I t all peaked for me the morning after the Grizzlies unexpectedly beat Golden State in Game 2 in Oakland, 99-89. Something (besides my staying up way too late) was different about my drive to work the next morning. A feeling had swept the streets, a triumphant aura that couldn’t have gone unnoticed, even by those who missed the sweet victory the night before. But it wasn’t just a feeling. It was tangible, too.
On E.H. Crump Boulevard, I passed an SUV with the words “BELIEVE IN THE GRIZZ” written in white paint on the back windshield. An elderly man scooted down the sidewalk on a motorized wheelchair with a growl towel draped over its back. When I pulled up to our downtown office, I noticed a yellow Grizzlies flag swaying in the wind in the yard of one of the houses across the street. In the parking lot, another Grizzlies flag: a blue one, attached to a co-worker’s car.
Though we all might not have a thing in common besides our Grizzlies fandom, we are all connected in that feeling, in this verve for our team. But it isn’t just about the games. For someone who’s never been a big fan of basketball, or any sport for that matter, my level of excitement watching this year’s playoffs surprised me.
My boyfriend isn’t really into sports either, but there we sat, night after night, yelling at the TV when the other team forced a turnover, cheering when we hit a three-pointer, filling with an undeniable and somehow merited pride when Tony Allen fell to the floor to save the ball, again and again, repeating “First Team Defense!” afterwards like a madman.
In strange fashion, the Grizzlies’ tenacity on the court somehow mirrors the battle we as Memphians fight to overcome the negatives placed on us — often by the nation at large. But during games, time seems to stand still. And for a moment, Memphis isn’t on any worst lists, or trending on social media for violence or crime. In fact, every time the Grizzlies play, my Facebook newsfeed blows up with commentary, as friends voice their support in unison: “Go Grizz!” “Fear the mask!” “Rise and grind!”
Let’s face it. Our NBA team puts us on the map: as fighters, as hustlers, banging out our best against all odds. And for that magic moment when a game breaks out, everyone in Memphis is one. As the now-famous growl towel says, it’s Memphis vs. Errrbody . And when the Grizzlies win, we all win. If only for a little while . . .
The Grizzlies are Memphis. We’ve all seen tons of team merchandise for sale this year as always, but the text on one shirt stands out for me: “GOD-FAMILY GRIZZLIES.” Our team has brought us all together, as if we’re all part of one big unrelated family. We’re united — in the grit and grind, and in hope for our team and our city — not just on game days, but every day. And win or lose, the nation has heard us roar.