MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- I'm going to get through this without crying. Will you? We'll see. This is a short little story about Grizz the mascot and the little girl with the broken heart.
The girl was a Grizzlies fan, and her team had just lost Monday night to the Spurs. Season over. The crowd was standing and cheering the team for its special season, but the girl looked to be about 7 or 8. What did she know about special seasons? She just knew her team lost, and losing hurts. She was crying, and had any of you known this sweet little girl wanted the Grizzles to win, you'd have been rooting for Memphis on Monday night.
The girl was sitting in the front row, right behind the media seats, and she was tugging on my arm and asking me to get someone's attention.
Who did she want? I couldn't tell. Zach Randolph? No. Michael Conley? Lionel Hollins? Tony Allen? No, no, no. Finally I saw who she was pointing at -- she wanted Grizz, the team's mascot in that sleek blue grizzly suit. She wanted Grizz, but Grizz was walking the other way. He was walking off the court, disappearing into the tunnel. He was gone.
And she was crying.
Grizz was down the tunnel, removing his mascot head. Any idea how hot it is inside that thing? Me neither, but the guy's head was sopping wet from sweat. Long night. Long season. And he was finished, only ... the girl. She was crying.
I talked to the guy for maybe 10 seconds. What did I say? Not much. I said there's a girl out there. She's crying. She's --
He'd heard enough. The guy put on his mascot head, and he was no longer a guy. He was Grizz. He walked out the tunnel, onto the floor, out to midcourt. There she was, front row. Crying.
Grizz grabbed her, hoisted her over the rope separating the court from the fans, and posed for pictures with her. Then he hugged her. When I walked away, the girl wasn't crying anymore.
Makes one of us.