I proposed next to the Mississippi River.
I never thought I would be in Memphis, asking the woman I loved to marry me by the Mississippi River, but looking back on it now, it feels like it would have been weird anywhere else. We moved here about 2 years ago from Richmond, VA; she had gotten a job offer, and even though we had only been together 8 months, I couldn't just let her leave and let distance ruin something that could be IT. So, I left my job, my family and basically everything I have ever known and came to Memphis, a place I only knew of because of how awesome Jerry "The King" Lawler, Elvis and Justin Timberlake are. It was stressful, it was scary, but it was fate. I got a job as a teacher and coach, and things fell into place.
Through the first few months of living here, we met new people, made new friends, went to Redbirds games and Peabody rooftop parties. Our families and some friends visited, and as school started and football (the sport I coach) eventually ended, I felt an emptiness. I am a HUGE sports guy, to my future fiance's dismay at times. Big Redskins fan, big Washington Capitals fan, D.C. sports in general. I played football and basketball in high school, football in college, and have always seen myself through the lens of an athlete. The field, the court, everything made sense to me there, and I could identify and appreciate the effort, sacrifice and teamwork that success in team sports develops.
Alas, I was not able to get Sunday Ticket, so I couldn't see my Redskins (my all time favorite team who I watched with my Dad) as often as I would like (this was before RG3.) The Wizards, D.C.'s team, were not so good, and the Arenas gun stuff turned me away for good in hind sight. I didn't have a team I could support continuously. I began to be interested in the Grizzlies; I had watched the 2011 playoffs back in VA, when Z-Bo lost his mind, Grevis Vasquez made me not hate him as much (despised him at Maryland) and I had thought, wow, that must have been AWESOME to be at live. The lockout prevented the season from starting on time, so after Christmas I became a Grizz fan full on. NBA 2k12 favorite team full on.
And man, did I fall fast. This team was not your typical NBA team; they had heart, they had tremendous energy, they had an identity of Grit and Grind that I truly loved and identified with. The adversity they faced with DA and Z-Bo out and the level of mental toughness they showed was nothing short of extraordinary. Next thing I knew, I was reading everything Grizzlies I could find, watching old YouTube clips of Grizzlies past, I bought a good bit of Grizz gear and attended several games. The various game winning tip-ins, the Raptors OT game, the ridiculous Tony Allen self-pass vs. Cleveland, all good memories. With every powerful win and crushing loss, I went up and down day by day. I was ecstatic when I got tickets to Game 1 of my first playoff game; my still girlfriend and I went and we loved it. The Growl Towels, the energy, the huge lead! Amazing...until, of course, it wasn't. And the the stunning silence of 18,000 broken hearted people filtering through the halls of the Forum. I felt a terrible pain myself, and that's when I knew...
I was really in love. Like, Redskins-esque love. I truly cared about these players, these fans who I had never met. The series continued with the various highs and lows, and then I attended Game 7. Suffered through a similar heartbreak, like everyone else who was there did. But, I was hooked. I knew wherever I was, whenever I left this town, I would be a Grizzlies fan because of Tony Allen's passion, Marc Gasol's roar, the awesome hype videos before the starting lineups are introduced, Zach Randolph's push-ups, Mike Conley's uncanny speed, playing "All I Do Is Win" after victories, all just so awesome. And the way they played for each other, and for the city, with such vigor and passion...it really inspired me. As we adjusted to the city, the Grizzlies helped me feel like this place was not a vacation stay, but Home.
Memphis, for as long as I live, will always be synonymous with love. Love for the woman I proposed to down by the Mississippi, love for the city where it happened, and love for the Memphis Grizzlies. They are the avenue through which I became a Memphian, and wherever I live in the future, I will hold on to that. As another playoff run begins, I am so thankful for a team that made me feel like I was at home. Win or lose, I will be in the Forum, waving my Growl Towel, yelling for Marc or Zach to take the guy that's defending them. I will be staying up late, yelling at the TV like the rest of us, hoping for that Grit and Grind mentality to overtake the Arch-rival Clippers. I am a Grizzlies fan, I am a Memphian and I now and always will Believe.
She said yes, to the proposal by the river, if you were wondering. We are planning a December wedding, and I cannot wait to marry this amazing woman who became my best friend through out our Memphis adventure. We have talked about starting a family, and I am also looking forward to one day being a father. I hope my children are beautiful, smart and caring, like their Mother...
And I hope they're a passionate Grizzlies fan, like their old man. Go Grizzlies, beat L.A.!