Like most aspiring writers, I was tired of having my work rejected every time I submitted my pieces for publication. It gets old after a while. I knew I was writing quality stuff and there was an audience starving for my acidic wit and insights. Then one day I stumbled across the answer to my quandary. He came to me in a vision. My muse came to me in a Christ like appearance: long-haired, handsome, and bearded. It was Kris Kristofferson, the legendary country music singer/son writer!
For some reason, I recalled the old story of how a young, desperate, Kristofferson was first discovered in Nashville by jumping out of a plane and parachuting into the back yard estate of Johnny and June Cater Cash. It was time for me to pull a similar stunt of my own. Desperate times call for drastic measures.
In early May, I was excited about all of the buzz that was being generated about the N.B.A. s Vancouver Grizzlies possible relocation to Memphis. Being a sports dork and a longtime suffering Memphian, I was hyped about the chances of my beloved town finally becoming a major league city. I called my oldest friend, Sanford "Sal" Shefsky, over to my condo to discuss our plan of attack.
We sat back in my den in front of the computer for hours, drinking beer and pondering ways to promote ourselves and the efforts to lure the Grizzlies. The quote of the evening came from my girlfriend, who was watching an Ally McBeal rerun in the living room. She barked toward the back of the condo in our general direction, "I hope you two perverts aren t downloading pictures of Brittany Spears again. That s sick for two grown men in their mid-thirties."
"We just bought a website," I retorted. "We are the proud owners of www.memphisgrizzlies.org." With Sal s help, I had pulled off my very own Kristoffersonian stunt, and the fun was about to start. Sanford went home. I spent the next two hours filling the site with supportive, tongue-in-cheek musings, stating the reasons why Memphis needed a major league franchise. Among other things, I wrote that we would be willing to sell the site for three million dollars. We bought it for only $35.00 ($17.50 each).
We got a little bit of local press coverage in May for our efforts, but for the most part, we went unnoticed. Then in mid-July, I received a registered letter from the N.B.A. in New York. It was their contention that even though we legally registered the domain name and built the web site two full months before the there was a Memphis Grizzlies team, we were guilty of trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and unfair competition.
The Commercial Appeal did a story on this, and some of the local rock stations interviewed us. We thought it was funny. All of our family and friends were calling us and saying that they saw us in the paper and heard us on the radio. We thought our 15 minutes was almost up. A few hours later, all hell broke loose. The story hit the A.P. wire. Suddenly, everyone in the world wanted to talk to us. Our plight was being seen around the world on internet sites and publications such as: the New York Times online, Sports Illustrate/CNN, ESPN.com, Street and Smith Sports Business Daily ,Yahoo News, etc., etc.
The Memphis television stations started sending camera crews out to interview us. Suddenly, the media made our story to be one of David versus Goliath proportions. We were David. The N.B.A. was Goliath. The public sentiment was overwhelmingly in our favor. We started frequenting the Memphis radio airwaves with our tale.
Shortly thereafter, talk radio stations from around the nation starting calling us for interviews. Our David-versus-Goliath struggle now also became a freedom of speech issue. When I first heard the term "freedom of speech issue" my newfound hero, Kris Krisofferson, came to mind once again. His lyrics from Me and Bobbie McGee played over and over in my head: "Freedom is just another word for nothing left to loose." We literally had nothing left to lose. So, we hired the best freedom of speech lawyer we could find, Bruce Kramer, a noted defender of the A.C.L.U. to protect our rights and our beloved site.
The emails came next. We received 600 emails from Iceland to L.A. The vast majority was in our corner. Most of them saw it as a big evil empire trying to squash two little guys. Some even went as far as to call us "cyber martyrs." At this point, my over inflated ego had me seeing myself as Sally Field in Norma Rae, a staunch leader for the underclasses.
We were in a real catch 22. Our two main objectives had been met: 1. My writing has received a huge amount of exposure. 2. We were supporting the Grizzlies. However, we feel that we were being unjustly attacked by an 800 pound gorilla called the N.B.A. After all, the content of the site is pro-Memphis Grizzlies. We have become emotionally attached to the site, and we refuse to give it away without substantial compensation. No matter what happens, we will remain supportive of the Memphis Grizzlies. I just won t listen to Kris Kristofferson any more.
(Greg Graber, whose involvement with www.memphisgrizzles.org was dealt with in this space last week, is a freelance writer and broadcaster. His weekly radio show, The Greg Graber Grizzlie Growl, can be heard on 94.1 FM. He also maintains a personal website at: www.thegrabersite.com.)