I spend a good bit of my time in the University of Tennessee Rec Center enduring the elliptical on the balcony floor. Overlooking the basketball courts, this spot provides me the perfect vantage point to watch pathetic pick-up games and sometimes, if I’m lucky, members of the UT basketball team schooling all the amateur frat-boys in between classes. Yesterday, I spotted a freshman (yes, I can tell) donning a Grizzlies jersey with the number 32 stitched on front and back; OJ Mayo. Grizz already fresh on my mind with fast approaching season opener, I made some assumptions. I determined that this kid was wearing the jersey for one of two reasons.
A.) He’s a moderately involved Grizz fan that hasn’t updated his memorabilia.
B.) He’s just like me; the Grizz fan that still gets chest pains when they think of the disappointing career of number 32. The glimmers of hope followed by gut-wrenching disappointment still seared in his mind. Mind blown that time in the 2011 playoffs when OJ did this against the Spurs after draining a three.
<– Admit it, this picture was the background of either your computer or phone at least once.
Pains like this were commonplace in the first ten years of the franchise. Let’s be honest, they still are. Regardless, this kid and I were connected. We’re misplaced, passionately ridiculous Memphis Grizzlies fans. And if I may make one more assumption, this kid is sitting around, reading message boards while the Bulls/Heat opener is on TV instead of studying for his 9 AM exam (currently what I’m doing). Chances are, he can’t listen to Jay Z and Kanye’s “N***as in Paris” or “All I Do is Win” without déjà vu of the impressive FedEx Forum. Flashbacks to the nights we celebrated huge comebacks at Silky O’Sullivan’s. Who am I kidding, we also mourned the agonizing losses at Silky’s. If you salivate at the thought of BBQ nachos from the Juke Joint stand or know the name of the usher in your preferred section you know what I’m talking about. These experiences are why the Memphis Grizzlies were named the number one sports franchise in America by ESPN the Magazine.
It’s the intrinsic value of those pricey Western Conference Finals tickets that make us the greatest fan base in the NBA.
The message I’m trying to relay is the Grizzlies were and always will be a hot mess. And Grizz Nation just wouldn’t have it any other way. So put all the disappointment behind you and get excited because, while we’ve been saying this for a handful of years now, this really could be our season. We have the skill, the passion, and the analytics (thank you, John Hollinger) to get the job done. So, relish our successes this season and resist the urge to smack the unbearable bandwagon Heat fan at the bar back to 2006 when we all still liked Dwayne Wade. We know we’re the best no matter our record or national attention. It’s going to be bumpy, but it’ll be damn beautiful.