Believe Memphis: Grizzlies Fever
Memphians love basketball.
You knew that.
Memphians love winners.
You knew that, too.
What you may not have known is the power that Memphians have when they come together.
There are a lot of negative things about this city. It’s easy to focus on the poverty or the troubled school system or the lack of job growth in the city.
Watching the Grizzlies game last night was an example of everything good about this city. Memphians have a sort of collective will power when they get behind something that’s palpable. And, the sense of pure passion, of desire, of excitement last night in FedExForum was exactly that – palpable.
I’ve seen the city get behind the Tigers before. In 2007-08 during the National Title run, that’s all people talked about in the city. It was a way for people to get lost in basketball – to forget about their day-to-day problems and just cheer and be happy.
Basketball has always been king in this city – at least metaphorically. Elvis will always be the king. Since Larry Finch stayed home to play for the Tigers in the early 70’s and led the Tigers to the NCAA Championship, the Bluff City has had an undeniable love affair with the game of basketball.
Driving through town, it’s easy to see. Packed playground courts. Tigers billboards everywhere. Bumper stickers.
Yet, I always wondered where the Grizzlies fit in. Could a professional team find a niche in this city? I caught the Grizz fever back in 2005 when the team was in the midst of its second straight trip to the postseason. I remember watching the team lose in overtime to the Mavericks in game three at FedExForum before getting dominated in game four for a second straight playoff sweep.
That team had no heart. The city supported that group, of course. But, there wasn’t a sense that success was imminent. That team didn’t have “it.”
That’s why this year is so special. This year’s group has a connection with its fans, with the city of Memphis that is truly special. Zack Randolph, an embattled superstar before arriving in Memphis, said in his postgame interview that he was undeniably grateful for the way the city has embraced him. Memphis has a way of doing that. If we’re with you, we’re really with you. You’re our own. You’re our kin.
You can see it in this team’s eyes. You can hear it in Tony Allen’s voice when he calls FedExForum the “Grindhouse.” The team’s unnoficial slogan perfectly embodies the mantra of the city itself.
Because that’s what Memphians do. This may not be a perfect city. Of course we have problems. But, we come together, and we get through it. And, having a sports team that seemingly works just as hard as you do gives the city a collective sense of hope and passion.
Tomorrow night the Grizzlies will again take the floor at FedExForum. It’ll be sold out again, and again Grizz Nation will be on display to a national audience. And, the Grizzlies will do just what the city does every day.
I’m officially on the bandwagon. Go Grizzlies.