Sometimes it feels like we're all living in a Prozac nation. The United States of Depression.
Memphis has long been a city suffering from depression and an inferiority complex.
The city has been rejected repeatedly by the NFL despite numerous efforts to acquire a team. The Tiger basketball team has been among the better teams in the NCAA for the last 30+ years but was turned down for admittance to the Big East Conference when the league enlarged a few years ago. That followed many years of the Tigers trying to be admitted into the SEC without success. And who can forget the year that Memphis needed the #1 pick to keep the pick in the LeBron James draft? The Grizzlies finished 2nd, surrendered the pick to Detroit and lost out on Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. The Grizzlies are the only professional sports franchise to start 0-12 in the playoffs. The number of examples where Memphis fell short are numerous. These are just the more public and recent examples of why Memphis feels second rate.
Even a higly respected local sports columnist propogated the 'Memphis can't win' belief with an article last week before the NBA Lottery. Geoff Calkins article titled 'Grizzlies history indicates tonight won't be the night, either' continued the long standing belief that Memphis is somehow unworthy or unable to do well when matched up against the big boys.
Good morning, Grizzlies fans!
Or former Grizzlies fans. Or potential Grizzlies fans. Or -- no need to be exclusive, is there? -- fans of abject misery.
Today is your day! The NBA lottery is tonight!
Which means that, sometime after 6:30 p.m., there's a 99.9 percent chance you're going to be inconsolable!
There are more subtle examples that run deeper however. Some would argue that the greatest sports success to come from Memphis is Jerry 'The King' Lawler. How secondary is that! The city fell in love with their elite college basketball team this year. They naturally finished 2nd. What was interesting was the favorite player on that team was not Derrick Rose, a possible #1 pick in the NBA draft. It was not Chris Douglas-Roberts who was a Naismith finalist as college basketball's player of the year. Instead the city fell in love with Joey Dorsey, a troubled 24 yr old center who's faults in his on-court game are as well documented as his indiscretions off the court. Joey is not an elite NBA prospect. He may not even be drafted in the 1st round. Rather Joey represents Memphis' opinion of itself. A secondary player trying to keep up with the elite around them.
Why does Memphis have this problem?
In the 1960's Memphis was a city that rivaled such places as St. Louis, Atlanta and New Orleans but failed to maintain that status. Was it a result of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination? Was it poor city government? Whatever is was, like the Yellow Fever Plague of the 1880's the the city's failure to develop as quickly and prosperously as neighboring cities seems to have sapped the optomism out of the city and replaced it with a seeming confidence in it's own failure to succeed. Every additional failure just reinforces the belief that Memphis will never be able to rise above their second rate status.
And that attitude can be seen most clearly among the fans of the Memphis Grizzlies. People came out to the Draft Lottery Parties but none held any real hope of winning the lottery. An informal poll of opinions showed most people expecting Memphis to get the 5th pick and a clear majority expecting 5th or lower. Fewer than 1 in 10 people asked expected Memphis to have a top 3 pick much less the top pick. It turns out that once again the low expectations were realized.
But we at 3 Shades of Blue have repeatedly said Memphis doesn't need to win the lottery. The team needs to win the draft.
That is still attainable. With the 5th pick in the draft there will be a number of players capable of raising the team, and likewise the city, to never before seen heights. With a core of young players already maturing and an additional 1st round pick this year the seeds for a future elite franchise are in place. Yet the fans of the Grizzlies don't expect success in this draft. They expect more failure. It seems that anything else would contradict the ways things are meant to be. After all, 'those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it' and for many Memphis fans it is easier to remember past failure than to dream of future success and risk repeating the feeling of loss so prevalent in the city's past.
So what has to happen to change that attitude? What will be the Prozac pill to change the attitude of a city. As the bard said 'there's the rub.' Memphis needs to win the draft. Chris Wallace, Michael Heisley and Tony Barone Sr and Jr need to rub the bottle and get the genie and not a face full of dust.
Will this draft produce a city wide Prozac pill? Honestly I don't know. I don't think it will immediately. What I believe is that like Prozac it will take some time to start producing results. So Memphis will come out of the draft still feeling that the worst possible outcome will result. Over time the team will start improving and so will the attitude of fans. People don't get over depression with one event and likewise this city won't get over their feelings with one draft. One can only hope it is the first step toward a road to recovery.