A ROUND OF APPLAUSE. “You need to do next week’s column on the Grizz,” the email from a regular reader opened.
“There is no better or more appropriate time than now when the whole city is watching. You can contest the Simers article in the LA paper about Memphis being a ‘rathole’ where they should be ‘handing out bullet-proof vests instead of growl towels’ and focus on how the team represents the diverse, working class mentality of our city. Also, new ownership, including local minority group with Justin Timberlake, Ashley Manning, etc. Memphians are soaking up the Grizz like a sponge right now. You should join in. Just a thought.”
That from Gaines Conaway. Thanks, son, think I will.
As to LA Times columnist, T.J. Simers, I could provide tit-for-tacky counterpoint. To “rathole,” I might respond by pointing out that at least our central downtown attraction isn’t a tar pit. To “bullet proof vests,” I might ask what one wears to wild fires or what the proper attire is along the Pacific Coast Highway when the mountain across the street regularly slides into your living rooms. In general, I might make the observation that while Memphis grit is very real, Los Angeles is about as real as Ken and Barbie, except that there’s less plastic in Ken and Barbie.
But none of that is relevant, because Los Angeles is no longer relevant in the NBA playoffs.
While a city that’s big enough for two NBA franchises and blows harder and hotter than a Santa Ana wind has packed up its balls, the league’s two smallest markets have moved on and this round is playing out in front of people with real heart and soul.
The Chinese waiter at the table next to mine explaining high ankle sprains in broken English. The black guy in the Grizzlies tee demonstrating proper technique for the pick and roll in the UPS store (I, by the way, set the pick). The Episcopal priest using growl towels and “Believe Memphis” as symbols of faith, fans as metaphors for disciples, and all of it as the theme of a church workshop I attended. A whole city that knows we all have a team, and we have a real shot.
Bless his heart, we should thank Simers. When he decided to make it about us and not the game, he confirmed what we already knew. The Grizzlies success story is bigger than the game, their style and strut and grit and gut represent more than a team – when they’re on that floor, they are us, that’s our house, and that house is full of people who look more like this city than anywhere else in this city.
When he wrote that column a couple of weeks ago, we were down and feeling out. Now, we’re still playing, the Clippers and Lakers aren’t, and Mr. Simers is left to play with himself.
I’m a Memphian, and whatever happens from this point forward, our team has earned our city a round of applause.
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.