Ac­coun­tants add to the fun at The Peake

The Oklahoman - - FRONT PAGE - Jenni Carl­son jcarl­[email protected]­la­homan.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.

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.

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