The Oklahoman

Accountant­s add to the fun at The Peake

- Jenni Carlson jcarlson@oklahoman.com

Walk into the brownbrick, cookie-cutter, office-park building after hours nowadays, and you aren’t likely to find anyone in their offices.

But they won’t have gone home.

Instead of working, they’ll be gathered around a massive wooden conference table, brainstorm­ing and planning and strategizi­ng. The topic? The theme and correspond­ing eye-catching and often offthe-wall costumes for the next Thunder playoff game. Already this postseason, the group that sits near the northeast tunnel at The Peake has worn everything from silk boxing robes and gloves to “Wizard of Oz” costumes.

Welcome to Crawford & Associates, specialist­s in government­al accounting.

Yes, the folks in the wacky garb you might’ve seen sitting near the bottom of Section 103 are accountant­s.

“We are not your grandfathe­r’s accountant­s,” Crawford & Associates co-founder Frank

Crawford said with as a smile as he sat at the brainstorm­ing table one morning recently. “We are definitely different all the way through.”

But as the Thunder continues its run through these playoffs and the energy of the Oklahoma City faithful continues to rise, the Crawford crew has stitched themselves into the fabric of The Peake. They have become such a fixture of that northeast area of the arena that people will walk over to their section just to see what they are doing.

Sunday night, they got several thumbs up and high-fives when they arrived in “Thunder-Dog” garb. They had floppy dog ears, red eye masks and red silky capes. It was their take on the Thunder’s underdog status in this series against the defending champion Warriors.

“Can’t use that one anymore,” Crawford mused of anything underdog-related after the Thunder took a 2-1 lead in the series.

Not that the Crawford crew is out of ideas or anything.

They started dressing up for Thunder playoff games during the 2012 postseason. No one can quite remember how it all got started, but the south Oklahoma City firm had tickets from the beginning, buying a block of six in Section 103 the first season that the Thunder was in town. Those tickets then got split evenly between the two dozen employees, so that everyone had three or four pair of tickets during the regular season.

Everyone at Crawford was excited about the Thunder from the beginning.

But four years ago, someone somewhere mentioned that it would be fun for everyone to wear James Harden-esque beards to a game. They finally got their act together for the first home game of the second-round series against the Lakers.

That still stands as one of the group’s favorites.

They’ve worn red-framed glasses with no lenses and fishing-lure collared shirts a la Russell Westbrook in his early fashion-icon days.

They’ve sported cheesehead­s painted white with the word SWISS added on the front in honor of Switzerlan­d native Thabo Sefolosha.

They’ve carried small blue backpacks with the words “LIL WAYNE IS IN HERE” after the rapper raised a stink after being denied a front-row seat.

The whole thing has become a huge deal within the firm with employees, their families and their friends submitting ideas and suggestion­s for each game. Then, once an idea is selected for a game, the process of finding all the parapherna­lia sends employees scrambling around the Internet and across the city. Posters are printed at FedEx. Items are purchased from Amazon to thrift stores and everywhere in between.

“Party Galaxy,” accountant Brenda Wright said. “A lot.”

And it’s not like this is a downtime for their business. Crawford & Associates specialize­s in government­al investigat­ions with clients all over Oklahoma and beyond. They currently do work for 14 internatio­nal government­s.

So, it’s not like they’re busy during tax season, then when April 15 hits (and the playoffs begin), they have a bunch of time on their hands.

“When we meet at the game,” Crawford said, “that might be the first time we’ve seen each other that week or that month.”

And they never know when they might see a co-worker for the first time in a long time and they might be dressed up as the Tin Man or the Cowardly Lion.

The Crawford crew dressed as “Wizard of Oz” characters for Game 6 against the Spurs. They did it as a way to tell soonto-be free agent Kevin Durant that “There’s no place like home.” Wright was the Tin Man, Dwayne Tate was the Scarecrow, Marcy Twyman was Glinda the Good Witch, and Crawford’s daughter was Dorothy.

The group met in the parking lot before the game to get into their rented costumes. They got a few weird looks from folks, but they just laughed about it.

“Just the fact that we’re all accountant­s, and we have this reputation for being not very creative and very analytical,” Crawford said.

“Boring,” Tate interjecte­d, laughing.

Crawford said, “Maybe this is kind of our release. We’re terribly creative; people just don’t really see it because it’s accounting. So, I think we have some mental release.”

The Crawford crew knows there will probably come a time when it can’t improve on what it’s done, when it won’t be able to trump its last trick. But ... “Something always happens,” Crawford said.

Something sure did Sunday night. Draymond Green kicked Steven Adams in the you-knowwhat, and Monday, the Crawford crew spent some quality time around the massive wooden conference table.

Here’s guessing these accountant­s will add up something grand.

 ?? [PHOTO BY SARAH PHIPPS, THE OKLAHOMAN; IMAGES BELOW PROVIDED] ?? From left to right, Brenda Wright, Madison Benham, Stephanie Ballard, Jonathan Benham, Marcy Twyman and Dwayne Tate cheer before Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs earlier this month in the NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. They have been dressing up since 2012.
[PHOTO BY SARAH PHIPPS, THE OKLAHOMAN; IMAGES BELOW PROVIDED] From left to right, Brenda Wright, Madison Benham, Stephanie Ballard, Jonathan Benham, Marcy Twyman and Dwayne Tate cheer before Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs earlier this month in the NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. They have been dressing up since 2012.
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 ??  ?? Above: Brenda Wright helps Stephanie Ballard put on a mustache before Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs earlier this month.
Above: Brenda Wright helps Stephanie Ballard put on a mustache before Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs earlier this month.
 ?? [PHOTOS BY NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN] ?? Left: The Crawford and Associates crew pose in their Adams Family gear. From left, front row; Wright, Ballard, Marcy Twyman; top row, Frankie Crawford and Alec Bawcum.
[PHOTOS BY NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN] Left: The Crawford and Associates crew pose in their Adams Family gear. From left, front row; Wright, Ballard, Marcy Twyman; top row, Frankie Crawford and Alec Bawcum.

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