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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Tiger Fans Fill Pub to Toast Team, Drown Sorrows

Tiger fans fill pub to toast team, drown sorrows

By Trey Heath
March 25, 2007

Finding a seat at a sports bar during a University of Memphis basketball game is no easy task.

Finding an empty seat during a Tiger NCAA Tournament game -- well, that's next to impossible.

Ralph Griggs, 24, claimed his seat at the Brookhaven Pub & Grill in East Memphis nearly three hours before the Tigers' game Saturday against Ohio State University.
Sometimes sitting, other times standing, but always excited, Griggs slammed his chair to the ground to the beat of a "Let's go Tigers" chant that carried on throughout a packed house.

"I live for games like this," Griggs said. "We got this game, baby, because we have the heart."

Despite showing plenty of heart, U of M fell short, losing to Ohio State 92-76.

But even with a Tiger loss, Gloria Holland, 54, of Plantersville, Miss., had no regrets from detouring from a day of packing to catch the game on a huge flat screen television at the sports bar.

Holland had come to Memphis to help her daughter move. But Saturday afternoon, they ditched that chore and watched the game.

"I'm not even a Memphis fan; I'm a Mississippi State fan," Holland said. "But even I am pulling for the Tigers. They are from the South, and this atmosphere is just a lot of fun."

That great atmosphere is what several U of M students craved who didn't have the funds to make it to San Antonio.

"Getting to the game takes a lot of money and takes away from class," said student Keith Duff, 21, of Columbia, Tenn. "Coming to the bar is a great place to come and catch the game and hang out with friends."

That attitude helped bring a lot of blue (and green) into the sports bar, said general manager Richard Heard, 32.

"I'm a Georgia fan, and you see what I have on now," Heard said, pointing to his head-to-toe Tiger blue apparel. "When I see Tiger blue, I see a lot of green, too."

Memphis tournament games helped bring an extra $2,000 a night into the local bar, Heard said.

"It's one of our most stressful days," he said. "People will be ordering shots and hooting and hollering, but if the Tigers lose, then it's 'Hey, I need my check.' "

And while Griggs' prediction that his beloved Tigers would win a trip to Atlanta for the Final Four did not come to pass, Heard's was on the money.

After the game ended, the standing-room-only crowd evaporated in mere seconds.

All save for Griggs.

"I want everyone to know, we played our hearts out," he said to fans who where hastily seeking the nearest waitress.

"Just wait until next year."

-- Trey Heath: 529-2643

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