“We’re planning on covering y’all up!” This was the first thing I heard when my brother and I arrived at our seats for game 5 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. The older couple in front of us was decked out in Spurs gear. The woman was wearing a huge sombrero in Spurs black and grey. They held up their huge Spurs flag and joked that they were going to block us from seeing the game. I turned to my brother, Trip and whispered “I knew I should have brought my Grizz Nation flag,”
After watching the game 1 loss from the comfort of my own home, I jokingly tweeted “I kinda just want to say screw it and go to game 2.” It wasn’t long after I sent the tweet that I started wondering if this was actually something I could do. I started researching ticket prices and hotel deals. Within a few hours, I was texting my older brother and asking him if he wanted to leave the next day for San Antonio. We found a hotel and tickets in our budget. Until this week, I had never attended an away playoff game. I had always wanted to but for various reasons I never just threw caution to the wind and went for it. I decided that life is short, and I packed my bags, picked up my brother and we hit the road.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at the game. I have been to away games before, but the NBA playoffs are on a different level, and so are the fans. We had our yellow growl towels in hand and pretty soon a group of teenagers were sitting next to me. The boy looked at my growl towel, then back at the Spurs grey “rally rag” and said “Y’alls are way cooler than ours.” He then proceeded to tell me that he was a Memphis Grizzlies fan until we traded Rudy Gay. I politely said “Oh yeah?” and smiled. The entire time I was thinking to myself that it is just my luck that I would end up next to someone that wants to talk about Rudy Gay. He ended up admitting that he was “new to this” as he pointed out to the Spurs home court. So I was sitting by a Rudy Gay fan who was also a bandwagon Spurs fan. Greeeeat. But I realized as the game went on that the only player on the Memphis Grizzlies that he knew at all was Rudy Gay.
I had decided that I’d respect the Spurs fans and not get too obnoxious as long as they didn’t disrespect us. My brother and I are both “those fans” that trash talk the other team during Grizzlies games in Memphis. During the introductions, my brother and I respectfully cheered for our team. A middle aged man turned completely around and glared at us like we had just done something extremely offensive. In response, Trip responded with “BELIEVE IT, SON!” The man who Trip called “son” was at least 25 years his senior, but that just made it funnier. I guess the man decided to believe it because he turned back around and never looked at us again.
For the most part, all of the Spurs fans in the few rows around us were friendly and seemed to respect the fact that we drove all the way from Memphis just to cheer on our team. However, there was ice thrown at my head, but I did what any Memphian would do, and I turned around and said some…. powerful words. No more ice was thrown. I didn’t get hurt, so I didn’t tattle. Grizz fans don’t tattle at away games. (Remember that rule.) Those same fans were the ones yelling “WHY DONTCHA HOLD UP THAT TOWEL NOW?!” when the Grizzlies were getting destroyed in the first half. I leaned over to my brother at one point and said I was fully expecting every shot that the Spurs attempted to go in. And they pretty much did. When Tony Allen and Zach Randolph missed the put back SEVEN times on a single shot, I wanted to crawl under the seat and stay there until every last Spurs fan had left the arena. Even if I wanted to trash talk, I never really got the opportunity to do so. I was in a state of shock when we came back and took the game to overtime. Even the fans around us were saying “What is happening?” Trip and I didn’t know either! Even now, I am still not sure how we almost won that game. I can’t wrap my mind around it. The Spurs started missing shots, and the Grizzlies took advantage of Tim Duncan being on the bench, BUT it still felt like a bizarre dream. I went from regretting the long drive to just being thankful that the Grizzlies turned that train wreck into an NBA game.
If you told me in the third quarter that I’d be feeling really good about game three, I would have laughed in your face. But that’s the thing about our Memphis Grizzlies… they don’t give up. I left that game being more of a believer than ever before. It is not often that a fan can say that when their team is down two games. But that’s how much faith I have in this team. Something is different this year. This may sound crazy, but you can see it in their eyes. Someone forgot to tell the Grizzlies that they aren’t supposed to be in the Western Conference Finals. Someone forgot to tell Memphis fans to give up and call the rest “gravy” for making it this far. Or maybe they didn’t forget to tell us. Maybe we just have too much heart, grit and grind to care. To all the unbelievers, please excuse our mess while we renovate the NBA.