Bill Simmons' theory on the emotions of Memphis Grizzlies fans may not make it into an upper level of whatever Hall of Fame pyramid he eventually constructs for his own theories.
In an odd moment during a recent podcast, the ESPN star and founder of Grantland suggested to co-hosts Jalen Rose and Dave Jacoby that fans of the Grizzlies "got tense" during the 2013 NBA Playoffs because of an underlying pessimism stemming from the April 4, 1968 assasination of Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The Lorraine had previously been mentioned during the conversation as Rose and Simmons recounted their visit to Memphis for the Western Conference semifinals between the San Antonio Spurs and Grizzlies.
"I think, from people we talked to and stuff we’ve read, the shooting kind of set the tone for how the city thinks about stuff. Even, [when] we were at Game 3: Great crowd, they fall behind, and the whole crowd got tense. It was like, 'Oh no, something bad's gonna happen.' And I think it starts from that shooting. And it's just that mindset they have."
Unlike many of the people who listened to the podcast, Rose quickly agreed with Simmons.
"It does," he said.
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Part of Simmons' appeal may be his ability to -- and continued interest in -- connecting athletes, sports history and the experiences of fans with seemingly unrelated facets of popular culture. But this particular move drew bewilderment and criticism.
"This is the zaniest of all zany leaps," wrote Matt Yoder of Awful Announcing. "When Tony Romo starts throwing interceptions in the 4th Quarter do Cowboys fans immediately make the leap in their minds to John F. Kennedy's assassination? Did Nationals fans bemoan the spirit of John Wilkes Booth when Washington melted down in last year's playoffs, look up to the sky, shake their heads, and say "here we go again." Cubs fans aren't fatalistic about their baseball team because they haven't won a World Series since 1908, it actually predates that to the Great Chicago Fire, naturally."
Providing a local response to the armchair psychology was Red Coleman of 3 Shades Of Blue, a noted Memphis Grizzlies blog that is part of ESPN's TrueHoop Network.
"He reached a bit too far to make a cultural connection and came up empty," Coleman wrote on Thursday.
In a piece entitled "A Memphis History Lesson," Coleman didn't refute Simmons' claim that fans in Memphis anticipated failure. He did, however, offer a different explanation: basketball.
So, why does Memphis anticipate failure? It doesn’t have anything to do with MLK’s assassination, Elvis’s death, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame being placed in Cleveland (seriously?), or the Titans residing in Nashville. No, it is solely related to basketball.
CLICK HERE to read Coleman's entire piece.
As explained by Coleman, it seems particularly plausible that the city's basketball history is the key factor in determining the emotional reactions of the city's basketball fans. Of course, such an explanation would go against the type of "unified theory" that Deadspin's Drew Magary wrote Simmons is often creating.
In Bill Simmons's world, there must always be a unified theory that explains how and why everything happens. And that theory must be something dreamed up by Simmons, and Simmons alone. And that theory is NEVER wrong. And if it includes a grand theory about why a star actor isn't a star actor anymore, then all the better. It wraps up the entire sociology and psychology of a fanbase or a team in a tidy little package designed for stupid people to accept unconditionally. Deep down, beneath all the pop culture references and trips to secret Chinese restaurants with his friends (my friend can eat a plate and a half of food! He's hungrier than your friends!), Simmons is just like the Lupicas and the Mariottis—someone who fancies himself an oracle for reducing sports to a series of linear equations and who's here to bestow his breathtaking knowledge upon you, the little people.