If you want to find something good in the Grand Slam’s leaving Tupelo – as I report in the Tuesday Journal, it’s likely headed to Jackson – it’s that the state’s basketball overall championship has a solid foundation on which to build a new legacy.
“That’s been to me the highlight of my young career so far, was getting that off the ground and getting that started,” said Neal McCoy, director of sports development for the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It was never about me or about Tupelo, it was about reviving the Grand Slam and doing it for the kids.”
Now it’s up to Jackson to continue building the new legacy. To say the least, my faith in those folks is shaky.
For starters, all they’ve got to work with is the outdated Mississippi Coliseum. Sorry, but sentiment cannot cover all the scars and shortcomings of that place. Secondly, the state championships have never felt like state championships to me. The Coliseum and the MHSAA have taken a minimalist approach to hosting the event. Very little glamor, and only in the finals, when the crowds swell, do you get the sense that this is more than just some midseason invitational.
Tupelo made the Grand Slam more than a tournament. Everyone I’ve asked about it has admitted that. The small touches, the extraordinary hospitality, the organization – it all made for a big-time environment. The one thing missing: fans. You can blame the location, or you can blame fan apathy. I blame both, and without more time, neither issue can be properly addressed. I guess the MHSAA thought the money situation was too urgent to grant that extra time. Fair enough.
Dr. Ennis Proctor, the MHSAA executive director, says that the Grand Slam needs to stay alive. He thinks moving it to Jackson will resolve both the location and money questions. Let’s hope he backs up those words by helping the event reach its full potential and create a lasting legacy.