Grantland columnist and ESPN analyst Bill Simmons visited Memphis last week to watch the NBA Western Conference Finals between the hometown Grizzlies and the San Antonio Spurs. The way this match up went was best described by SB Nation’s Spencer Hall.
The Spurs played out the series like landlords overseeing an eviction.
Simmons, it seems, saw things a bit differently. During his BS Report podcast on Wednesday, he spoke about his experience in the city and the effect that Martin Luther King’s 1968 assassination had on the people of Memphis – (!) – to Jalen Rose, who may or may not have been holding a baseball bat at the time:
I didn’t realize the effect [the King assassination] had on that city.
I think from people we talk to and stuff we’ve read, the shooting kind of sets the tone for how the city thinks about stuff. We were at Game 3. Great crowd, they fall behind and the whole crowd got tense. It as like, ‘Oh no, something bad is going to happen.’ And it starts from that shooting and it’s just that mindset they have.
I’m a firm believer in using sports as a means of examining larger social issues. In doing so, we look at the small and familiar to gain a better understanding of the big and unfamiliar. I’m not so sure about reversing that stream because it inevitably reduces whatever “the big” represents. Sports are so drastically unimportant that using something of enormous importance like the assassination of Martin Luther King to explain an element of it lacks perspective, context, understanding and everything else that should inform the most basic of opinions.