Reasons to Love Memphis #43: Memphis Tiger Basketball
If you’re not from here, you might not understand just how deep our collective love for the University of Memphis men’s basketball team runs. Every year, we pack the FedExForum, no matter who’s on the roster. We joke about how Memphis has two seasons, hot and basketball. Some of us still refuse to talk about the 2007-2008 season. We wear blue. We sing along with “I’m So Glad I Go to the U of M” whether or not we went there (or know the words).
Friday marks the official start of the Tigers’ 2010-2011 season, and this year, there are more reasons than ever to love the blue team:
– We’re back in the rankings. For the first time since the 2008-2009 season, the Tigers are back on the AP’s pre-season poll. For the record, they’re number 19.
– The recruiting class is insane. The Tigers have a ton of big names on the bench this year. Get ready to get to know Charles Carmouche, Tarik Black, Jelan Kendrick, and Antonio Barton.
– They’re the home team. Coach Josh Pastner has done an excellent job of keeping hometown talent in Memphis. Six of this year’s Tigers are local boys: Joe Jackson (White Station High), Chris Crawford (Sheffield), Tarik Black (Ridgeway), Drew Barham (Christian Brothers High), Trey Draper (Mitchell) and Preston Laird (Germantown High).
– Our pep band knows “Knuck if You Buck”. And in Memphis, nothing sounds like basketball season quite like “Knuck if You Buck”.
– Chuck Roberts. You may not see Chuck at Tigers Games, but you can definitely hear him. Chuck is the stadium announcer, and it always makes me happy to hear him say “Witherspoooooon!” and “For threeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” (I can’t wait to hear what he does with Hippolyte Tasfack’s name.)
– Coach Josh Pastner has injected the entire Memphis baskteball program with a much-needed dose of positivity. He’s young, he’s cute, and he’s got a wonderful wide-eyed enthusiasm for his job. That’s not to say he’s not a tough coach – he’s just a more respectful one. He doesn’t cuss, he doesn’t really yell. The only indication that he’s angry is when he slaps the press table.
– It’s the one thing we all agree on. It sounds completely corny, but Tiger basketball brings Memphis together like nothing else. The love of the team (and the game) transcends race, class and gender. The general disposition of the city is affected by every win or loss, and it’s perfectly acceptable to wear one’s lucky Tiger earrings to work on game day. There’s so much joy in the program that it’s hard not to get excited.
The Tigers play tonight in exhibition against Christian Brothers University at the FedExForum. The regular season starts at home on Friday night against Centenary. Check the full schedule (and get TV and radio listings) for details.