By Brian Perceful
Mike Steely has been covering Oklahoma sports for 29 years in both radio and television. The 1986 University of Oklahoma graduate considers Oklahoma City one of the best sports markets in the country and loves the passion the fans have for the Sooners, Cowboys, and Thunder. At the beginning of the 13/14 EPL season he waded into the waters of EPL fandom tossing his support behind The Arsenal. Here's an interview I did with him about his experience so far as an Arsenal supporter and on becoming a soccer fan in general.
BP: So what was your impression of the sport before you became an Arsenal supporter?
MS: I was only in it for the World Cup to be honest. My support for Arsenal came after the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Todd Lisenbee, a radio colleague is a big Premier League guy and Man City fan. So myself and John Rohde (morning co-host) decided to pick a team from the league just for fun.
I picked Arsenal because I thought their logo was cool and the name Arsenal just sounded cool too. Rohde picked Liverpool because of the Beatles. I watched a few games on the tube, on the NBC Sports Live App, and at Skinny Slim's in OKC. I started to learn and appreciate the game more and more and I can't wait to get back to Slim's to see the crew.
BP: Did you ever think that Mike Steely would be a soccer fan?
MS: No I didn't. But once you learn more about the league, its history, and the teams it's cool. The passion of soccer fans is impressive. They don't hold back. The songs and traditions are fun and set them apart.
BP: Any favorite players, current or past?
MS: Since my past goes back a year and half with Arsenal I'd have to go with Olivier Giroud, Jack Wilshere, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
BP: How did you find Sooner Gooners?
MS: Found them on Twitter. I think they're awesome. Love having a Guinness with them at Slim's. I've been so busy this year I haven't made it up yet. I've been watching the matches on TV though. I plan on definitely seeing them for the FA Cup Final if not sooner.
BP: What are your thoughts on supporter groups in general and the role they play?
MS: They're huge and extremely loyal. I took a photo at Slim's last year when Arsenal won the FA Cup and you can see just how passionate they are!
BP: Compare/Contrast the passion of a diehard Arsenal fan with a Sooners/Cowboys/Thunder fan.
MS: They're just as passionate if not more. They really get into it. I had no idea how deep the loyalty goes for their respective teams. That makes the groups and the get togethers a really fun time. You can already see that for Energy FC, too.
BP: As a club, where do you think Arsenal is? Do you think we've seen progress?
MS: I was disappointed with our start but we've played great since. Chelsea has been really good but I like our direction and team right now for the most part.
BP: Where do you go for your Arsenal news? Blogs? Websites?
MS: Mainly I get it off Twitter and the Premier League site. I keep up with all of the local Arsenal crazies on Twitter. They give me plenty of info.
BP: Why should someone get into the Premier League and more importantly why Arsenal?
MS: The sport becomes more fun and accessible once you learn more about the game itself. There's a lot of strategy involved.
Once you see the passion of the fans for the club and the unbelievable history it's easy to get hooked. Arsenal has some great tradition and history. They have great players now and will always be in the hunt to win titles.
BP: Last one. What do you think about the future of the sport here at home? Both nationally and locally?
MS: Nationally it will always trail behind Europe but more kids are playing the sport. American football is in some trouble at the youth level because of concussion/CTE issues. So I think rapid growth for soccer is happening and will continue to happen. Soccer fans have been waiting to see this for a while and I think their time is coming.
Locally I think OKC is headed for MLS. It's only a matter of time.
BP: Closing thoughts?
MS: I think that about covers it. I'm still in the "minor leagues" of Arsenal fans. Guys like you, Ian, Chitty, and T.O. are the real fans! You guys live and die with Arsenal. I'd love to see us win another FA Cup and beat Aston Villa!
You can listen to Steely on 107.7 The Franchise in OKC or online at www.thefranchiseok.com from 5:30-9:00 every Monday thru Friday. Give him a follow on Twitter at @steelyonsports
By Brian Perceful
We're going to Wembley!!!! Which means you should be going the pub to watch Arsenal take down Reading and book another trip to the famous stadium. This Saturday will be a great opportunity for Sooner Gooners across the state to get together to cheer on the club. Skinny Slim's in OKC and George's Pub in Jenks will both be hosting huge watch parties. You won't want to miss it.
If you haven't been to the pub yet, now is a great time. The pubs will be packed and the atmosphere will be electric. You'll get to meet a bunch of Gooners you haven't had the chance to and we would love to meet you! And the beer selection is really good at both pubs. Come on out!
If you visit the pubs only occasionally we definitely need you to come out, especially in OKC. The Chelsea/United match is on at the same time and whichever group has the most supporters gets dibs on the best viewing area. Hands down when we all come out we have the biggest group so this shouldn't be a problem. This isn't an issue at George's since it's pretty much Arsenal exclusive. Slim's is a bit different so all hands on deck!
If you're a regular try to get someone new to come out with you. It's one thing to watch the match at home but a totally different experience to watch it with your fellow Gooners. Every time I talk with someone new that's come out they say they've had a great time. Saturday won't be any different. Let's get some new Sooner Gooners out and get them to be regulars.
I know you're wondering how you can help, right? The first and easiest way is to share stuff you see on social media. We have events set up that you can share on Facebook that will help get the word out. Retweet stuff you see on Twitter as well. Second is just as easy and that's simply word of mouth. The profile of the sport is on the rise here and people are looking for ways to get in. Sooner Gooners is a great way. Get the casual fan out for a match day and watch them become a rabid fan pretty quickly.
Alright I'll get off my soapbox. Hahaha…what can be said about the club that hasn't? We're the in-form team in the league. Eight league wins on the trot. We've worked ourselves into a position where we could possibly challenge for the title. We're on the cusp of a possible FA Cup repeat. Even if winning the league isn't realistic, second place is in our hands which would be our best finish in a decade. It's shaping up to be a really solid season for us.
So here we are in the home stretch. It's going to be an exciting run in. We still have a match at Old Trafford and Chelsea will visit the Emirates. As a group let's finish this season strong. It's a great time to get new Gooners to the pubs and grow our numbers. This will give us something to build on over the summer and into the next season. We have some great events coming up this summer as well. We'll be announcing those soon.
Get in you Sooner Gooners!!!
The SG Blog
Gooners from Oklahoma share their views and insights about Arsenal Football Club!