OKLAHOMA CITY -- During the year it might host rodeos, ice skating, or horse shows. But every Oklahoman knows the "big house" is all about basketball this time of year.
Oklahoma's state basketball tournament has been held at the State Fairgrounds Arena since the 1960s. And while the building has aged, its charm hasn't.
"There's a lot of things that you might like to improve about it, but then when you really get down to it, it's got as much atmosphere as any gym you'll ever go into," said Charlie Heatly.
Heatly ought to know, he's been playing the background music at the state basketball tournament for almost 20 years.
He says "Mony Mony", "YMCA", and the "Chicken Dance" are sure-fire crowd pleasers, but his tastes run more old-school.
"Sweet Georgia Brown," Heatly said. "To me that's the best song for basketball that's ever been written."
Heatly says he has around 300 songs in his repertoire, but only about 50 of them actually "make the cut" on game day.
"It's gotta have a definite beat I think, and it's gotta have a good rhythm, and have a lot of energy," said Heatly.
Steve Daniels is another big house veteran. He also provides energy at the big house. He's been serving as the tournament announcer for the past ten years.
"Make sure you say every mama's kid's name right, that's a major part of the job," Daniels said. "They've spent all year long trying to make it to the big house. The kids deserve to have their name pronounced right."
Daniels says it's the tradition of the tournament that he lives for. For example, "Oklahoma", played exactly fifty-three seconds before the introductions, was started by Charlie.
"Every single game I have butterflies during that," Daniels said. "One, because I don't want to screw my part up afterwards, which is get the lineup straight."
And even though Daniels has said it numerous times, one particular phrase still gives him goosebumps.
"Congratulations, you have made it to the big house, and the crowd goes crazy every time," he said. "That's a cool thing."
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