Back in October, I wrote a piece talking about the Top 10 Things About Going To A Grizzlies Game. Now, it's time to take it to the next level. The playoffs are here, and I want to talk about the transformation of the Grindhouse and what makes it so distinctive and spectacular.
The birth of the Grindhouse began with the birth of the Grit n' Grind era itself. That is, when Tony Allen quoted these famous words in a post game interview years ago:
The minute the renowned phrase was heard, the Grit n' Grind movement took off. It was plastered onto t-shirts, the internet, and even the popular growl towels. The era of Grit n' Grind has transformed FedEx Forum into "The Grindhouse," and a spirit of winning basketball has arrived in Memphis and has enveloped the city in blue and gold.
As we're waiting for the playoffs to start in the Grindhouse Sunday night, here are the top five reasons why going to a Grizzlies playoff game is so special (in no particular order):
5. The Growl Towels
The growl towels have become the symbol of Memphis playoff basketball over the years since the remarkable 2011 playoff run. Every fan is greeted by one of these yellow towels when they arrive at their seat. They serve as an item to wipe perspiration off your face as you're anxiously watching the game. They act as something to bite on as you're holding back enraged emotion. They serve as something to connect you to fellow Grizz fans as you wave them in the air in unison with the other 18,000+ fans. They are something to remember the game by and hang up on your door to inaudibly voice your support of the team. These little towels hold expressive phrases that fans hold dear, like "We Don't Bluff" and "Believe Memphis". If you're not from Memphis and just stopping by for a playoff game, your towel can be your keepsake to take back home, and you'll always remember the night you became part of something really special. Here's an inside look at the growl towels and how they got started:
4. The History
Like I said, a spirit of winning basketball has grown in Memphis over the past five years. Countless memorable moments have happened in the Forum, from the historic upset over the San Antonio Spurs in 2011 to the series against the OKC Thunder that led to the Grizzlies' first Western Conference Finals appearance. The Grindhouse crowd isn't a novice in playoff games any longer. The Grizzlies have been in Memphis for less than twenty years, but it has already blossomed into a playoff culture. So get down to the Grindhouse and don't miss another great moment in Grizzlies history, because you'll never know what will happen in the playoffs:
3. The Sold-Out Crowd
Seriously, this place is packed to the ceiling for playoff games. It's sort of a surreal feeling with so many Grizzlies fans surrounding you. Everyone is caught up in the moment and completely fixated on what's going on in the game. There's hardly an empty seat in the house, and the energy is palpable in the air. People waited in lines for these tickets. They waited all day, all week, to come to this game. And everyone is just enjoying the moment, this special experience that can only come from watching the Grizzlies in the playoffs. No one wants to look away from the court, because they might miss a special moment. They might miss the greatest play in the history of basketball. Or maybe they won't. But don't tell the Grizzlies fans that. It's fun just to take in the whole scene. Snapping a few pictures can't really capture the magic. It's something you have to be there for.
2. The Chants
There have been many iconic chants to break out across the Grindhouse. Some of these include "Z-Bo," "Whoop That Trick," or "Let's Go Grizzlies". The fans are wild in the playoffs, and spontaneous chants are somewhat commonplace. One section will start up a chant, and everyone else will follow suit, shouting at the top of their lungs and waving growl towels high in the air. The Grindhouse has one of the best fan bases in the league, and their chants during playoff games do not disappoint. Famous instances of chants in the Forum include chants of "Whoop that trick!" against the Clips, and chants of "Z-Bo!" during the famed 2011 upset over the San Antonio Spurs.
1. The Stakes
Regular season games have their own intensity, but playoff games in the Grindhouse take it to the next level. Each round of the playoffs becomes more and more intense, and the Forum becomes more deafening as the playoffs progress. The reason why? There's way more at stake in the playoffs. Top-tier contenders are battling face-to-face, and the crowd is on top of the action. The Grindhouse crowd is a sixth man, in a sense. No one wants to be on the other side of the growl towel waving and thunderous shouts. Each possession is more valuable than ever before, and the crowd's reactions dip and rise as Tony Allen swipes a steal or Marc Gasol takes a hard foul. Sometimes, tempers flare, and the Grizz fans are sure to back their players if anyone dares to mess with them. The stakes are higher than ever before, and the crowd only intensifies each play.
. . . .
When the playoffs arrive in Memphis, there's something different in the air. It's a sense of anticipation, pride, expectation, and hopefulness. Coming to a playoff game at the Forum is an experience unlike any other. Sure, other teams have great crowds. However, no one else does the playoffs quite like the Grindhouse. The playoffs are here, and Memphis is ready.