Don’t just sit there: How to be an active sports fan in Memphis
Unless you’re in uniform, you likely consider basketball and baseball spectator sports. But it’s hard to stay seated when (a) the competition’s getting hot and (b) the fan experience (literally) moves you. Home to the NBA Grizzlies and MiLB Redbirds, Memphis guarantees you two ways to be an active (or, at least, interactive) fan. The key is to stay current with team promotions – you’ll discover how to get involved in team events, and in many cases, score discounted tickets. Here’s how I did it this month:
Go green with the Grizzlies
If you haven’t heard of NBA Green Week, here’s your brief: It began three years ago to encourage the entire league and its fans to take some kind of environmentally-friendly action. For some teams, that means recycling; for the Memphis Grizzlies, it means Tour de Grizz: a group bike ride from the Memphis Zoo (home of grizzly bears) to the FedEx Forum (home of Grizzlies basketball players) and back again. Police escorts shadow every bit of the ride, which measures about 10 miles roundtrip.
On April 7, my husband and I joined the 2012 Tour. When we arrived at the zoo, the entrance plaza was awash in wheels: single riders, members of the Memphis Hightailers, packs of friends, families towing bike trailers – buzzing about what they’d seen at the zoo, what they wanted to see at the game, what they expected from the ride.
On all fronts, the evening was a slam dunk.
We rode to the Forum warmed by the lowering sun, energized by a few friendly climbs and descents. I started out next to McKinley from Collierville, Tennessee, who had just turned six – and ditched her training wheels. At the Forum, I asked McKinley how she felt about finishing the ride. She showed me a scrape from a bike accident she’d suffered the day prior and admitted that she was “kind of nervous.” Funny – I detected no such hesitation when she was smoking me en route.
Inside the Forum, we were treated to the explosive entertainment you’d expect from a professional sporting event: blasts of fire and music, antics by mascot Grizz, giveaways delivered via tiny parachutes. But my highlight was spending pre-game on the plaza outside the Forum. Maybe it was the high coming off the bike ride or the spell of the warm spring air, but standing there in the shadow of Beale Street, feeling the beat of the Grizzlies Drumline, mixing with the sea of fans – it’s really something.
By the way, the Grizzlies won that night: 94-89 over the Dallas Mavericks.
Oh – and about the deals: For $25, 2012 Tour de Grizz participants gained admission to the Memphis Zoo, a Terrace Level ticket to the evening’s game, valet bike parking throughout the event, and a very cool t-shirt. Register the entire family for next year’s Tour – just be sure that each rider has a helmet. There’s still time to see the Grizzlies this season, though – Terrace Level tickets start around $10 (including fees and taxes), and there are even a few giveaways remaining.
Run with the Redbirds
Less than a half-mile from the Forum, you can watch the Memphis Redbirds hit it out of AutoZone Park. The Club Level and stadium seats are nicely-appointed inside this handsome park (and near-nightly ticket specials keep prices reasonable). But at least once, you should sit on the Bluff – the lawn that slopes upward from left field, accessing a playground and the park’s game- and ride-filled Boardwalk.
Sunday’s game was about as good as it gets: We alternately watched the Redbirds (who ultimately beat the Oklahoma City RedHawks 4-3) and our daughter (who insisted on rolling down the Bluff to the playground several times each inning). Bring your own blanket to sit here; there are no chairs allowed, but you’ll find plenty of picnic tables between the Bluff and playground. It isn’t luxurious – until you consider the sheer indulgence of being outside on a beautiful day: baseball before you; family and friends beside you; the textures of downtown surrounding you; and the laughter of children coming to you on the breeze. (Don’t get me started on the magic of watching post-game fireworks from the Bluff. You need to experience it for yourself. Pick a date here.)
By this point, our young one (plus me chasing after her) had had enough of running about. But we couldn’t leave without experiencing kids run the bases. It’s an option most Sundays – listen for the announcement late in the game and look for the line of kids behind right field. It was an exhilarating end to an All-American day, sealed with a high-five from mascot Rockey the Redbird.
Ready for the deals? Bluff tickets are just $6 if you purchase 24 hours in advance ($9 on game day). And this schedule is packed with the season’s promotions, from t-shirt giveaways to Friday block parties (think free concerts and $2 beer).
If you can’t wait for the 2013 Tour de Grizz, register for Tour de Bird on May 12. Call Corey at 901-722-0287 to reserve your spot for this family-friendly bike ride that will end at AutoZone Park with a finishing lap around the field (and fireworks).