I was planning on taking a break for a few days. It's been a long season for the Memphis Grizzlies, and to a far lesser extent for this lowly blogger. The plan was to wrap up the season in podcast and article form Thursday and Friday, while catching my breath early in the week.
Then, a couple of things happened.
First, Dave Joerger showed real emotion at a press conference, raw, uncompromising emotion for the group of guys he'd worked with and what they'd been through this season.
There are a lot of jaded people out there, folks who view sports through the spectrum of being corrupt, or of it being all about the money, fame, and power. That point of view sometimes isn't too far off base, but tonight they were surely wrong. Dave Joerger loves this team and his players, and he has been through a type of regular season hell with them that no other team in NBA has ever been through.
How many different players took the court at some point for each team during 2015-16 season? (RIP Grizzlies) pic.twitter.com/dVQRzMr6hB— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 24, 2016
He earned the right to be exhausted. And shattered. And the moment of release, the end of a run with a team that he will remember perhaps more than any future division title or championship banner, got to him. And he broke down, just like his team. Any coach worth their salt would do anything for their players, and he showed that willingness in tears in front of the NBA world. They did everything they could, and still failed.
They were losers, coach and all.
Then, Chase Lucas of Grizzlies Twitter (@deepfriedcouch) shared a video and it moved me to tears, and to write this piece.
If that doesn't articulate this season, and this team and that feeling that Dave Joerger showed in that press conference, than I don't know what does.
You tried your best. You still lost.
You did everything you could. It just wasn't good enough.
You're a loser...good for you.
It is easy to critique from the sidelines, to question someone's ability or wherewithal behind the safety of a computer screen. It's easy to look at numbers alone and say that it makes more sense logically to lose purposefully and drop out of the playoffs when you're not living the day to day in this particular situation. This isn't Philadelphia, building a culture of losing in the name of some "process"; the Grizzlies were a winning team who struggled through historic injuries. Winning cultures don't pop up over night; they are built, day in and day out, through hard work and emotional investment.
Often, with emotional investment, you risk heartbreak. That's why so often people give up or don't try. It's the easier thing to do. But not these Memphis Grizzlies.
They are losers by every definition in these playoffs. They were swept by the superior San Antonio Spurs and only won three of the sixteen quarters played. They were undermanned and outclassed by a better team. But they were willing to fight the fight, to go out and lay it all out on the line to just get into the postseason. They did their damnedest in the face of insurmountable odds to try to compete. They fell, but they were willing to take a leap of faith and try for the sake of pride in themselves and their city. This is a great lesson that can be applied to life, that can be taught to young people - you will fail and you will fall, and at times it will happen often. Getting back up and being willing to try again is what builds character, and is ultimately what matters most.
That is worthy of applause. That unwillingness to die. To stand up for what had been built by the name on the front of the jersey, despite the absence of so many key names that go on the back. The Zach Randolph diving efforts to save a possession that flies out of bounds anyway. The Tony Allen limping gallops down the court, hurting every step of the way. That, all while in a losing effort, is grounds for a standing ovation, considering the context that is the 2015-2016 season for the Memphis Grizzlies.
For once, being unbiased can wait...there will be a time for breakdowns in future podcasts and articles, a whole off-season to analyze what is next.
For now, here's to you, Memphis Grizzlies. You're losers. But I have never been more proud to be a part of the losing cheering section. You deserve it. You actually are what you claim to be.
All Heart, Grit, and Grind.