I scored tickets to Game 5 before the series even started. As a native of San Antonio, I make it a point to see the Grizzlies as often as they are in town. One of the coaches where I work has season tickets, and she gave me a sweet deal. I was overjoyed! Not only was I going to get to see my Grizzlies, but I was going to get to experience playoff basketball in person.
Fast forward a few days and Memphis faces a seemingly insurmountable 2-0 deficit. Sure Coach Fizdale went to bat for the guys after Game 2, but at that point the sweep was looking like a real possibility. I began to fret that my investment would not be returned, and that I wouldn’t get to see my beloved Grizzlies take on the Spurs. The emotional roller coaster continued speeding on as the Grizzlies gutted out two wins in Memphis to even the series. I felt as though my soul itself had been through the ringer in Game 4. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol had saved our season, and my love for the Memphis Grizzlies seemed to swell to a new all time high.
I have four tickets to Game 5, and I couldn’t be more excited about the group going to the game. First, I’m taking my girlfriend Erika. Most nights she cheers for the Grizzlies to humor me, but is slowly coming around to the idea that she is a Grizzlies fan. Next is my brother Logan. He is an NBA fan and loves basketball, but doesn’t really have a team. Never one to shy away from a challenge, he throws on my throwback Bryant “Big Country” Reeves jersey with no shame at all. Lastly, I’m taking my boss. Chris is the head basketball coach where I work and we have known each other for 13 years. He throws on one of my blue Memphis Grizzlies shirts when we pick him up and I can’t wipe the smile off my face. There are four of us in the car, but to me it felt like an army. This was going to be one hell of a night!
When we arrive at the AT&T Center, it becomes evident that we are going to be the subject of ugly looks all night long. Parking in Lot 6 is a LONG way from our seats. In the fifteen minutes it takes us to walk towards the arena, we became the subject of some seriously nasty stares. Luckily though, I’m 6’4 and my brother is every bit of 6’3 so nobody really says a word to us.
Our first encounter with a brave Spurs fan comes at the base of the escalator up to the upper level. Brave is a nice way to put it, this man was clearly drunk. He approaches us loudly asking if we were lost. Friendly smiles and chuckles are exchanged as we get on the escalator, but that’s when it hit me. We were in enemy territory!
At the second level, we find our section and go to buy some frosty beverages before the game begins. When we find our seats, the lady behind us immediately comments on our shirts and groans. In my head I’m thinking, “Sorry lady, just be glad I left my Growl Towel at the house!”
The game starts and James Ennis III gets us going with a quick 5-0 run. I’m on my feet letting everybody know that the Grizzlies are well represented in section 200! By the first Popovich timeout (7:04 in the 1Q), the Grizzlies have built a 10-4 lead. I’m starting to feel really confident.
Then I hear the lady behind me yell, “OH I”M SO SORRY!!!” Wondering what happened I look over at Erika and she is looking behind her in her seat as though something fell from the ceiling. I soon discover what she is looking at. The lady behind her had dropped her nacho cheese. Luckily it had stayed mostly contained in its plastic cup, but I will forever believe that woman assaulted us with her queso. It was us against the world all wrapped up in a microcosm of chucked cheddar.
Halftime soon arrived, and the Grizzlies trailed by only a handful of points. No problem I thought, lots of game left. That’s when the lady over my left shoulder took it as her personal mission to start the “Go Spurs Go” chant. That’s cool, their house, I get it. We are in enemy territory, it is to be expected. But soon I realize that this is the kind of woman that loves to hear the sound of her own voice. The entire 3rd and 4th quarter was an earsplitting chorus of...
“HEY MARC, YOUR MOM LOVES PAU BETTER!”
“CONLEY ISN’T EVEN GOOD, PARKER IS WAY BETTER!”
“WHO IS JAMES ENNIS? WHO CARES HE SUCKS!”
“LAMARCUS YOU ROCK!”
“CALL A TECHNICAL, RANDOLPH CAN’T DO THAT!”
“GET THAT COACH OFF THE FLOOR!”
“GO SPURS GO!”
The inevitable happens, as has happened in all nine games between these fierce competitors in the 2016-2017 season. The home team wins. San Antonio uses a barrage of Patty Mills three pointers and Kawhi Leonard pull ups to build a daunting 18 point lead. Refusing to give in, the Grizzlies fight back and cut it to a meager 4 point lead on a JaMychal Green three ball with 7:45 left in the 4th quarter. That was the last real exciting moment for Memphis fans as the Spurs ran away with it from that point forward.
Exiting the arena with a sad look on my face, I reached for Erika’s hand and she gave me a sympathetic smile and planted a sweet kiss on my cheek.
“It’s okay babe, they are gonna win the next one!” she said. I returned her smile and hoped she was right.
As we moved down the escalator and toward the parking lot, I counted my blessings. Memphis had lost, and the long term outlook of the season looked bleak. That didn’t seem to matter so much to me in present company. Like Erika had so lovingly reminded me, our chances to win the next one were great. A Game 7 back in San Antonio would be a toss up. The season is far from over!
With three of my favorite people in my life in tow, we meandered toward the car as the echos of “GO SPURS GO” faded in the distance. A smile eased its way onto my face as I reflected on the evening. My team had fought hard, my friends had cheered loud, and my night would not soon be forgotten.