William Eggleston's Grit-n-Grind

Memphis, The Grizzlies and William Eggleston don’t beg for understanding or acceptance. Why should they?
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With few exceptions -- for both certain players and particular fanbases -- no one wants criminals or schmucks on their team. At a bare minimum, that’s what’s required to avoid shaming the community. But we should still strive for more out of our teams, something that represents the residents as distinct and separate. Like artists and musicians, they can fill a place with the kind of regional pride that Bruce Springsteen gives New Jersey or, mark the best representation of an unheralded side of a city like Andy Warhol does for Pittsburgh.

In this same vein live the Grit ‘n Grind Grizzlies, who exhibit a regional -- let's call it “ voice” -- that represents perfectly the hard beauty and tough elegance of Memphis. Part of this shared civic voice is a tendency towards bucking the norms of the larger milieu: sticking with a traditional power forward instead of adopting the stretch 4 model that is becoming increasingly unquestioned in the age of court spacing.

They’re William Eggleston deciding to shoot in (what was then considered amateurist) color film in the late 60s and early 70s after he realized that black and white could not give him desirable results. In the same way unspectacular layups by big men who couldn’t jump over a pencil are rarely pretty teetering on the edge of becoming obsolete, Eggleston’s prolific oeuvre display an astonishing quantity of banal, everyday scenes on the verge of falling apart.

This image of a garage is just enough action around the perimeter to lead the viewer to the final point, an awkward layup:


Yes, 2015 is not the time to have a slow paced offense built out of people the size of trees. But what was William Eggleston’s expression of the prosaic, steadily in a format that was considered out of touch with the high-art of black and white, if not a direct challenge to the importance of the most superficial aspects of aesthetics in the artistic process.

What greater representation is there of a possession that’s funneled to Z-bo than this image of a Cadillac? The slow, yet graceful moves by Z-bo’s heavy feet are still fluid, his expansive footwork putting the defense on edge even he’s been grounded his entire career by his plodding unathletic moves, now decayed even further by time.


Perhaps that why Tony Allen’s game, resembling those Egglestons on the verge of disappearing into a giant mess, heralded the emergence of the Grit ‘n Grind era. There’s something spectacular in an Allen drive to the hoop, inasmuch as you genuinely have no idea how the possession will end -- an unorthodox angled layup or a pocket pass ricocheting off an opponent's chest are just as likely. The defense is always appreciated, but the offensive shenanigans are great at creating crowds.


The spontaneity in Gasol -- playing bully ball in the post to delivering precise around-the-back passes -- is usually reserved for points guards, a repositioning of talent disorienting to watch in the best way possible, like a tasty peanut butter cheeseburger.


Yet, there’s always the option that the above statements are off the mark, and that the only thing this picture speaks to is the Grateful dead fan who inexplicably found himself with a nail gun in hand, roadside refuse in the other, and premonitions of a future ironic bedazzling trend. Who’s to say?


I guess like so many things in life, it’s a matter of perspective. Take Jeff Green: For years fans have questioned whether he can carry a team, or be a prominent option on anything other than a cellar dweller whose fan base comes to root for a loss more than a win in May. After all these years in the league we should know that he’s not a part of any big 3, but what’s the fun in that realistic view?


One of the consequences of looking through a series of William Eggleston photos is the nagging sensation that you’ve neglected the boring things around you without any honest consideration. I know nothing of apple harvesting just as I to admit to know almost nothing of Nick Calathes besides the fact that he’s been evidently good enough to avoid widespread scorn.


Michael Conley has been more than good enough -- nothing Whole-pig-cooked-in-a-pit good, mind you -- but better than anyone could have ever expected when he was Greg Oden’s plus-one at OSU. Maybe it will only be hindsight that reminds us how good it was to have a prototypical point guard that did everything adeptly during an era that saw the redefinition of everything traditional.


Open space is no rarer in an Eggleston photo than a bearded man wearing flannel. The same open space that Courtney Lee excels in, either to drive to the hoop or launch a 3-point shot. When the defense swarms on Lee it can give the same feeling as that same flannel clad man, only this time he’s wearing those skinny-fit pants that restrict his ability to swing himself on top of that fixy – swing the ball Courtney! And as a precaution, don’t even think about growing that beard out!


The success of Vince Carter is undisputable, the claims to fame that he possess few others can relate. Throughout the season his shooting has dropped and his presence on the court has felt more ornamental than anything. However, while his stay might be overextended elsewhere, not here since he can still contribute if you can tinker with a lineup like an old box Chevy. Vince is still good, we swear.


Both the Griz and Eggleston have found the eccentricity in the normal and normality in the eccentric that define Memphis. More than anything, this team helps outsiders come to terms with this, because there seems to be no inking in Memphis to be something other than itself. Self-assurance is prominent in this town with the no visible hints at insecurity, or the pretense to think about a possible forced transformation. Moreover, what Memphis reveals to the outsider is the inexhaustible nature of ordinariness and the deceptive bizarreness that lies behind its veneer of simplicity. Memphis doesn’t beg for understanding or acceptance, why should it?

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