To the outside world, things in Memphis couldn't look worse. The Mississippi River crested just short of record levels; the city is flooded. And last night the Memphis Grizzlies saw the Oklahoma City Thunder even the odds in the Western Conference Semifinal series in a game that set records of its own. With three overtimes, the Grizzlies managed to hold off the inevitable into the next day, finishing the game with a 133-123 loss.
That means the Grizzlies enter Game 5 with two losses. But it ALSO means they enter it with two wins, something the City of Memphis can lean on today. The team isn't letting go of its championship dreams without a fight.
So maybe it's "just a game," nothing in comparison to an estimated 3,000 properties (including nearly 1,000 homes) that have been hit by floodwaters in the city. But in times of great tragedy, sports has a way of bringing people together and pulling them up. The New Orleans Saints restoring a city after Hurricane Katrina. The first Major League Baseball games played in New York after September 11, 2001.
The restorative value of watching a game is twofold. On a simple level, the hours of play give people time off from their thoughts, time to concentrate on something else. Last night, the Memphis Grizzlies gave Memphis citizens three hours and 52 minutes to stop thinking about water and start thinking about winning Game 4 and beyond.
And then there's the pride. Pride in a team, pride in a town. It's what binds so many of us to our teams: location. Memphis has a team that's gotten to game 4 in the Western Conference Semifinals. Not too shabby. Not a team from a town that's going to let a little (OK, a LOT of) water wash away their spirits.
When one is struggling, the other's triumphs are proof that the other is down ... but not out. Last night the Memphis Grizzlies were fighting to stay in championship contention. But there was so much more at stake. They were fighting to give a city of people hope. With those people behind them, the Thunder better watch out. They're about to be clawed.
Do you see sports as restorative for towns in turmoil? How has a team gotten you through a tough time?
Image via theogeo/Flickr