It feels like a long time ago that the Grizzlies weren’t very good. But really it was only seven years ago when Memphis finished two games under .500 and missed the playoffs. To put that in perspective, if you’re 37 now, you would have been 30 the last time the Grizzlies missed the playoffs. Or, if you’re six now, you would have been -1 then.
Preceding the 2010-2011 season, there was tempered optimism amongst fans. Memphis finished strong in a classic ‘too little too late’ playoff push scenario, but the team showed what it could eventually evolve in to. Because of these positive vibes, fans were tempted to be excited. However, years mired in the NBA’s cellar taught Grizz fans not to get excited about anything (except the draft lottery, but even that never was really the happiness fans fawned for).
In the 2009/10 season Memphis ranked third to last in average attendance and total attendance. The team’s average attendance per game constituted 74.4 percent of FedExForum’s total capacity of 18,119, a percentage which ranked third to last in the league.
It was hard to root for a team that had been so bad for so long, which is, presumably, why the Grizzlies instituted a very special offer for hardcore fans.
Memphis Grizzlies Superfans, sponsored by Pepsi, were the team’s rowdiest, most passionate, most unabashed Grizz Nation members. In exchange for their dogged fanhood, as well as coordinated cheers, jeers, and marches mandated by the franchise, they were awarded free season tickets.
They conquered tryouts to separate the wheat from the chaff. They got to games early and stayed late. They were annoying, they were hostile, and they were fun. They were diverse, they were goobers, they were lovable, but most of all, they were loud.
And I was one of them.
I would not now, nor would I then, have considered myself a Grizzlies Superfan. I love the Grizzlies; they are my favorite sports franchise and I am very passionate about their proceedings. But to say that I am or was one of the twenty or thirty biggest fans worldwide seems a bit far fetched.
Nevertheless, I was crowned a Superfan. I wrote my college essay on the experience, and I also wrote a short story on it for a creative writing class. This story is not those stories, in that I don’t have access to my college essay anymore and no one wants to read seven pages of transparently and painfully manufactured “themes” and “metaphors.” It is, though, the same story in that the details and events are the same. I would like to share that story with y’all.
I was not an original Superfan. I was only 17 when I joined at a mid-season tryout that two of my friends put me on to—two friends who were already Superfans. Actually, I had just finished a church league basketball game on a Saturday afternoon when they harried me into acquiescence. I went home, quickly cleaned up, and acquired my mother’s consent before heading off to the Forum.
When I got there, I was last in line for tryouts, a fortunate turn of events as I could listen to all the questions being asked of those in front of me. The same three or four questions kept popping up, and I formulated answers for every query except one.
As I found my way up onto a small stage inside the Forum’s foyer, the nerves took hold. I looked out upon a panel of four or five judges who held my Superfandom in their hands.
“What’s your name?” one of them asked.
“Mac Trammell,” I replied, confident in my response.
“And how old are you?”
“17.” (Nailed it)
Then, the interview ramped up. “What makes you qualified to be a Superfan?”
I had heard this one and was ready. “Well, I’m young and hungry, and I think my youth can bring some rowdiness to the group.” I really thought the young and hungry bit would do well, considering it was only one season removed from being the team’s marketing campaign. But the judges seemed not to notice my allusion.
Next question, though, was right in my wheelhouse. “Who’s your favorite player?”
My favorite player at the time was Hamed Haddadi, and I told them. This personal pick piqued their interest because, to that point, every person had answered the question with one of the core four. For a player not just outside the starting lineup, but pretty much outside the rotation entirely to be brought up as someone’s favorite player was an intriguing prospect for the judges. The only thing they wanted to know was, “why?”
“Because he’s the Iranian Sensation!” I said with my best 11th grade sarcasm (see: awkwardness). But, hey the judges bought it—they laughed and giggled at my clearly farcical response. Why they laughed didn’t matter to me, though. I had them where I wanted them and felt good about my chances of becoming a Superfan. I was a shoo-in if they didn’t ask one question...
“Do you think you could come up with a cheer for Hamed?”
“&^%*” was the word I thought, but did not say aloud. The task at hand was a task that would truly be embarrassing. I had nothing prepared—I mean, who comes up with a sweet cheer for something off the top? I’m horrible at freestyling (yes I’ve tried, no I will not prove it), so how in the world was I to come up with anything decent. But I had come way too far to turn back, so I completely winged it.
I cleared my throat, loosened my limbs, and spout out a series of words that any five-year-old would have thought was a genius response to the perilous question presented to me.
“Hamed. Haddadi. Ha-med Haddadi-ddadi” I chanted while my stiff limbs chugged up and down, forward and backward to a monotone, monotonous beat that I made up on the spot. It was awful, truly awful. There was nothing about it that could be qualified as “good” or even “decent” or even “meh.” It was certain to be the most awkward and embarrassing performance of the day, potentially of my entire life.
But what it could be labeled as was “funny,” though unintentionally so. The judges were howling.
I assume the performance was so bad, so moronic, so embarrassingly horrid that it was actually amazing. Though I was mortified, as I stepped off the stage I knew that I’d done enough to get in—and I did.
Being a Superfan was really fun, and it was also embarrassing. Some of the cheers we had to yell were cheesy and corny and generally all-around poor, but it’s definitely an experience I look back on fondly.
And hey, not many get to add “Superfan” to their sports fandom resume.