He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tiger Nation

As a disclaimer, if you've stumbled across this post hoping to find an expert review of Tiger basketball or even a somewhat knowledgeable discussion of what to expect from the team in weeks to come with March Madness upon us, you might want to just keep on going- that's not what you'll find here.  What you will find is a family of true blue fans who live and breathe Tiger basketball as any good Memphis family should- even though we live half a world away...

I'm possibly even more sentimental about the Tigers given that I do live half a world away.  As I sat in my living room this fall and listened to the Tigers game streaming over the internet, I kind of had to stop and check myself and wonder why in the world are there tears streaming down my cheeks just from hearing the fight song?!  Ok, yes, I definitely could have been a little homesick considering that we spent the previous year in Memphis, and as I said before, Tiger basketball is a family affair. I wanted to text my brother or sis-in-law or mom or dad every time Joe Jackson did something amazing or Will Barton hit a 3.  Or I wanted to roll my eyes with my brother when my dad decided he was jinxing the game and should no longer watch, only listen.   Or maybe, considering I had a 4 month old at the time, I was simply hormonal.  Maybe, but doubtful...

Like I said, I was born and raised on Tiger basketball.

NOT University of Memphis Tigers, but Memphis State Tigers.  Dana Kirk, Andre Turner-the little general, Keith Lee, Baskerville Holmes, William Bedford (who was the 5th in that starting line up?).  Then John Wilfong, Vincent Askew- I'm not consulting the internet here- this is all from memory so I'm sure I have some of the timeline messed up!

I remember being as young as 7 or 8 (is that right Dad? John?) and going with my grandparents who had season tickets to the Mid South Coliseum.  My Papa John (not the pizza, that's what we called my granddad long before the pizza)worked for Choctaw and they had season tickets in the folding chairs on the floor, mind you!  6th row on the floor if I remember correctly.  At least in my memory, we went as often as we could and I absolutely loved it.  I remember so clearly the drive down Central avenue following the white Tiger footprints painted on the road.   Saturdays were all about basketball- playing church league in the mornings and then going to cheer on the Tigers in the afternoon/evening.

I guess I'd be lying if I said it was ALL about the basketball for me...  Really, it was/is about the total experience.  I LOVED the Memphis State Cheerleaders- had a poster on my closet door and everything.  In a twisted way I could blame them that I decided to try out for cheerleading in Jr High and high school rather than basketball like Dad wanted me to.  My Dad still insists that I could have played high school basketball...  I'm thinking no but we'll let him think it...

My grandmother Camille was such a cute little fan!  She's definitely a big part of my Tiger basketball nostalgia!   Many times when we couldn't go to the games, we would watch at her house.  Maybe I shouldn't say "we"-  Papa John would get very stressed watching the games and would have to stop as he got older but I remember Grandmother loving every bit of the excitement.  Maybe that's where dad gets his current belief that some games are better off listened to than watched?

Fast forward through high school and college- they weren't so great there for a while but we were still loyal.  The games moved from the coliseum over to the Pyramid- I really don't have memories of those games although I know we went to several.  In college, a large group of us participated in March Madness brackets competitions every year.  No remembrance whatsoever of which years, but I know if the Tigers were in the bracket, I was going to pick them to go all the way- probably not the most logical move especially considering my competitive spirit, but I had to follow my heart!

Now I have my own little family of Tiger fans.  We live overseas so it's kind of hard to follow basketball like we want especially considering our not so great internet connection but we do our best.  In 2008, when the Tigers went all the way to the final, I was up at 3 AM listening to the whole game.  I use the term "listening" somewhat loosely.  What I had to do, was watch the game tracker play-by-play using my oh so slow DIAL UP internet?!  Am I a fan or what?  So I was probably 5-10 minutes behind when the Kansas game slipped away from us during those last minutes but I was oh so proud of my Tigers- even from half a world away.  And, can I just say that that year was and has been the ONLY year that I have ever almost won the bracket contest from college that we still participate in!  I came in second only because the guy who won had picked Kansas to go all the way!  The next year, mom sent us t-shirts so we could feel a little more part of the excitement and so we could being educating our girls on the oh so important topic of being a Tiger fan.  Things like when a game is on and they hear, "da, da da da, da, da, da, da" - they're supposed to say, "Go Tigers Go!"  Important stuff...

We followed from half a world away when Tiger fans were gathering outside Calipari's home in Memphis and protesting his possible departure to Kentucky.  We followed when Pastner came on the scene as head coach.  (this is where I"m going to refrain from any additional commentary as I know little to nothing about coaching ability etc).  I know after a year in Memphis last year following the Tigers in person, that I like him but I can't tell you why as far as coaching ability etc.  He just seems like a good guy (ok, laughter is ok from all you male sports fans, I KNOW being a good guy does not a good coach make...), I'm just saying...  I like him.  Whatever.  I know he must be a pretty decent recruiter as we now have an awesome team of mostly home grown players.  And I like that.  I like that Joe Jackson and that other guy whose name I can't remember right now went to my alma mater.  I like that we have 4 starters who are sophomores so look out, we're going to be around for a while.  I like that if I wanted to get opinions about coaching ability, playing ability etc, all I would have to do is go with my dad down the street to Gibson's donuts some morning and throw out a "how bout them Tigers?" and there would be enough conversation to last through lunch.

Last year we had so much fun being IN MEMPHIS during basketball season.  So fun to cheer on our team with family and friends and remember just how much my town loves my team!  I love that.  I really do.  So there is probably the reason for my tears, my nostalgia.  It's just a good feeling to be a part of a town that rallies around a team.  It really is.  And I know, if you're not from Memphis, you're probably thinking, "uh, Memphis is a bit bigger than a town, right?"  Not so much.  Come visit and you'll discover that it's the biggest small town around, and there's nothing like a little small town pride behind a home team cheering them on.

So once again this year, I've chosen Memphis to go all the way.  It's not a matter of whether they can do it or not- I KNOW they can, Memphis KNOWS they can- we just need to prove it to the rest of the country!
And thank the Lord this year we've moved beyond dial up internet to somewhat highish speed ADSL so hopefully we'll be able to at least listen to and maybe watch...  here's hoping!

(and we'll be stocking up on our Tiger gear this summer, until then this is the best we've got...)

(but she's pretty cute, right?!)


Dad said...

Your memory is pretty darn good, kiddo. I can't remember the 5th man on that team, either :-( I WILL stand by my belief that you could have played high school ball (with the right coaching, of course!)

Kendra said...

Pastner is actually an Arizona product. He was a walk-on on our team when I was a student. He predicted Arizona would win the national championship in '97 and they did - against all odds! The kid was obsessed - lived, breathed, ate, slept basketball. It's a long story but I knew a lot about him - he is one of those freaks of nature who can survive on like four hours of sleep. I don't know what the talk is but I'd say you've got yourselves a terrific coach - and yes, an excellent recruiter as well :) I enjoyed reading this - I could write a similar nostalgic story but mine would not continue so much as we moved overseas. I've lost touch. We went to a game in December and it was so much fun but I don't know who anyone is anymore!

Ginny said...

I feel bad that I have not been a faithful fan. You are inspiring me to get excited! Lynne, Shelia and I use to go to all the games when we were at Memphis together. Our favorite memory is when the Tiger came and sat in Shelia's lap. Love you!