About two years ago or so I got a Facebook message from a local publicist who invited me to a “press night” for Sports Junction. I have to admit that I was intrigued mostly because I wanted to see what the new owners of the building- a place that was once a Karate Dojo that Elvis attended before becoming the iconic Hi-Tone music venue- had done to the place. But to be fair, given my role at the Flyer, an informal press release about a sports bar with hookahs and cigars doesn’t exactly scream “music feature.”
The first thing I noticed when I went into the Sports Junction was the first thing that probably every single person noticed when they walked into that place- the amount of HD TVs. I'm not positive, but I'd be willing to bet that there were more TVs than barstools in Sports Junction. The owner of Sports Junction assured me he'd be booking bands at the bar, but I don't think that ever came to fruition.
At first the bar had $1.00 drafts all day every day- a pretty good deal if you ask me or anyone else who enjoys a cold beer in the middle, beginning, or end of the day. That stopped after awhile, which meant I stopped going there too, until a friend informed me of the Tuesday night special at Sports Junction.
Basically the Tuesday night special at Sports Junction featured $1.00 beers and half price wings from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., which meant you could go there after work, get a decent buzz, eat some wings, and leave with about $13.00 less than what you came in with. Add the fact that DJ Superman from HOT 107.1 would normally start BLASTING hip hop, funk, and soul at about 5 p.m., and you had a gold mine hidden in the shadow of Overton Square.
The Hi-Tone building has always been special to people, it’s special to me as well. It’s the first place many local musicians (myself included) performed on a real stage. Most will agree that the pizza there was amazing. But Sports Junction was also important to a lot of people, for perhaps a much more important reason.
The staff and the patrons of the Sports Junction were almost all African American, save for a few, including the small group of white friends that I would attend the bar with on Tuesday nights whenever I got the chance.The simple truth is that there was no bar like the Sports Junction in midtown. It featured a no-frills vibe that made everyone feel welcome, the food was good and affordable, and they practically gave beers away.
I have no reason to think that whatever the Sports Junction becomes next won’t be great. I’m sure it will be. Alchemy has done very well and I’m sure I’ll find myself in the new Sports Junction at some point or another. The point is - midtown needs a bar like the old Sports Junction. It served a purpose far greater than offering cheap beer and fancy TVs. It was a place where Memphians of all kinds could come together and find a common ground over a sports game and some wings. Someone would be wise to continue that trend. Hiring DJ Superman for a weekly night would be a start.