Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why this draft was so dang important.

I should preface this entry by saying that the time between April 7th, 2008 and today, May 20th, 2008, has been very difficult for me. This is surely the norm for all fans of the Memphis Tigers, especially those of us who were born and bred to love them.

If there is one thing I have learned since I moved to Boston two and a half years ago, it is that it's not at all ridiculous to have your hometown sports teams be an integral part of your core identity. Here in Boston we've got a lot of affiliations to choose from. The Bruins suck these days but they've definitely got their obsessed fanatics, sitting on the Red Line during rush hour wearing team jerseys and cursing at the sports section of the Metro. There are the Pats fans, whose 18-1 pain I alternately mock for its snobbery and deeply empathize with in a way no other sports fan probably does. Then there are the Celtics, whose killer year has brought all sorts of weirdos out of the woodwork. I made the mistake of deciding to take a discount fabric shopping trip to Cambridge on Sunday. My transfer point is directly underneath the Garden, and for some reason I thought that game 7 was on Sunday night, not afternoon. So here I am, trying to transfer from the Green Line to the Orange Line on a packed ass train car, my arms filled with pastel tulle (I'm making tutus for toddler girls, don't ask), and it's about ten minutes before game time. I end up siting next to this really agitated and nervous Celtics fan with an awful case of halitosis who asks everyone on the train if they're going to the game like he is, then throws his hands in the air, exclaims that he is "wicked excited" and has waited his whole life for this, and starts screaming "GO CELTICS!!!" in the middle of the train car. Even though I was hiding beneath a mountain of puffy tulle I couldn't help but high five him, because he made my heart want to jump out of my chest. How he felt is a really recent, bittersweet sensation that I shared only a few weeks ago when my Tigers beat Texas to get to the Final Four: they had come so far, and, in my wildest, most out there dreams and idealistic possibilities, might maybe just go even further.

Most of all, here in Boston we have the Sox. The Sox are omnipresent everywhere, whether it's October or January, game day or no, sunshine or brutal New England snowstorm. You feel the Sox every place you go in Boston. Some days it's because you're stepping on the T and catch the tail end of an argument between members of the Red Sox Nation and some poor guy in a Yankees hat who had the misfortune of getting in the wrong train car. Some days it's because it's game day and you forgot to hold off on running that errand by Fenway. But mostly there's just this energy in the city. When the Sox are doing well, people are happy. When they're tanking, people want to crawl under a rock and die. The Red Sox are Boston, and Boston is the Red Sox. You cannot speak of one without speaking of the other. The true Boston experience is a cloth made from the fiber of both.

This year I had the pleasure of watching game 4 of the World Series with my roommate at Doyle's, an old school Irish pub in my neighborhood where JFK used to hang out. We made friends with all these random people; expensive whiskey was bought for us (I remember saying that one brand of $30-a-glass whiskey tasted like the Mid South Fair, because I tasted hints of cotton candy, sweat, and mosquito repellent; the drink buyer was duly unimpressed) from die-hard fans who were hoping to relive that one-time glory they'd experienced three years before. When the winning pitch was thrown and landed in Jason Varitek's mitt I got to see a type of chaos I'd never experienced before. People dropped their glasses, threw massive amounts of money onto the bar, made out in the corner. It was insanity, and it was magical.

Eventually my roommate and I drunkenly traipsed back down Washington Street to our apartment, watching cars drive by and honk, seeing Dominican kids being dragged out of their beds at one o'clock in the morning to stand on the corner and wave their Dominican flags in the air for Manny and Big Papi. It was a story that, even in my inebriated state, I stored in my long term memory to tell my future grandchildren. The entire experience was completely new to me, and even as a partial outsider it broke my heart a little.

As Tigers fans, this was supposed to be our year. We knew it all season long, but most of us didn't dare to say it out loud for fear of cursing ourselves- and now we're all pretty heartbroken. I talk to my mom about it; I talk to my dad. I talk to my best girlfriends back home, as well as my platonic Boston boyfriend who lives in Korea now but has become fiercely devoted to my Tigers because I spat devoted poetic verse about them constantly when we were roommates. Honestly, this loss has made me feel a little like I got dumped by someone who I thought I was going somewhere important with. I try to console myself, but nothing makes me feel better. The only thing that seems to help, for some reason, is Boston sports fans.

Sadly, Boston sports fans are accustomed to losing. The Patriots were one of the worst teams in the NFL until a few years ago, and now they're a dynasty (yeah they lost the Super Bowl, but they won quite a few before this one). The Celtics are on their way back up, after being up and down and up and down for so long. And then there are the faithful members of the Red Sox Nation, who sat through a championship drought from 1918 until 2004.

I think that is why the draft is kicking me so hard in the gut right now. Unlike the Pats and the Sox and the Celts and even the Bruins, the Grizzlies are not a part of Memphis's fabric. I've got their backs just because they're in Memphis and because they represent bigger possibilities for my hometown, but I have no real connection to them like I do with my Tigers. That is why the draft could have been, should have been so cosmic. It's not just about getting a stellar number one pick, i.e. Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley. It's about trying to transfer some of that Tigers magic to the Grizzlies, and giving them a valid, deep-rooted reason for being in Memphis at all. I really wanted to have a reason to genuinely love the Grizzlies, not just to exert a lot of energy trying to love them.

I dunno. Maybe I am feeling unusually down on Memphis these days, and I can't even fathom the whole of it all the way. All I know is that I am officially done with basketball, college and pro, for quite awhile after the draft picks are announced. 2008 has officially been the most painful sports year of my life.

(I say this now.)

In other news, I wrote the following post on my Myspace blog.

Monday, May 19, 2008


this was the final question, worth between 20 and -5 points based on your wager. I insisted on betting it all.

According to the Rock And Soul Museum, what international city is mentioned in the most songs ever? It's mentioned in over 800 songs, and the answer is not New York.

I immediately grabbed the paper, wrote down Memphis plus the most points we could possibly wager, threw the paper across the table, argued my answer with friends until the time was up (the Rock And Soul Museum is in Memphis; Memphis is mentioned in hundreds of blues songs, as it was the Mecca of the Mississippi Delta; Memphis is the central compass point of every musically important thing in pop cultural history), then put my face on the table and tried not to think about it.

But obviously I was right. How could it be anything else?

It is eternally weird that Memphis is so important to the rest of the world. I don't think I will ever fully understand the gravity of that, even though I was definitely raised to know it and be proud (see blog entry about the jukebox on my back porch).

But Memphis, I guess I just wanted you to know that I'm always thinking about you and representing you, and standing up and hollering and throwing my arms over my head like a fool when the trivia night DJ says your name out loud, and feeling like a traitorous bitch for not being there. I'll never be able to shake you off. And I'll be back forever someday. I can't imagine following a path that doesn't lead right back to you. Anything otherwise would be karmically fucked.

It hurts not to be there. Even worse, it hurts to think of the place that I love more than anywhere else and to feel like I'm not supposed to be there.

So maybe this explains my eternal torment a little, non-Memphians. Try to empathize, or something.

Never mind, then.

Fifth pick.

Kill me now.

Memphis is clearly on a hellmouth and our luck will never change.

I'm back.

I've been absent from the blog for awhile; I think I just needed a mental break from obsessing about writing about basketball after having my heart broken back in April.

With that, we've got 17 minutes until the lottery, so here are some quick thoughts before it all goes down.

*I don't wanna hear another word about how the Heat has more at stake than the Grizzlies. If the Grizz don't get a 1 or a 2, they might as well just pack up and ship out of town now. The Heat has Dwayne Wade. We've got... Rudy Gay?

*If the Grizz actually eschew their ill-fated luck and manage to draw the first pick but don't choose Derrick Rose, I am officially going to burn down Michael Heisley's house (Only kidding! Don't call the police on me, please!). If they can't realize the significance of this kid to the city then, unlike the Tigers, they officially have no connection to the fabric of Memphis and should just leave. If this happens, Memphians won't be merely ambivalent about the Grizzlies anymore; I truly believe that with a Beasley pick at number one, the city's only big time sports team will be actively disliked by much of the city. Selecting Rose is a way to sell tickets and to boost interest; more importantly perhaps, it's a way to help the city get past how the season ended for us. I understand how and why Michael Beasley is a technically better fit than Derrick is, but in this case the emotional/cultural impact is way more important.

I realize that my entire last bullet point was a total girl thing to say, but I do not care because it's the patent truth. I also realize that I shouldn't be wasting my time writing about this when the ping pong balls are still rolling around in the hopper. So with that, bring on that number one pick and bring on Derrick Rose.

About Me

Jamaica Plain, MA, United States