Even as Memphians and Shelby Countians and Mid-Southerners in general are licking their wounds following a sweep of our town's Grizzlies by the San Antonio Spurs in the championship round of the NBA's Western Conference, it
behooves us to look at what has been accomplished, not at what has been lost.
On the plus side, the favorable national attention received by the Griz clearly outweighs any potential embarrassment from the defeat, and the world is now well aware of the term "grit and grind" and what it has to say about the character of the team and of the city itself. The team's effort, in fact, earned it the cover of Sports Illustrated on the eve of the Spurs series — a plus for sure but one that created a foreboding for many of us, knowing the well-established legend of the SI jinx factor. During the playoffs, though, the Grizzlies knocked off the L.A. Clippers, this year's glamor team, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, last year's NBA finalists, and contested the Spurs (whom they had dispatched in the playoffs two seasons ago) to the end in three of the four defeats, two of them overtime games.
That ain't half bad, and, in any case, the Big Picture was amply spoken to earlier this month by New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, the honoree of this week's "Summons to Memphis" event, sponsored by our sister publication, Memphis magazine. During the course of an interview, the mayor offered some thoughts on the value of a professional sports franchise to its host city:
"I would say, in a broader context, that cultural and sports institutions that bring people together are really important to the solidarity of a community. ... Any major event ... that brings people from the area together, where they can see each other and enjoy what they're watching ... is a beautiful thing. ... [New Orleans] was so used to losing, at everything, that when the Saints won, it gave us a chance to think, you know, we can go from worst to best. ... That team [the Grizzlies] can play a major role in the community just becoming one and focusing their attention around it."
Which indeed it did. Attendance at FedExForum through the season and playoff rounds displayed a cross section of our area's population. Stockbrokers, sanitation workers, society belles, and sodbusters sat elbow-to-elbow in FedExForum and became as one. Would that the example of this harmony might carry over into the increasingly divided councils of society and government!
A word here about the current predicament of Kevin Kane, the longtime head of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau and, as such, the recognized salesperson and strategist for the city's tourist industry. As has long been known, Kane has an interest in Club 152, one of the linchpins of Beale Street, which was closed down recently by District Attorney General Amy Weirich for drug sales and a history of rowdiness. At the time Kane, disclaimed any hands-on involvement with the club's management but expressed concern for the problems that had just become so public.
Not to heavy-hand the matter, but we would suggest that, given Kane's position, his acknowledged lack of such prior oversight is troubling, as is the continuing and obvious potential for a conflict of interest, and that he would be well-advised to reconsider his involvement.