Through Enemy Eyes – A Thunder Fan in Memphis
You may recall that I extended an invitation to Oklahoma City fans to come to Memphis to experience Games 3 or 4 last weekend. It appears that at least one of them took me up on the offer, @TMiller_82. While we were unable to meet up before the game, I did get a chance to catch up with him after he returned to Oklahoma to get his take on Memphis, FedExForum and the game.
In an effort to show you just how reasonable the team here at GrizzGrind.com is we offer you the unabridged version of his remarks:
First let me start off with one thing both fan bases traveling back and forth can both agree on. The drive through Arkansas is something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemies.
As for the questions answered below I enlisted the help of my wife, because you always need a ladies opinion, and a friend who was at the game as well.
Now for your questions:
1. When did you get to Memphis? Where did you guys stay? What was the scene like Friday night?
--We arrived in Memphis Friday evening. We stayed at the Hampton Inn on Beale Street.
2. What did you think of the area around FedExForum (Beale Street, Main Street, etc.)?
--The proximity of restaurants, bars and hotels to the FedExForum was nice. It was refreshing to walk around with a beer in hand on a closed down street. Definitely not used to paying cover charges at bars though. I also was not impressed with the amount of homeless and street peddlers (I can only watch adorable kids do backflips down Beale St. for so long).
3. How did people treat you in your Thunder gear on Friday night and before the game Saturday?
--The Memphis fans were definitely NOT welcoming to any OKC fans (seems southern hospitality stops East of the Mississippi). I went to game 6 two years ago and game 3 this year and both times were pretty close to the same. Nobody went out of their way to welcome us to Memphis and it seemed like everyone was disappointed to see us in any bar or walking around downtown.
4. What did you think of the crowd experience before the game?
--I was actually disappointed in the crowd experience before this game. I'm not sure if it was because it was a 4:00 start or what but I thought it was pretty mild at best. The atmosphere 2 years ago at game 6 was lights out but this year it was pretty weak. Nothing like how Bricktown is outside the CHK Arena. The crowd was very loud the last two minutes and helped influence the game but even at its loudest I would say it was and 8 out of 10 compared to OKC.
5. What did you think of FedExForum generally - the building itself, layout, sight-lines, amenities?
-- I think the building itself is pretty cool looking from the outside. It is definitely better looking than OKC. Inside reminded us of a subway very closed and tunnel vision. The steepness of the stadium seats creates an illusion that the stadium is much bigger than the Peake.
6. What time did you get into the arena? What was the crowd like?
-- I got into the arena about 30-45 minutes before tip. I could only assume the crowd was pretty normal for a Saturday game anywhere in the NBA. It did amaze me how late the crowd showed up. Even during the player introductions there were hundreds of open seats.
7. What was your in-game experience like? Were people engaging you in conversation? Did people talk trash?
-- In game experience was good. All the Memphis fans around us were talking trash the entire game which I personally don't have a problem with because I find it all funny. Some were nice and some were complete jerks. It was basically what I was expecting.
8. Did people around you talk basketball? Could you gauge the "basketball IQ" of the fans near you?
--I didn’t understand your critique of OKC fans about this. EVERY fan base is basically the same. You have your diehard fans that know every rule and nuance of the game, the people that wonder why there are four quarters instead of two halves and those that just want be seen and say they were at the game. My one big critique was the griping about the refs. In their opinion every time a foul was called against ZBO, Gasol, Conley and Allen they spewed conspiracy theories and how the NBA wanted the Thunder to win.
9. What were your thoughts on the in-game entertainment? Grizz, music, promotions, etc.
-- Both my wife and friend all agreed and were indifferent when it came to this. While we enjoyed the atmosphere for the most part we were more concerned about what was happening on the court.
10. I was disappointed in the energy from the crowd on Saturday - everyone seemed pretty nervous and seemed to be waiting for an opportunity to really let loose. What did you think of the crowd, generally?
-- I agree with you, I believe that everyone was nervous and didn't really let loose until 2:00 left in the game. I have never attended a playoff game where I got to sit down for the majority of the game. Sadly (as a Thunder fan), I'd say that last two minutes or so the crowd were lights out and seemed to make a significant difference in the outcome of the game.
This was my other biggest critique of your article about the OKC fans. I don’t know many places where the area around a stadium would be packed at 10 am on a Sunday. We had drinks at a bar next door to the forum and the atmosphere for game 3 was dead on a Saturday afternoon until about an hour before game time.
11. What was your post-game experience like? Did the crowd engage you afterwards?
--The post-game experience wasn't bad at all. Two years ago after game 6, my wife and I literally feared for our lives and were forced to go straight back to the hotel as people were being mean and threatening us. However this time it was pleasant and we were pretty much left alone.
12. Did you guys stay Saturday night? What did you do? Where did you go?
--Yes, we stayed and ended up eating at Local after the game and had a good time. There was a small wait but nothing too unreasonable and then had basic food (Hamburger and Fries). It was okay, I probably wouldn't go back there though.
13. What were your general impressions of Memphis, Memphians and your visit? Would you come back? Would you recommend other OKC fans come check out a game?
--It is a cool place to visit that has good BBQ (Rendezvous) and bars. We really enjoy Beale Street and like going to NBA games there. I definitely will/do recommend other OKC fans to go and check it out. A lot of people are scared though as Memphis is known to be lower income and have a lot of bums and thugs roaming the streets, however the Beale St. area seemed very safe and the amount of police presence is comforting.
14. Memphis will want to know: What did you eat while you were in town?
--We had Rendezvous on Friday night which was really good. Before the game, on your recommendation, we ate at Dyers which was great and our favorite eatery on our short trip. We ate at Local after the game which was all right.
Who says the internet is a poor medium for reasonable debate? This may not be the public airwaves, but we felt it was only fair to offer a Thunder fan a chance to share their impressions. I suspect that #GrizzNation will not flood his twitter account with nasty and disparaging remarks, though one can never be too sure.
I cannot say that I disagree with much of what he said. As I said on Twitter following the game, the crowd on Saturday was nervous and pretty reserved until the very end. The crowd for Game 4 was much better, as noted by Andrew Unterberger. I think they may have gone inside FedExForum a little too early, because when I reached the front of the arena at 3:30 it was a party, complete with a live band. Memphis crowds are historically late arriving, for reasons I still cannot comprehend. I also think most Memphians will agree that we are notorious for complaining about the officials, whether it is the Tigers or Grizzlies.
And now, we close the chapter on this little exchange with the State of Oklahoma. Hopefully, we will soon be seeking volunteers to provide a first-hand account of their experience behind enemy lines at the AT&T Center or Oracle Arena. Better yet, maybe someone will offer to sponsor my trip and I’ll offer my own humble musings.
Thanks again to @TMiller_82 for taking the time to participate.
Grind on, Memphis.