Opinion from OU Senior Associate Athletics Director for Communications Kenny Mossman.
NORMAN, Okla. --
We know that social media has made the world a smaller place. Did you also know it fulfills sports dreams? Welcome to the story of my son, Scott Mossman, and Sam Deakin, who resides in Ollerton, United Kingdom.
A few years ago, Scott, who has long been a rabid Sooner fan, took a shine to the sport of soccer, and in particular, the Arsenal Club in the English Premier League. He's so avid that he organized local watch parties in Oklahoma City and is now doing the same in Tulsa.
Of course, that passion spilled over to and was fed on the internet where he encountered Mr. Deakin, a Brit, a soccer fan and, lo and behold, a lover of Oklahoma Sooners football.
Deakin first learned of OU football in 2004 during a family vacation to Florida.
"I put on one of the many sports channels showing college football," he remembered. "I had no idea what college football was as I had only ever heard of the NFL. That first game I ever saw was Oklahoma versus Texas. I decided at the start of the game to follow Oklahoma, and that was the start of it all. Adrian Peterson ran all over them for over 200 yards and the 'D' came up huge for a shutout (12-0). I was going to follow the Sooners from that day onwards.
The more Sam learned about Oklahoma, the more his affection for the program grew.
"I pretty much live and breathe Sooner Football now, spending hours and days looking for info and talking about OU to anyone that will listen," he said. "I love being a Sooner fan for the history, tradition and just how the program conducts itself. It's always professional, the coaching staff and the players always are humble and appreciative of other programs.
"I have also got my fiancée into following OU Gymnastics as she is as big a gymnastics fan as I am football fan."
Expanded media coverage has made Deakin's pursuit of the Sooners easier.
"At first, it was pretty hard to follow that closely with no TV coverage, but I kept up to date with results and information as best as possible," he said. "I went to University in 2007 (in the UK) and joined the American football team. Being around football daily, combined with things like ESPN coming over to the UK, I decided to fully immerse myself into Sooner Football. And I haven't looked back since and tend not to follow the NFL much now unless former (OU) players are playing."
Deakin looked beyond the UK for informed conversation relative to the Sooners. And that's where Scott came into the picture. The two chatted often online.
Last winter, Scott's passion for Arsenal led him to board a jet and cross the Atlantic to see his beloved Gunners. There to pick him up at London's Gatwick Airport was Sam. The two had never met face to face, but they spent the week together, and from Scott's account, had a great time. We're not sure if Sam did too or if he's simply too kind to say otherwise.
But the hospitality shown to an early 20's American traveling abroad for the first time was overwhelming, and the two decided that it was only fair to meet again ... in the States.
As spring rolled around, those plans came to fruition when Sam scheduled a trip to Florida to visit friends. He then added a leg to Norman to see his first Sooner game on Owen Field. Many OU fans saw the Tweet from Sam the day he secured the airline tickets. Former All-America tight end Trent Smith responded with an invitation to his tailgate party. Social media platforms have triggered quite an event.
"It's pretty crazy to think about it now," said Deakin, who also plans to attend the OU-Florida State game. "Sport is a fantastic tool to bring people and communities together. I was delighted that I was in a position to help someone live out a dream and enjoy an action packed week of EPL games, and that helped kick start my own plans and my visit.
"It was great to see such enthusiasm in (Scott), especially when people question why you follow something and don't understand. I face that often for my love of the Oklahoma Sooners and football in general."
Once he gets here, Sam will reside with us. It will be a good dose of culture for this red dirt bunch and it's the least we can do after he drug Scott around the mother land for a week.
"Having contacts in Norman has really been fantastic," Deakin said. "I can talk to someone about Sooner Football when no-one over here really has an interest. It came down to someone loving soccer like I love football. It's a strange world."
We're going to tour Sam through the stadium and, of course, introduce him to a few players, including his favorite, Tom Wort. Wort, who was born in the UK and lived there until age 14, carries a Union Jack tattoo.
"I think it's going to be like nothing I have ever experienced before," Deakin said of his visit to Norman. "I've seen England soccer and 3 NFL games played at Wembley and from what I've seen on TV, the games at Norman will just blow them away in every aspect. I have been told that the place radiates in history and tradition. It's a whole day event, it's not like sport in Europe where you turn up just before kickoff. I cannot wait to experience the tailgating, just walking around meeting and talking OU Football to thousands of others in some (hopefully) glorious weather.
"To the actual game, I have visions of a sea of crimson filling the stadium and the noise just vibrating throughout the place, with everyone going crazy when the team enters. With the longest home winning streak going, as well, I just feel the place is going to explode with the passion and excitement from the Sooner faithful. Words will not be able to describe the experience."
We're going to chronicle Sam's experience on SoonerSports.com. Because we'll be tracking him, many of you will likely get the opportunity to meet him while he's here. As you can see, his expectations are pretty high. Something tells me we'll be able to exceed them.