ESPN NBA analyst and Grantland honcho Bill Simmons is the center of even more Twitterverse vitriol than usual today after he made a statement about Memphis Grizzlies fans on his latest podcast that was a bit of a leap, to be nice. Of Grizz fans and their apparent tendencies to get down in the dumps when their team is losing (or is swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals), Simmons said:
“I didn’t realize the effect [The MLK assassination] had on that city… I think from people we talk to and stuff we’ve read, the shooting kind of sets the tone with how the city thinks about stuff. We were at Game 3. Great crowd, they fall behind and the whole crowd got tense. They were like, ‘Oh no, something bad is going to happen.’ And it starts from that shooting.”
Now, I’ve been to Memphis a few times and imbibed at some bars on Beale Street, and not once did anyone say, “Excuse me, is this the line for the bathroom? Of course it’s long, it’s been long ever since MLK was assassinated” or “I’m sorry, we’re out of Coors Light just like the day that MLK was assassinated”. My point being that if people in Memphis carry the burden of that horrible day in 1968 through all of their day-to-day activities, from making awesome BBQ to watching NBA games, I have never seen or heard it.
But in his defense, maybe Simmons has. After all, as the Godfather of this sports blog game, he’s traveled from city-to-city as ESPN’s Johnny Everyman while spitting awkward fire with Magic Johnson and Mike Wilbon for pre-game HOT SPROTS TAKES. So maybe Simmons has interacted with actual Memphis fans and they’ve told him that when the Grizzlies lose basketball games, they’re reminded of MLK’s assassination.
We honestly don’t know unless we ask the man himself, so I reached out to Bill Simmons* and he provided a more elaborate explanation of what he meant by that strange jump to conclusion.