Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the Grizzlies Media Day down at FedexForum. I must readily admit that I was not prepared for this level of extravaganza. It's not just that I haven't gotten my tiny voice recorder to shove into people's faces, or that I have yet to perfect the art of furiously scribbling down comments while standing up and having nothing into which you can press a writing instrument. Heck, it's not even the fact that there's a tangible presence of "high school popularity" in which the talkative jocks are played by seasoned Memphis reporters that schmooze and play grab ass with anyone that might slip them a juicy tidbit for a story.
No, for me, the lack of preparation for this go-round wasn't about not being able to look the part of a professional reporter, it was about twiddling my thumbs in the media room as people trickle in, and then turning around the next second only to see Robert Pera standing next to me while I somehow muster the wherewithal to shake his hand and introduce myself. My moment in the sun didn't last long, because, while Pera is a very polite and gracious guy, his entrance seemed to just ignite the fuming pile of gasoline soaked rags that was Media Day.
(At least he heard my name before being whisked away by a throng of percolating middle-aged men; he might have even heard "Grizzly Bear Bl..." before the corner of the room erupted like a scene from Moulin Rouge.)
Pera is a really interesting guy, without question. And while I suppose a great number of billionaires are interesting, my particular fascination with Pera stems from the sometimes painfully awkward presence he has around others. Just glancing at his face while reporters stand approximately 26 inches from him and unleash a barrage of queries will tell you quite a lot. This guy hates doing this. Not because he isn't obsessed with basketball and his Memphis Grizzlies, but because, to quote Austin Powers, it's just not his bag, baby.
Robert Pera needs Jason Levien the same way a dead-pan actor needs a gregarious and sanguine personality to provide humorous context. But in spite of that functionality, the two men are absolutely on the same page when it comes to running the Memphis Grizzlies. Although Pera is the majority, billionaire owner, his demeanor is truly that of a calculated engineer. There is no question that he hasn't already addressed, if at least in his own mind. If Michael Heisley was the gruff "Grandpa" that took the Memphis Grizzlies, slapped them around and told them to "act like a man," then Robert Pera is the cool uncle that comes over when you're 5 years old and helps you fix your Nintendo Entertainment System (just blow in it and hit the side, btw).
Aside from observations of the owner, the rest of my observations are born of the attitude a child possesses when walking into Disney World. To put it mildy, the dynamic of Media Day is intensely overwhelming. There are NBA players coming and going, standing right next to you, sometimes literally waiting for someone to come talk to them. And although my first experience left me listening to others ask the questions, that will not be the case forever. There will be plenty of opportunities for the Grizzlies to enlighten the GBB community, and I have few reservations about putting my neck out there for the sake of GBB goodness.
I don't have all the quotes to give you, nor do I have the rapport with people to stand at the vanguard of Grizzlies journalism right now. But I do consider myself an observant person who is sensitive to body language, tone and demeanor, and I can tell you this: the Memphis Grizzlies are for real. There is no ego amongst this team. There is a serious tone around this group of men that tells me they want to avenge any disappointment from last season. They are there to work, to better themselves and, in turn, better the city.
And hey, once I acclimate to not being a giddy fanboy, so am I.