I couldn’t find my decent atlas, but I was able to get my hands on one of those wooden cut-out puzzles featuring a map of the United States. Sure enough, the little green saucepan shape of Oklahoma and the little red flattened-anvil of Tennessee are separated only by the little blue off-kilter square that is Arkansas. And, a grudging check on the web shows that Interstate 40 directly connects Oklahoma City and Memphis by fewer than 500 miles.
The reason I did this in-depth research is because I’ve been wondering if anybody else is miffed, irked, or otherwise perturbed by the fact that former Northwest teams the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies are now battling it out against each other in the NBA playoffs. Maybe call it an I-40 rivalry?
I generally don’t pay much attention to big time sports until the stakes get higher (in a late season pennant race or in the playoffs), which pretty much means I haven’t paid attention to anything besides the Seattle Storm or the Husky basketball team (and, okay, the Seahawks) in the past five years or so. So I was a little disturbed the other day when I heard that the Thunder had beat the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs and were taking on the Grizzlies. That coulda (and shoulda) been Seattle and Vancouver.
While it’s true that the Seattle Supersonics and the Vancouver Grizzlies never really had time to develop much of a rivalry in the Terminal City team’s six terrible seasons (in their best, and final, effort, the Grizzlies were 23-59), the potential was there for some exciting games against our neighbors to the north, and maybe even a bang-up playoff series one day (like now).
I won’t pick at the scab of the sad denouement of the Sonics, or massage the scar left by the earlier morphing of Major League Baseball’s Seattle Pilots into the Milwaukee Brewers. But as the Thunder-Grizzlies series continues, I won’t watch, and I will quietly root for Memphis (which is tied in the best of seven series at 2-2 after losing an opportunity to go ahead 3-1 on Monday). God forbid the Thunder should advance further or, perish the thought, make it to the NBA finals.
It might be almost as bad as when the Milwaukee Brewers lost to St. Louis in the 1982 World Series. Go Grizzlies!