It’s funny the things you take for granted when you’re in the middle of them. Like, well, everything connected to this thrilling Grizzlies playoff run, including the characters and the language that have become part of the city’s core.
For us, of course, no explanation is necessary. “Grit and Grind” is now as common around here as “y’all” and “cutting off the lights.”
Outsiders may be aware that Memphis is “The Bluff City,” but we have officially ditched that nickname. We are now the “We Don’t Bluff” city and we all understand that we have Zach Randolph (Z-Bo) and, in an odd way, the Thunder’s scowling Kendrick Perkins, to thank for it.
But beyond Memphis, there seems to be some confusion. Actual conversation I had with a friend from Kansas City:
Him: “What’s with 'Believe Memphis' and the towels? That an Elvis thing?”
Me: “That’s right. We believe he’s still alive. It’s our way of telling the world. It just so happens there’s a basketball game going on at the same time.”
OK, so I got a little chippy with my buddy. But he should have known better. He should have remembered 1985 when the national media came to Kansas City for the World Series and made all those hurtful cracks about opening their hotel room doors and stepping directly into cornfields.
In Memphis, we have put up with T.J. Simers of The Los Angeles Times and all his jokes about our runaway crime (which might have had more credence if every cop show on television wasn’t set in South Central L.A.). Anyway, this time on the national stage is a crazy mix of celebrating new-found publicity, worrying about what others might have to say about us, and continuing to talk in GrizzSpeak.
Take “The Godfather.” It was a novel and a popular Hollywood movie. But today it’s a sure thing that more Memphians know of “Grindfather” Tony Allen than Vito Corleone.
Or consider my 21-year-old son Stephen as he was preparing for his final exams and all the studying that entailed. He captured the mood with a simple tweet: #grindforth.
We casually speak of “Tony being Tony” and every last one of us knows exactly what that means. It means for every two bad plays Tony Allen makes that drive you crazy, he makes four good ones that are equally unexplainable but that more than account for his mistakes. It’s the Tony Allen Equation and no one on this planet can decipher it.
If the phrase is “he’s being too unselfish,” that’s code for Marc Gasol going overboard on being the game’s best point center and that he needs to take more shots – and perhaps receive an expletive-laced motivational speech from coach Lionel Hollins at halftime.
Sometimes, even a single letter via Twitter communicates the message: “Q!” most likely means that reserve Quincy Pondexter just buried one of his patented corner 3-pointers. Likewise, the words “too much” are most likely to be followed by the words “Keyon Dooling.”
My friend from K.C. is starting to get into things, though, because after watching the last four games of the Clippers series and then the first two games of the OKC series he sent a text with a request: “Hey, can u get me one of those ‘don’t bluff’ towels?”
I told him yes. But the Stromile Swift bobble head is in the mail.
Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.