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The Flu Game

Sometimes your body tells you that you're not going to be able to attend an important sporting event. Sometimes, you have to just completely ignore, even if you have to become patient zero.


I can only start this piece off with an apology. What follows is certain to rub people the wrong way, and probably piss a few people downright off. Before we go any farther, let me just say, from the bottom of my heart, deep down in the place where I feel things, I'm sorry. What I did tonight was foolish, it was irresponsible, but it was also 100% necessary. Days like today and nights like tonight don't come around very often, and are never guaranteed to reoccur or to last for very long, so when you hear what I did, you'll no doubt understand. I'll also apologize for this being a tad on the long side, and I'll follow that up with a third apology when you realize that my definition of tad is drastically different than yours.

After Saturday's win, the fan hood of the lower level people was called into question. "They're just making appearances!" "One guy was wearing shades the whole time!" "They're only down there to sit closer to the little redheaded girl because she's got a smile that would make the sun cry."[1] As a season ticket holder who sits in the lower level, I took great offense to this. Not in a, "Man, I'm pissed off that people were saying that, I need to physically attack them!" way, but in a "Man, that's not true! I hope people see the real fans down here," kind of way.

You know they only came for a victory, but in that moment, you feel as if they want blood.

I also took offense, because what I saw on Saturday (forced to miss the game for work/friend's graduation) did nothing but solidify that argument. There's probably a good reason for that, but when it comes to playoff basketball, there's just no excuse for not bringing it every second of every game.[2] You have to bring it. There's a reason its so tough to win on the road in the NBA, and all other major sports for that matter: fans. When fans are going bonkers, screaming their heads off and shaking towels and thunder-sticks, it gets to opposing players. You know they only came for a victory, but in that moment, you feel as if they want blood. Every time I head down to the grindhouse, there is one thing on my mind and one thing only, and that's falling in love with the little redheaded girl rooting the Grizzlies, my Grizzlies, to a win. Tonight, suited up with my kid-brother in Section 110, I did just that. I gave it everything. This is that story that will grow to become a legend, to become a myth, to become a guideline. This is the story of my "The Flu Game."



It's Mother's Day, May 12th, 2013. After a great day with my family, celebrating the life and love of my mother and grandmother, and a few of my favorite other mothers, I'm sitting with my brother in a dark movie theatre, roughly half full, preparing to watch the 7:40 showing of Iron Man 3. My brother, who not even an hour earlier was so full of life, like he is everyday, and who was stoked to be viewing the third Iron Man after having just watched the previous two the day before, was quiet. Too quiet. I nudged him to see where his enthusiasm had gone, and before he even answered, I could see the look in his eyes, he was taking ill. He insisted he was fine, and wanted to watch the movie, and I double, triple, and quadruple checked to make sure. He wasn't budging. I swallowed hard, thinking this could turn ugly, as there was a lady with thick, curly hair sitting directly in front of him, and my mind wandered rapidly about what projectile vomit would do to that. And that's when it hit me. As the swallow slowly made its way down my throat to wherever it is swallows go, I clinched in pain. Sore throat. Extremely sore throat. No good, very bad, incredibly painful, extremely sore throat. I began to panic as I remembered I'd pretty well filled up the boxes on my "How Many Times You Get to Have Strep Throat Before You Have to Get Your Tonsils Removed" card. I tried to ignore it and enjoy the movie, but from the look of nausea on my brother's face, to the brand new adventure in pain every time I swallowed, it was tough to do. The movie ended, we went to Sonic to get a half price milkshake (which provided no relief) and sojourned home. My brother laid out shivering in the backseat, constantly one upping my sounds of disgust from swallowing.

We got home, and he had already made up his mind that school was simply out of the question tomorrow. My mother, a nurse, concurred with his sentiments. Meanwhile, I showered, grabbed several Gatorades, and lay in my bed to watch highlights, trying to take my mind off the pain till sleep took over. It didn't work. I'm a bit like a child, in more than one aspect of life I'll sheepishly confess, and I couldn't help but keep swallowing every .02 seconds to see if it still hurt. It did. Always. Nevertheless, I sipped my red drank, and slowly let the slumber overtake me.

2:45 am. I'm awake. Sore throat, check. Headache, check. Stomach reenacting the battle of Helms Deep, check. I sipped on another beverage, continued to keep checking to see if swallowing still hurt (It did. Always), and tossed and turned for what seemed like hours as I tried to force myself to sleep.

Sore throat, check. Headache, check. Stomach reenacting the battle of Helms Deep, check.

This repeated itself thrice before my alarm went off. When it finally did, I smashed the snooze button, because of course, and then yanked myself out of bed. On a normal day, I would have called in sick, went back to bed, and thought nothing of it. But this was no normal day.

Not only was this a pivotal Game 4 for the Grizzlies, but I also had to work, and would be the only one in the office today. I threw on one of my favorite suits, hoping it would provide a little "Well at least you look....better than Sloth?" energy. (It did not), went and grabbed breakfast, what I'm assuming should be an illegal amount of cold medication, and stumbled into work. Spoiler Alert: It was a long day.

My throat, still clawing its way inside me like an angry cat with a literal axe to grind, my head pounding, my face hot, body cold, and stomach, having finished with Helm's Deep, was now playing the Fast and Furious 6 trailer on repeat. [3] *It's here I'll break from the story and let you know that, due to my shame, my belief that you don't do potty humor when females are around, and my strong feeling of discomfort still going on, I'm going to edit a bit of these words and phrases here. You'll thank me later, or probably now. *

Only ‘sounds' never ‘lights' or ‘fireworks' of any kind. It was a disgusting mix of excitement and disappointment

I could feel it deep within me, there was going to be a ‘fireworks' show. Breakfast was a bad decision. I made my way to the ‘Lu'[4] and prepared for the inevitable storm it was about to unleash. I ‘had the usher check my coat and show me to my seat' and sat in what I will reluctantly describe as the ‘splash zone' and prepared for the ‘lights and sounds.' Just one problem; only ‘sounds' never ‘lights' or ‘fireworks' of any kind. It was a disgusting mix of excitement and disappointment, as I returned to my desk, thinking I'd dodged a bullet. This process repeated itself four other times throughout the day.

I was right smack dab in the middle of a pickle. Do I go home after work, take care of myself, or keep hoping I don't overdose on throat lozenges and tough out the game? I was especially torn because I knew how important this game was, and I had missed the previous one, and I don't like missing two in a row, or ever. It was then, my brother texted me, clamoring about his excitement for the game. The decision was made. I would deny neither myself nor the 11-year old boy, who in case you're wondering did make a miraculous recovery after missing school, the memory and excitement of Game 4 between our Grizzlies and Thunder, and whatever the cost was to my body, I'd pay it when the time came. I took a Zyrtec for the allergy portion of what I was dealing with, and another different, stronger pain pill, and mounted up. [5]

We arrived just before 6, because I hate traffic, needed to sit down, and had already started feeling a bit loopy. My brother and I chatted, I'm sure of it, but I honestly remember very little of it. I remember saying something about how they had moved the seats in front of ours closer to us because I had less room to prop my leg up, but that's it. I know we exchanged words though, and he snagged a couple autographs from visiting players I didn't hate, but I was in full laughing gas mode; sillier than normal and ready to cut loose for the game.

I cruised through the first quarter, despite the Grizzlies failure to do anything, and was feeling like a champion. I'd done it, I'd rid my body of this illness and was going to able to enjoy the game to it's fullest. Immediate jinx.

Instant fever hit. Head began pounding. Stomach, doing a scene-for-scene remake of The Patriot. I swallowed to see if it still hurt. It did. Always. I sunk into my chair, ready to tap out, resigned to leave and watch the rest of the game from my sectional while I cuddled with a pillow beneath my twister blanket. I was sickly. I needed to rest, to heal, to calm my insides. That's when pride kicked in. I saw the tweets from my buddy Chuck that said "Lower Bowl people just sit there on their iPhones picking their noses!" I looked to the upper deck and saw frantic fans waiving their towels like desperate islanders trying to flag down a rescue ship. I glanced over to the little redheaded girl and caught a glimpse of her lovely auburn locks, and I was in it. For better or worse, whatever came out of the ceiling, basement, or anywhere in between, I was going to give it everything I had this game, and leave it all out on the court. Literally, I fully expected to vomit.

I was going to give it everything I had this game, and leave it all out on the court. Literally, I fully expected to vomit.

It was on. I can count on one hand how many minutes I was sitting and/or not shouting, or more realistically, I probably can't, as I was still quite loopy. The point remains though. I stood. I jumped. I gritted and grinded. I told Nick Collison he looked like Bizzaro Jim Halpert.[6] I cheered, jeered, and smeared germ-X on my hands when no one was looking. I made a wonderful mess of things.

And I'll clarify, it wasn't just me. My whole section brought the funk tonight. From the teenage Brian Regan fans sitting beside me, to the bulky, glasses wearing guy two rows behind me, to the girl a row in front of me whose dad chastised her for chanting "Refs You Suck;" Section 110 was bumping all night long. We were getting after it. Every once in a while, pain would over come me, and I'd freeze for a bit. Be it from headaches[7] or stomachaches, or from swallowing to try and determine if it still hurt (it did, always), I had moments where I thought I was done. I slumped in my seat and thought of Michael Jordan performing while looking like garbage personified. I thought of Little Nathan puking into the garbage can and getting back on the court and making a ridiculous amount of terrible shots. I thought of Nasim Pedrad in her fancy dresses waiving goodbye at the end of SNL, and I pulled myself from my seat, hoisted my hands above my head and let out an authentically stereotypical "AAAAAAAY-YI-YI-YI!" My mind was made up to not stop cheering until the Grizzlies won or I blacked out. Sweat dripped from each and every one of my pores, and my fever escalated at the pace of the ridiculous calls from Joseph Evelyn Crawford.[8] But I dug in. Never give up, never blow chunks into the hair of the season ticket holders in front of you. And I did, until the very final buzzer blew. I roared through the end of regulation. I tried to pump my section back up right before overtime. I howled with childlike delight when the victory streamers paraded down from the ceiling. And it didn't stop there.

We skipped through the hallways and out near the stage area for the postgame concert celebration. Never one to shy away from a dance, I boogied like my life depended on it. The only time I stopped was when they started playing "Doing the Butt" because I couldn't help but realize the perfect irony that would inevitably take place had the ‘fireworks show' decided to kick off during that song.

Come Hell or high water, or the ejecting of matter from the stomach through the mouth, always cheering for your boys.

After a few songs, I reluctantly made my way out of the craziness and my brother and I headed towards my car. I had survived the game, and even though the adrenaline had worn off and I was now cowering right in the middle of what I can only believe is the black plague, it was so incredibly worth it. That's what it's all about. Rooting for your team in the thick and thin, the highs and lows, the Rudy Gay trades and the Hasheem Thabeet drafts. Come Hell or high water, or the ejecting of matter from the stomach through the mouth, always cheering for your boys. That's my fanhood.

My apologies go out to any and everyone I slapped five with, or people who directly slapped five with someone after I did. Or someone who directly slapped five with someone who directly slapped five with someone who directly slapped five with me, directly. If you fall ill, and you can prove to me that you were sitting near me in Section 110, I will buy you a bowl of the soup of your choice and give you a nice foot rub. Also, my sincerest of apologies go out to my boy Thaddeus Young. If you catch any sort of cold from shaking hands and chatting with me tonight, I'm a so deeply, deeply sorry, even though it's kind of payback for you screwing up the handshake and stopping your smile before I took the picture of you and my brother, but I'll gladly forgive you if you should find yourself in a Memphis jersey next season. Just something to think about.

Now, the game is over. It's well past 3 am, I'm laying in my bed, body shivering, wrapped up like a ceramic plate in a FedEx box, with a 101 temperature and a previously cold, wet rag draped across my forehead trying to break the fever, wondering why I'm not listening to ‘Break Fever' by Todd Whatley and the Frontmen. Many memories were made tonight, and most importantly the Grizzlies won. Would I call myself a superhero? No. I mean not "super" per se. Still, probably not. But I would call myself a true fan, a fan no matter what, just like every single other member of Grizz Nation. None of us are heroes, we're just ordinary citizens who love a ragtag group of NBA players who ball like none others in the league.

So here I lay, trying to force sleep onto myself. My head is throbbing. My body is shivering from the shoulders down, and flaming from the neck up. My stomach prepping for what I can only assume is a tribute to the painful and hideous crash and burn that was the end of Ashlee Simpson's career. And I can't help but swallow to see if it still hurts. It does. Always.


[1] 66.6666666666667% of those are real.

[2] The reason is, because with early games, the party starts earlier. A 4 pm tip off, sees a 2 pm pre-party, meaning lots of people show up around 12:30-1 pm to start drinking, and there's not much energy or coordination left by halftime.

[3] I'll be honest; it could have been any of them. I've barely seen any of them. My favorite is the one with the cars and overacting though.

[4] I realize that this is a globally accepted term for toilet, but you all probably knew what I was driving at anyways, plus I once dated a girl who was ‘secretly' in love with a guy named Lu, and it makes me feel good to think of his face covered in fecal matter. I mean, fireworks. Those both work actually.

[5] Fourth apology, sorry for mixing meds and what not. Don't do that kids.

[6] Right? It's like they were separated at birth and one was raised to make people laugh and feel good about things and the other was raised by Snidely Whiplash.

[7] I had meningitis a year or so back, and still occasionally get freight train style headaches. I'm not always sickly though, I swear.

[8] And not just against Memphis, there were three or four calls that I thought he blatantly missed in our favor. How does this cat have a job?