BLUE IS A COOL COLOR. The warm colors are the reds and yellows – daylight, bright edges, clear boundaries, absolute rights and wrongs, the white-hot heat of righteousness and those who glow in it, sunshine on the surface.
The cool colors run from blue green to blue violet – twilight through deep night, eyes you get lost in, music from hard lives that moves people and makes them move, lines are blurred, distinctions gray, the ice-cold splash that stirs the spirit and those who revel in it, deep shadows of the soul.
Warm is the thing you’re supposed to do, the place you’re supposed to be. Cool is the bad-boy reality of what you’d really like to do, the place you go to do it. Warm is heated finger pointing. Cool is the finger in return.
Memphis is cool.
Way up on the national lists for poor, fat, unemployed and underemployed, Memphis was recently named as one of the top 20 must-see destinations in the world, and Graceland was just named as the most popular iconic attraction in the country. Cool.
Way behind in population and income compared to virtually every professional sports market, ESPN The Magazine just named the Memphis Grizzlies as the number one professional sports franchise in America. Cool.
It’s not a matter of which list you believe, the bottom or the top, because they’re all true. What we do with food is legendary – and we’re fat. Our poverty and racial tension hold our future hostage – and the dark blue songs from the fields around us, the porches of our shacks, the benches of our honkytonks and the pews of our churches gave us the sound of our soul, Elvis and rock ‘n’ roll.
The No. 1 franchise in professional sports has three different shades of cool blue on their uniforms: Memphis Midnight Blue, Beale Street Blue and Smoke Blue. The Blues were born here. The collars of this river city are decidedly blue, and while the people will give you the shirt beneath that collar right off their backs when needed, they turn their backs on pretense. While they will lift you up, they will not be talked down to, and while they will forgive the truth, they will not abide the lie.
Memphis is poor per capita but rich in character, poor in privilege but rich in reality.
The Grizzlies get that. Their advertising agency gets that. And the message is clear. We’ll scrape, scrap and claw our way through and put on a show while we’re at it. And we’ll price our tickets so you can be a part of it, and get involved with our city so that we’re a part of you.
No other city wants a winner more or will do more in support of a winning effort and a good party. That’s how a small market can have the number one professional sports franchise. The barbecue nachos served at the game is how we can be among the fattest.
I’m a Memphian, and that’s cool.
Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.