Learning to Love the Grit and Grind

Posted on April 28, 2015

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grit and grind

BY: CAMERON ANDREW
Something about Memphis’ sports draws a person in close and grabs ahold of his or her heart. Whether it’s the way the city and impassioned fans rally around their teams or the athletes being more than a name on the court or field, it is no question that sports are not only an entertaining pastime, but part of the wider Memphis community.

I am originally from Dallas and the majority of my extended family is from the Chicago area. My grandfather raised me to be a Chicago Bears fan and a diehard Chicago Cubs fan, and why someone would do something so cruel I am not sure. In 5th grade, my family got season tickets to the Mavericks and Stars, so I spent the better part of eight years at the American Airlines Center, watching Mike Modano and Dirk Nowitzki dominate their respective sports.

My father was a professional Triathlete, my mother was a collegiate volleyball player, and I had uncles play baseball, basketball, and football at all NCAA divisions. Needless to say, athletics were not just an activity or event in my family, but they were a way of life. Unsurprisingly, I followed suit and played volleyball at Juniata College, finding major interests in sports journalism and as a writer and editor for the Juniatian, the Juniata College newspaper.

I moved to Memphis in August of 2013 to begin my collegiate coaching career, knowing close to nothing about local teams other than the fact that I’d get to see my Mavericks come to town twice a year and I might get a chance to catch some of the Cubs top prospects when the Iowa Cubs came to play the Redbirds.

At 12 dollars a seat, it seemed to be a sound investment to grab Grizzlies season tickets; I’d get to enjoy some good basketball just a few blocks from my apartment. It did not take long for me to realize that the Grizz are more than just a basketball team here, but they represent and love this city.

Soon enough after my first game, I was hooked. I remember the specific moment when I realized how much I love the Grizzlies. On a night when Z-Bo was awarded the Kia Community Assist Award, which recognizes his charitable efforts and contributions in the community, a young boy with Down Syndrome sitting just off the end of the Grizzlies bench asked Zach for the shirt he was wearing. Mid game, without a second thought, Z-Bo took off his warm up shirt and handed it to the young boy with a smile on his face.

Z-Bo had given out 900 thanksgiving food baskets, 500 turkeys, and 500 hams to families in the community, as well as giving 300 winter coats to elementary students in the month leading up to receiving this award. On the night of his recognition, he literally gave a child the shirt off his back.

I know he probably wears a different warm up shirt every day, but the fact that he still wanted to make this child’s night proved that Z-Bo isn’t doing all of this community service because the NBA or Grizzlies make him; he truly loves the city of Memphis.

Because athletes like Z-Bo give so much back to the city, fans respond with unwavering support. Prior to moving here, relationships between athletes and their community was something I had not seen before, and I wanted to become a part of it. Just an example of my dedication, I was at game six of the playoff series against the Thunder last year, the final game of the season in Memphis, and popped blood vessels in my hand from banging on the metal barrier right in front of my seats in an attempt to make as much noise as possible. I guess you could say I’m just another fan.

In my second year in Memphis and as a Grizzlies season ticket holder, I’m proud to now call myself a Memphian. Should the Grizz meet the Mavericks in the first round of the NBA playoffs, I’ll be in the Forum wearing my Z-Bo jersey, cheering for my home team.

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Posted in: Grizzlies, Sports