A Sudden Obsession and Next Year's Letdown for Memphis Basketball
The Serenity Prayer goes, "O God and Heavenly Father,/ Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed,/ and wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."
Attributed to theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, this manifest (and superfluous) prayer has, nonetheless, found its way into the works of Alcoholics Anonymous and 50 Cent, among others.
As a non-alcoholic-non-believer-non-give-a-damner-about 50 Cent, the Serenity Prayer should be of little, if any, use to me. And it always has. But lately, I found myself frequently—at least, more frequently than at any other time in my life—checking for Memphis Tigers recruiting news.
This started sometime during last season when it was clear to all that that team, although good, had no chance at making a title run.
And I, like many others, had already decided next year would be "our" year (as a graduate of The University of Memphis, this possessive formulation feels slightly less ridiculous to me than it probably should. What new research is "our" Ecological Research Center working on, after all? To ask the question is to answer the question) and visions of "the greatest class ever assembled" and 40-0 were bouncing around my head.
Granted, I had never heard of any of these recruits before my interest in next year had been aroused, and, quite frankly, had always thought that fans who took too much interest in college sports and recruiting deserved to be laughed at or, at least, cordially ignored like a hopeful child who believes he can be an astronaut and a football player when he grows up.
I had always been content to wait until next season and let one of these children tell me who was new on the team.
I still remember the first time hearing Derek Rose's name being mentioned by some coworkers, in fact, and thinking "how do they find this stuff out?"
But next year had piqued my interest.
I'll remind you that I never went overboard, only going so far as searching for rankings and watching highlights. But I had taken an interest greater than most college basketball fans had ever taken and will ever take in "their" team.
John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins—I wouldn't have known if they had walked into the Tiger Den with a claque of hangers-on and moderately attractive coeds holding "Make Way for John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins" signs.
Why is "Xavier" pronounced "Zah-vee-ay?" I didn't know this either. But he can shoot.
One would think this would have ended once Calipari headed for bluer pastures, taking as much of the basketball program with him as he could, but it didn't.
What had been a once every couple of weeks, once a week at best habit, turned into an, at least, once a day habit.
First came the head coach search updates; then came the assistant coach updates; then came the recruiting updates.
Columnists—many of whose names I had never heard before—were consulted. More local sports talk radio was consumed. Insights (rumors) were gleaned from comments sections of articles and message boards.
However, my natural inclinations toward procrastination, timidity, and condescension kept me from posting comments of my own. So I pitifully never joined the fight against all those Kentucky and Tennessee antagonists on "our" websites.
But, to this point, the lone question I have is: "how long will this continue?"
How long am I going to care about Tigers recruiting and coaching and all the rest, especially considering that my interest doesn't extend past men's basketball (how is a rifle team member recruited anyhow?) and my habit of leaving things—novels, becoming the greatest living guitar player—unfinished?
On one hand, this fascination could turn into devotion—an unbroken and enduring devotion—to every detail about Tigers basketball. Or this could quickly burn out and run its course like puppy love.
Whichever it is, one can't look to the team for whom the FedEx Forum was ostensibly built for hard court gratification.
After eight years, one Rookie of the Year, one Coach of the Year, an Executive of the Year, three playoff appearances (and zero playoff wins), a little hope, and some flirtation with being an "up and comer," the Grizzlies are rebuilding once more.
Though, one wonders how something that never actually existed can be rebuilt. It says something about a franchise that getting swept out of the first round of the playoffs is considered a recovery of some sorts.
But Memphis Grizzlies fans will, if anecdotal evidence is any guide, remain loyal and optimistic about the team's future.
Does it matter that Rudy Gay is a perennial underachiever, someone who will never live up to his physical potential, that he's an All Star from the neck down, and a role player from the neck up?
These are the same fans who considered Pau "Gasoft" an untradeable centerpiece of a future contender.
Nor does it matter that Mike Conley would never start on a championship caliber team, while his backup, Kyle Lowry, played significant minutes with an actual playoff team, the Houston Rockets.
It also doesn't matter that the owner, "Miserly" Michael Heisley, was named the NBA's third worst owner by Sports Illustrated or that the coach—Lionel Hollins, on his third stint coaching the team, with a career record of 31-72—is just another money saving, stop-gap measure.
And let's not think about what did or didn't happen with Ramon Sessions or Amare Stoudemire.
Hell, according to Sports Illustrated, the Grizzlies were worth $160 million when "Miserly" Mike bought the franchise and is now worth $294 million. Good work, if you can get it.
All is not lost though.
O.J. Mayo is a stud. And he, along with Marc Gasol, gave the team two top ten finishers in the Rookie of the Year voting.
So as the Grizzlies embark on another three-year plan, the fate of which is already known to those who want to know, and as Pastner's Tigers (hopefully) reload, we Memphis fans hope for the best, remain realistic, and pray that we recognize the difference.
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