthrie.

Turns out, Ed’s opining has turned into prophesy.

We learned this afternoon that the Tulsa Drillers are celebrating Oklahoma’s reputation as a “noodling” paradise for a weekend series August 12-15.

The Drillers are the Double A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers and will actually take the field as the Tulsa Noodlers during their Noodling Weekend, complete with special-for-the occasion uniforms.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, Noodling is the fine art of fishing for catfish with your hands. As the Outdoors Editor of The Oklahoman, Ed recently featured an Oklahoma family that makes its living as noodling guides.

Noodlers.Naturally, the Drillers are selling custom Noodlers caps and T-Shirts to mark the occasion.

Ed was among the first in line for the merchandise.

“My Tulsa Noodlers cap has been ordered,” he told me this afternoon.

We’re even planning a road trip to see the Tulsa Noodlers in action next month.

Calling all fans of hillbilly handfishing. There’s still plenty of room on the Noodlers bandwagon.

A True Crime Story: Driving While Black

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Ryan leans against his Honda as he poses for photo after being stopped & searched by police.

I drove over to Fort Smith one morning in late June to attend the funeral of my uncle.  My son also drove over to Fort Smith that same day to spend some time with his Grandmother.

Ryan left OKC about an hour behind me.

Later, my wife sent a disturbing text that I happened to notice during a pit stop at the Love’s Travel Stop just west of the Arkansas River bridge on I-40.

Ryan had been pulled over by the police.

Great, I thought.  He’ll probably have a big speeding ticket to pay.

Turns out, it was a far different stop.

Ryan is African-American and was driving a Honda Accord with Texas plates.  The cop told him he had been pulled over because he “crossed the line.”

That was only the beginning.

After he was pulled over,  the policeman asked him to sit in the back of the police cruiser.  There were two policemen in the car, and a second police car with two more officers parked nearby.

The officers began asking Ryan a lot of questions.  Where had he been? What had he been doing?  Where was he planning to go and why?

Ryan answered their questions. He’s a student at the University of North Texas. He had been at his parents home in Edmond. He was going to visit his Grandmother in Fort Smith.

The cop asked permission to search his car. Ryan said ‘no.’ The officer then said they were going to get the drug dog out of the other police car and sniff his car.

Ryan said he told the policeman that the dog would have a hit on his car because “that’s what you want.”

Of course, the dog showed a “hit,” so the officers proceeded to search every inch of the vehicle. They found nothing.

Finally, the policeman came back and told Ryan he could go. No apology, but no ticket, either. The officer did say he appreciated Ryan’s patience.

I ask Ryan what agency  the officers were from, but he did not know. I assume it was a drug interdiction team from the Sheriff’s Office.

From my perspective, this was a clear case of racial profiling. Young African-American male driver. Texas tags. Driving alone on I-40 headed east.

“That’s just the way it is,” Ryan told me. “Every time I’ve been pulled over the cop asks ‘do you have drugs? Do you have guns?'”

As a 60-something white man, I’ve never been asked by a police officer if I had drugs.  Or guns.

As my wife told me later, if it had been her or me driving that vehicle we would have never been pulled over. Certainly our car would not have been searched.

I’m thankful that Ryan was released unharmed to go on his way. But it also brings home the hazards in this country of driving while Black.

It is real.

Discovering real value of OKC Streetcar

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OKC Streetcar at the Business District stop in downtown Oklahoma City

A few weeks ago, I made the argument in a blog post that the OKC Streetcar had no real purpose, even though I’m a huge fan.

The point was that the Streetcar has no destination, so you can’t really plan a trip, say to the Capitol from downtown. You can read the post here.

After this past weekend of big downtown events, I think I need to revisit the subject.

I made the argument in the original post that maybe the Streetcar could find a purpose by providing transportation into downtown for big events like Thunder games.

Rather than enduring traffic jams and competing for expensive parking near the Chesapeake Arena, fans could find parking near the north end of the Streetcar and ride down to the arena.

Bingo.

Aboard
Aboard the OKC Streetcar, Arts Fest bound

This past weekend confirmed to me that the Streetcar can indeed bring value to our population. With the OKC PrideFest and Arts Festival ongoing simultaneously, thousands of people were drawn to downtown.

My family and I drove downtown Friday evening to visit the Arts Fest and found a convenient (and empty!) lot near N. 11th Street. It was near the North Hudson Streetcar stop.

So, we caught the Streetcar there and rode it down to the Business District stop. We exited and walked a block over to the Arts Fest.

Turns out, there were scores of others who had the same idea. We boarded a Streetcar that had a least 20 people on it along with four others at our stop.

We saw multiple groups of people parking and walking to the northern-most Streetcar stops to ride into the downtown.

My friend Steve reports that his family visited the Arts Fest on Saturday and took the Streetcar down from the North Hudson stop, as well.

When Steve and his family left the Arts Fest to make the return trip, the car on which they rode was packed with more than 50 people, he said.

Of course, the Streetcar was free last week. so take that into account.

And, as Steve points out, occasional festivals and NBA games don’t create ongoing value for the Streetcar.

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Paula and grandson Solomon Stafford at OKC Streetcar Library stop

This morning’s edition of The Oklahoman has an in-depth look at the Streetcar and makes the case that its real value is that of encouraging investment in real estate and construction downtown.

That’s not exactly an endorsement of a Streetcar that serves the greater good.

“It truly is a downtown novelty until ridership is majority residential commuter,” Steve said.

If that is true, then we need a bigger downtown population that is willing to give up their cars to commute, along with an extension of the Streetcar line.

I’m still arguing for a connection to the nearby University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the Capitol.

But I took heart in the numbers of people this past weekend who found value in the Streetcar as a means of transportation to big downtown events.

The OKC Streetcar proved to me that it has an actual purpose beyond real estate development and tourism.

It IS there to serve the greater good.

Stillwater’s XploSafe wins EPA ‘Green Chemistry’ award

XploSafe screen

I saw a bit of news this week that took me back more than a decade. A Stillwater-based company called XploSafe has been named 2021 winner of the EPA Green Chemistry Challenge Award.

That’s a big deal because there are more than 1,800 nominations for this award, and XploSafe is the only winner in the Small Business category.

XploSafe was named a Green Chemistry Challenge winner for the capabilities of its invention called PhosRox™, a novel sorbent for the removal of phosphorus and nitrogen from water. The compound reduces pollution and also results in a material that can be used as a timed release fertilizer.

A win-win for everyone.

Anyway, it’s been more than 10 years since I first learned about XploSafe. Actually, I’m not sure it had yet been launched as a startup when XploSafe co-founder Shoaib Shaikh pitched the concept in what was then the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup business plan competition.

If you’re not familiar, the Governor’s Cup – now called the Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup – it is a statewide collegiate business plan competition in which teams pitch real life concepts with $150,000 in cash and scholarships on the line. It is managed by i2E, Inc.

The XploSafe concept was pitched by Shaikh, then an Oklahoma State University student, as a technology to detect explosives with a vision to protect soldiers, airports and other situations.  It was based on a chemical compound developed in the laboratory of Dr. Allen Apblett, an OSU chemistry professor.

XploSafe1Today, Shaikh is the company’s CEO and chief financial officer while Apblett is president and senior analytical chemist.

Over the past decade, the company has expanded its capabilities, and today markets products for air monitoring, chemical safety, bomb squads, first responders, transport security and HAZMAT teams.

My friends at XploSafe sent me their news release on the award, which I’m happy to include in its entirety at the bottom of this post.

Here is a link to an article I wrote about XploSafe on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) in 2018 and published in The Oklahoman. 

Below is the text of the XploSafe news release. Congratulations, XploSafe!

XploSafe Wins 2021 EPA Green Chemistry Challenge Award

Stillwater, OK – 15 June 2021 – XploSafe announced today that it has been awarded the coveted EPA Green Chemistry Challenge Award in the Small Business Category, recognizing a groundbreaking scientific contribution in the green chemistry field for their invention, PhosRox™.

PhosRox™, a novel sorbent for the removal of phosphorus and nitrogen from water, helps to reduce the effects of nutrient pollution and eutrophication on aquatic ecosystems. The PhosRox™ material can then be reused as a time-delay fertilizer for plants and crops once it has been saturated with nutrients.

The annual award, present by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in conjunction with the American Chemical Society (ACS) is “the nation’s most prestigious award program for green chemistry innovations,” says Mary Kirchhoff, Ph.D., director of ACS Green Chemistry Institute and executive vice president of Scientific Advancement at ACS.

Shoaib Shaikh, Co-Founder of XploSafe stated that “we have been developing this technology for many years now. Support from the State of Oklahoma (OCAST), the US EPA (SBIR), and countless partners across the country and world have helped us to reach this spectacular milestone, and we are so grateful to see all of our dedication and hard work come to fruition with such a prestigious award”.

Annually since its inception in 1996, the award has had over 1,800 nominations and only 133 winners across its 5 total categories. The small business category, which XploSafe won, is annually awarded to only a single company across the entirety of the United States.

XploSafe’s Operations Manager, Michael Teicheira, had the following to say: “this award is a major stepping stone in our growth as a company. We set our vision on developing green chemistry solutions over a decade ago, and it has not always been an easy path to walk. We are a small, bootstrapped venture and we are absolutely humbled to join the elite ranks as a winner of this highly sought-after award”.

XploSafe’s partners in this research endeavor included the Oklahoma Aquarium, the Stillwater Wastewater Treatment Plant, Oklahoma State University’s Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Department (Dr. John Veenstra and Wayne Kiner), and The Stover Group.

XploSafe based in Stillwater, Oklahoma is a provider of critical safety solutions for homeland security and chemical safety. Their XploSens explosives detection, XPell peroxide safety products, and XCel+ chemical vapor sampling badges are used by first responders, industrial safety officers, threat assessment officials, and laboratory and chemical manufacturing personnel all over the world. PhosRox™: Sorbent for sustainable capture of plant nutrients from wastewater and other waters and subsequent application as time-release fertilizer.

For questions, please contact Shoaib Shaikh, Co-Founder and CEO, at Shoaib@XploSafe.com, or visit XploSafe online at www.XploSafe.com.

For crying out loud, ‘Ted Lasso’ packs emotional punch

Ted Lasso
American football coach Ted Lasso on the pitch as coach of a Premier League team in England.

Confession. I often get so caught up in the on-screen experiences of characters in movies that I have to choke back the tears. The emotion hits me like an unexpected punch.

Sometimes it’s a movie I’ve seen many times, with scenes that stir my emotions again and again.

It’s a Wonderful Life, for instance.

When the entire community of Bedford Falls rushes to George Bailey’s house to rescue him financially at the end of the movie, I’m fighting off the tears. Every. Single. Time. Can’t help it.

And I know what’s coming beforehand.

But recently a powerful scene in a television show hit me right in the feels. It was the final episode of Season 1 of Apple TV’s Ted Lasso.

If you’re not familiar with it, Ted Lasso is a series about an American football coach — Ted Lasso — who’s lured to England to coach a Premier League soccer team.

He knows absolutely nothing about soccer.

Lasso endures countless insults and plots against him throughout his first season as coach of the Richmond team. Yet, he never waivers from his relentlessly positive outlook in every situation.

He delivers a sort of American optimism and corny naivety that bewilders the British.

In fact, Lasso subtly and slowly wins the heart of his players, Richmond fans and even the scheming team owner. She hired him only because she thought he would do a terrible job and ruin the value of the franchise as a way to get back at her ex-husband.

In the end, Richmond does lose the final match of the season, which means it will be relegated to a lower league.

However, after the game, Lasso stands before his team in the locker room and delivers a heartfelt tribute to the players and shows them exactly how far they have come.

That’s when it hit me. Unexpected. Out of the blue.

Ted Lasso office
Ted Lasso in his coach’s office

I found myself all choked up as I watched Lasso’s speech. Fortunately, I was alone in the room, so no one was there to laugh as I blinked back tears.

Anyway, I highly recommend Ted Lasso if you can tolerate the incredible amount of profanity by virtually every character in the show, except Ted Lasso himself.

But Ted Lasso delivers what I see as an awesome message about having a positive impact on people around you — even those who may not be ready to receive it.

I’m not crying. You’re crying.

BONUS! I thought of a few other movies that can hit you with an unexpected emotional reaction. There are scores of them, of course. But these are the ones that are most vivid in my memory.

The Blind Side
A Star Is Born (2018 version with Lady Gaga)
Field of Dreams
Clouds
The Fault in Our Stars (I blame my daughter for taking me to see this one)
The Pursuit of Happiness
Toy Story 3
To Kill a Mockingbird
Good Will Hunting
As Good as It Gets
Moneyball
Dead Poets Society
Good Morning Vietnam

A REAL ID adventure on the Mother Road

Sarah tag agency
My daughter Sarah celebrates after getting her REAL ID license at the Diamond Tag Agency in Chandler

We pulled into the gravel lot of the Luther Tag Agency this morning about 8:40. What luck, the first ones there.

Then I saw the paper sign attached to the door. Tag Agency closed the week of June 14-18.

I laughed out loud. My daughter didn’t see the humor.

Here’s how we got into this situation. Sarah needed to renew her driver’s license by the end of June. It needed to be a REAL ID license.

So, when I was in the Edmond Tag agency to renew a car tag last week, I asked about getting a driver’s license there. The helpful woman behind the COVID-proof plastic window told me I would need to make an appointment. The next available slots were something like two months out.

“But you can go to the Luther Tag Agency and just walk in,” she said.

Perfect. So, this morning we left the house about 8 am on a mission.

When we saw the Luther agency was closed for the week, I Googled the Wellston Tag Agency about 12 miles farther east on Route 66.

We headed down the Mother Road, Wellston bound. We got to the Wellston Tag Agency about 10 minutes before it opened, and were the second customers in line.

After the tag agent finished with Customer No. 1, he asked how he could help us. I said we wanted to get a REAL ID for my daughter sitting next to me.

“We don’t do driver’s licenses here, never have,” he said (with a straight face). “But you can just walk in at the Chandler agency, which is about 15 miles east on Route 66.”

Sarah OnCu
Sarah poses at Wellston OnCue as we head to Chandler.

I was laughing again as we walked out the door. My daughter was fuming, because I had us on a wild goose chase.

We headed east again on the Mother Road. We pulled into the lot of the Diamond Tag Agency about 15 minutes later. There were cars, and people going in and out.

Luck was with us this time. After a wait of only about 15 minutes, the agent called us to the counter.

Yes, he could do a REAL ID license. We turned over our folder of documents, and within about 10 minutes Sarah became the first person in our family with a REAL ID.

We thanked the tag agent, headed out the door and pointed the car back to OKC.

This time, we bypassed the Mother Road and took the Turner Turnpike back to town.

Even if the tag agency gods forced us to drive the Mother Road three towns over, we still got our kicks (and REAL ID) on Route 66.

In softball, there is always joy in Mudville

OU Women
OU softball players lead fans in a cheer during a break in the action at the Women’s College World Series

As I was watching the Women’s College World Series game between OU and James Madison the other night, I was fascinated by how much enthusiasm and joy the players bring to the game.

They cheer and chant in unison in the dugout, they celebrate big hits, runs and good fielding plays. The OU players even came out of the dugout a couple times to lead fans in a cheer.

I fired off a text to a friend who was also watching the game on ESPN. “Softball needs some unwritten rules that suck all the joy out of the game just like baseball,” the text said.

I was kidding.

But it made me realize how much of a contrast there is between baseball and women’s softball. In baseball, it’s all about “respecting the game” or “respecting the opponent.”

No emotion allowed.

Translated, that means you never, ever act like you are enjoying the moment after a home run, a strikeout or a big fielding play.

OU HR
OU player celebrates a home run as she rounds the bases

Baseball has been losing fans by the millions in recent years, and I’m convinced that the ridiculous unwritten rules have played a role in that. Today’s fans — especially young fans — want to see games played with enthusiasm and emotion.

If you’re curious as to what the unwritten rules are that baseball lives by, here’s a pretty good description I found on the major league baseball website. 

There is evidence of late that some of the unwritten rules are being rewritten. I’m talking about the way that big hitters like Fernando Tatis Jr. flip their bats and pause to watch their home runs go out of the park before celebrating as they round the bases.

So far, it appears that no one has retaliated by hitting Tatis in the head with a 98-hour bean ball. So far.

But baseball always wants to draw a line in the sand, and there seems to be a hard line drawn at emotion.

By contrast, the women’s game is such a breath of fresh air. I’m taking joy in their joy.

Their game is a celebration, and I’m celebrating along with them.