Monday, September 10, 2007

Wait and See?

In an article in Sunday's Commercial Appeal, Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley made this statement about this season's ticket sales:

"We're not burning down the fences -- that's for sure," Heisley said, regarding the poor showing at the FedExForum box office. "Going well would be that we're significantly increasing our ticket sales, and I haven't heard that we are."

Upon reading that article, AOL's The Fanhouse's Tom Ziller had this to say in a blog post titled "Memphis Not Excited By Grizz, Also Crazy":

It could be posturing from a reluctant owner, but Michael Heisley told the Memphis Commercial Appeal all the reforms his basketball team made have not translated to increased ticket sales this summer. If Heisley's truthful, this is sort-of depressing for me, as Memphis is probably the most interesting team in the league going into the season.

I understand the reason that Ziller is questioning why exactly fans of this new-look team haven't come out in droves to secure their place to witness one of the most intriguing teams of the upcoming season. After all, having been a frequent observer of the "slow-it-down, bore you to death" style of Mike Fratello for two seasons, almost anything would have to be more entertaining and the hiring of Marc Iavaroni, most recently of the Phoenix Suns, would be enough to send most basketball fans into an excitement induced frenzy. However, this is Memphis, and in Memphis you have to prove yourself...often more than once.

When the Grizzlies first moved to Memphis after flaming out spectacularly in Vancouver, they were not an immediate sellout hit, averaging around 14,400 fans the first year while in the Pyramid. However, they were soon over the 15,000 mark as the hiring of Hubie Brown introduced not only an entertaining brand of basketball, but the concept of winning consistently, leading to the magical 50-win season in their third year on the banks of the Mississippi River. Of course, this led to unrealistic expectations, since the Grizzlies had skipped over several steps that most young teams would have normally taken in becoming a playoff team. The jump from 28 wins to 50 wins was both a blessing and a curse in that regard.

After three trips to the playoffs and three unsatisfying sweeps, the fanbase began to complain about the style of play, the coaching, the talent level of the team and everything else you could think of, right down to the price of BBQ nachos and the choreography of the dance team. Then came Pau Gasol's injury and the Season from Hades that was the 2006/07 NBA season. So, you'll have to forgive the casual fans if they don't buy what Heisley's selling just yet. I, for one, am immeasurably excited by this team's potential in terms of talent, athleticism and growth possibility for the future. But I understand why others are hesitant to jump on the bandwagon -- they feel like they've been burned before, so I can wait for them to have things "proven" to them. I won't have to wait long though, because the bandwagon is going to fill up quickly and then it won't stop for the stragglers to find room.

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