Memorial Day Weekend…
In the South, that usually means grills and smokers are being fired up (for God’s sake Northerners, if there is no smoker, you’re at a cookout, not a barbeque), pools are being opened, boats are being launched, and many a beer are being consumed. It’s the unofficial start of bikini season summer.
Only something is a little different this year. In the midst of all the water, sun and tanning-oiled boobage, the Memphis Grizzlies are still playing basketball.
Though the Grizz come home with their backs against the wall in an 0-2 hole, this is not a time for panic. It is a time for celebration and appreciation. And a time to get rowdy as hell.
A lot has been written about the racial divide in Memphis. With the corrupt politicians, the poverty level, white flight, and just a general overall malaise, it can get downright ugly in this city at times. We’ve had very few things to be happy about much less cheer for as a community in recent years. When we do come together, it is usually because of a tragedy like the floods of 2010, when several neighborhoods, black and white, were destroyed.
But this team has changed things. College football may be king in the South but Memphis, in its heart, is a basketball city. Segments of the population have lived and died with the University of Memphis basketball team for decades but, with so many fans of other schools in the area, a lot of people have never connected with the Tigers. Not like they have with this team. And it’s not just because they’re good. There have been good Grizzlies teams in the past. The Pau-Battier-Jason Williams era saw three consecutive playoff appearances and (until this year) the only 50 win season. But for some reason, those teams never connected with the city. Not like this team.
Pick a neighborhood. From Smokey City to Collierville, you can’t go a block without seeing a Grizzlies t-shirt or car flag. The “All Heart, Grit Grind” motto coined by Tony Allen and adopted as an organizational-wide mantra fits this city perfectly. Memphis has more than its share of problems but one thing that can be said about its citizens is we bust our ass. And that’s what this team does more than anything. They hustle. They fight. Game 2 showed that if you knock them down, they’re going to get right back up and dare you to punch them again. That fight and desire that defines the Grizzlies, defines Memphis. That’s why you get 18,000 people on their feet, all standing in a common message of “We Believe”. Or, more fitting for Memphis, you get a scene like this…
This is the first time the Grizzlies have made the Western Conference finals. Hell, it’s only the second season they’ve advanced in the playoffs at all. This team is special. Whether they are the foundation for future greatness or just a one-time flash before we head back to the middle of the pack, they’re going to be remembered in these parts for a long time.
So this weekend celebrate this team. Celebrate how Z-Bo doesn’t bluff, how Tony Allen always goes harder, how a 7-foot Spaniard has become a hometown hero, and how a little guy from Ohio makes the whole engine run. Celebrate what they’ve done for this city. How they have brought us together. Appreciate how they’ve done something no other Memphis team has done before.
And if you see someone in a Spurs shirt, give him the finger and dump a beer on his head.
They ain’t bout this life.