There’s a famous quote from John F Kennedy- “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” The same can be applied on a more civic level, specifically to Memphis Tennessee, and its outer laying suburbs. I have heard so much negativity regarding Memphis. From the people that live here, to the people that pass through.
Lionel Hollins referred to his time in Memphis as living in the stone ages. That quote pricked me under my skin. I’m an optimist, but also have my eyes open enough to see the broad view. At this point, I choose to live in Memphis because Memphis is home. Robert Frost said, “Home is the place you go where they have to let you in.” Memphis welcomes its own with open arms, outsiders have to prove their worth.
I have Tupac’s “Changes” in my headphones as I’m writing. If you’re not a fan of rap, that’s fine, but it often serves as excellent social commentary. Memphis is a city divided, always has been. Orange Mound is the second largest conglomerate black community in the United States. The white community in Memphis is largely relegated to satellite suburbs. We still have opposing governments here, Memphis and Shelby County. We deny our firefighters and police officers benefits and pensions. As Memphis is desperate for economic growth to fend off collapse, I see the push in development.
After at least a decade of negotiations we now have a revitalized Pyramid hosting Bass Pro Shop. Overton Square received a mass overhaul enticing residents to return to Mid-Town. There are positive changes coming to Memphis the city. After years of being second rate to Nashville and Atlanta, we’re playing fiscal catch-up.
The FedEx Forum is the one place in this city where cohabitation takes place. We are at peace with one another. We are united by a now completely integrated Memphis institution. It’s when the season ends that we return to our separate corners.
Here’s what I wonder, why? It is no longer lack of civic opportunity that stands in the way of Memphis chasing greater. It’s us. The population of Memphis on a large scale refuses to progress. Our young people leave en masse. We want our city to be great, but refuse to participate in the things that make it so. You can find the good if you look for it. You can be the good stepping outside your own doorstep.
This brings me to the Grizzlies. As a franchise, and as individuals associated with the Grizzlies, they are doing their part. Both economically, commercially, and in the community. They donate, participate, and entertain. The standard, and the example are being set, but not duplicated. We are lucky here to have players that extend their duties off the hardwood, and past the season. We are a small market team, that plays at an elevated level due to the amount of blue collar work put in. We do the time. At this point it’s no longer a matter of not being to draw talent due to a lack of wins or play-off berths. We are recognized as a legitimate ball club. We have an excellent spread of ownership (Robert Pera can ball y’all), our front office is on point, our coach has the knowledge and ability to win championships (check his creds- he wins), and our talent, while not stacked with endorsements, gets 1st team nods. Perhaps the issue is more internal. If you visited a city where residents were quick to point out the negative, would you want to live there? Memphis vs Errybody is great, but does it eliminate the possibility of anybody want to join the club? Our own high school talent no longer recruits to the Tigers.
It’s time for Memphis to get behind Memphis. It’s time for the people of Memphis to realize our worth. We are an incredible lot of people capable of being a conglomerate force for good. That should not end because a season ends, or due to loss. The chase for greater started in the Forum should continue outside its walls. I’m chasing greater because I want Memphis to be greater. I’m chasing you to elevate you, just as you are pushing me to be greater. We are equal in our chase for greater. The chase for greater is the unified rally cry. We achieve greater together. I am proud that sports is what unifies this city. What I want is a city that is capable of drawing players, and making them want to stay.
Marc Gasol’s priority is almost a challenge to the city- it’s not the money, it’s how you win. He wants to win the right way. This is his hometown, and that priority of winning the right way extends to us. Gasol said in his exit interview it’s not words that can convince him to stay, it’s actions. In a town currently hell bent in tearing apart it’s player’s, are those the actions we want our superstar to be reviewing? Is this the place where the court of public opinion has drawn irate the place you want your daughter to grow and flourish? Another franchise and city will welcome our superstar with open arms. The push out will be the same for Mike Conley who is currently drawing fire for waiting until next year to engage in contract negotiations. Part of that is so true to Conley’s unselfish nature. Waiting for Mike keeps the door open for Gasol. The same as Zach Randolph voluntarily deferring part of his Memphis salary, and taking a pay cut to stay here keeps the door open for Marc. Do you see how that works? They have each other’s backs. If you continue to attempt to inspire people by doing good works, and no one follows, do you still engage in them? For our team, the answer is a resounding yes. So, ask not what your Grizzlies can do for you, ask what you can do to ensure that the Grizz continue. If nothing else motivates you to do good in your community, take note of the Grizz playbook. Today Connie Kirby made a donation to the Mid-South Food Bank in the name of Grizz Nation. It’s also her birthday. She challenged every member, that’s almost 9,000 members, to do the same. Let the season of giving back, paying it forward, and truly chasing greater begin. I am a firm believer in random acts of kindness. Giving back does not have to involve money. Invest your time. Invest your smile and positivity. Make the change from negative to positive. Love thy neighbor as you do at the Forum. I am Memphis, and I’m not bluffing.