VOL. 133 | NO. 110 | Friday, June 1, 2018
Let’s See What You Got
THE REAL GAME. I’ve handled two kinds of Canadian Grizzlies. The first furry transplants played football in the World Football League, changing one of their two names from Northmen to Southmen when they arrived here from Toronto, and keeping their Grizzlies name/mascot/logo, too. I inherited all that as their ad agency.
In a deal that shocked the NFL, the Grizzlies brought Miami Dolphin stars Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield to town. The morning after they arrived in 1975 – and stayed out all night partying – I had them, the walking dead, on the Liberty Bowl field to shoot TV spots. Warfield never said a word, but ran the patterns requested and caught the passes, and wrapped himself in a wet towel. Kiick threw up. Twice. I’ll never forget what Csonka said to my cameraman and me:
“You get one more take. If you ask for another one, I’m going to shove that camera up …” I’m guessing you can finish that phrase. I’m also guessing you already know we only needed one more take.
Memphis loved them.
The second batch of bears played, and still do, in the NBA. When they arrived from Vancouver with a bad team, bad colors and an even worse logo, they decided, what the hell, we’ll keep the bad name, too. I inherited all that as their ad agency.
Their president of business operations, Andy Dolich, got Memphis faster and better than anyone I’ve ever worked with from out of town … and he was from way out of town … a native New Yorker and adoptee of the San Francisco Bay Area. He knew you had to get involved, you had to relate, and you had to make the whole thing a whole lot of fun. In the first three seasons of bad basketball in a dead building, we built a fan base.
Right before his first season in 2001, the National Player of the Year out of Duke and Grizzly signee, Shane Battier, was jogging by my office as I sat out front eating a sandwich. I’ll never forget what he said when he stopped and shook my hand:
“Is that barbecue?”
Memphis loved him.
In Memphis, it’s not larger-than-life that attracts; it’s life. People and moments, shared spaces and places that are part and parcel of where you live and what you do, and dealing with all of it. Our music is about that. Our celebrations and our tragedies are about that.
It’s not slick; it’s real. It’s about us, about things you can’t make up.
So now comes a new pro soccer team to share the field with the Redbirds, and a new pro football league will kick off next spring in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Some wonder if they’ll make it, others moaning that they’re not “big league,” but that doesn’t matter.
We’ll go, we’ll drink a beer, and if we have a good time – we’ll come back.
I’m a Memphian, and if you give us the best you got, that’s what matters.
Dan Conaway, a communication strategist and author of “I’m a Memphian,” can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.