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VOL. 126 | NO. 230 | Thursday, November 24, 2011
Don Wade

Don Wade

Lockout Denies City Chance to ‘Believe’

DON WADE | Special to The Daily News

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What’s the cost of anticipation abandoned on the altar of BRI – Basketball-Related Income – and “systems issues” during the NBA lockout?

Because anticipation was the great commodity coming out of the Grizzlies’ breakthrough in the playoffs last season.

Buttons, T-shirts and headbands bearing the simple words “Believe Memphis” became all the fashion and, more to point, an unspoken civic attitude for a few precious weeks.

When the Grizzlies’ season ended, those positive feelings didn’t die, they just went into hibernation. But now who knows when, and if, they return?

The city of Memphis had one chance – one – to embrace the momentum from the Grizzlies’ first successful postseason after watching the team go 0-for-12 in three previous playoff appearances.

Beating the San Antonio Spurs in the first round exorcised the demons of playoffs past. The greater joy actually came in the series the Grizz lost, falling to Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder in seven tense games but doing so with the kind of heart and grit that made you feel a little better about yourself and your hometown.

I know, psychologists can reduce this experience to two words – reflected glory – and point to the need for more maturity and a deeper life.

But this was, and is, about more than individual fandom. It’s about the psyche of a city that routinely lands on national lists for most dangerous, most obese, most miserable.

Excuse us if we stand up and cheer when the city’s NBA team crashes the playoff party and turns over a couple of tables while it’s there.

“Obviously, we proved a lot of people wrong last year,” forward Rudy Gay said after his recent charity game. “Now, we’re respected.”

Yes, the Grizzlies earned some respect. So, too, the city of Memphis. And true, we should get more good national publicity for being home to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or corporations such as AutoZone and FedEx, but that’s not how it works.

Let’s face it: For as long as we can remember, Elvis and University of Memphis basketball have been our points of identification with the rest of the country.

And then the Grizz made their run and we dared to anticipate an encore.

So whether Rudy Gay knows it or not, he captured our feelings perfectly with but a few simple words:

“It sucks that we’re not able to play.”

Don Wade is a native of Kansas City and a former feature writer for The Kansas City Star and sports reporter for The Commercial Appeal. His column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News.

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