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FROM MY SEAT: My Take

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Opinions have been given a bad rap. Their human-body equivalent is nothing short of disrespectful. Where, after all, would bartenders, movie critics, and Sunday-morning television be without an opinion -- wise, ridiculous, or somewhere in between -- to share with the world?

I've got a few opinions to share this week, on topics you may have researched a little yourself. (Not that research has anything to do with having an opinion.)

  • I think the Grizzlies have to trade Pau Gasol. The heartbreak of getting shafted in the Oden/Durant sweepstakes is going to take years to heal. (And be warned Memphis fans: it's going to get worse the more success Portland and Seattle have in the seasons ahead.) Outgoing team president Jerry West has gone on the record as saying the Grizzlies need a "superstar." Talented All-Star that Gasol is, as long as he remains the face of this franchise, a collective malaise is going to drag the operation down, even if it manages to scratch and claw its way back into playoff contention. Something dramatic has to happen -- to the team we see on the floor -- before the opening tip of the 2007-08 season.

    If Seattle winds up with Kevin Durant (as they likely will), perhaps the Sonics will put Rashard Lewis on the trading block. If a package that included Gasol AND the fourth pick in next month's draft would bring Kevin Garnett -- and a contract extension -- to Memphis, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Whatever might be available this summer, it's time the Grizzlies utilize their most attractive trade commodity and start getting over the disappointment of May 22nd.

  • I think a new, on-campus football stadium for the University of Memphis is a great idea. But I don't want a dime of my taxes paying for it.

    Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium is a relic. It's a relic I happen to have some affection for, having attended my share of memorable games there, from the Showboats to the Tigers, from the Southern Heritage Classic to our postseason bowl game. But it's cracking, the seats are uncomfortable, the concourses are too narrow, and its location -- the fabled Mid-South Fairgrounds -- stinks. If a new stadium is to be built, it should be somewhere, anywhere on the U of M campus. Paying for it, of course, is the tricky part.

    I have to believe that deep-pocketed U of M alumni and boosters like outspoken Bank of Bartlett president Harold Byrd would be willing to put their money where their mouths (and hearts) are and fund a large portion of the project. With help from the university itself -- yep, a slight increase in tuition would be necessary for all the students who would benefit from the facility -- and the good folks behind Fred Jones at the Southern Heritage Classic and Steve Ehrhart at the AutoZone Liberty Bowl Football Classic, a stadium could rise with all the modern comforts football fans (and football sponors!) desire. The Tigers have some winning to do before they can fill a 60,000-seat stadium without Ole Miss or Tennessee on the other sideline. But the dream of an on-campus stadium is worth chasing. (As soon as Memphis' school system and crime problems are given the financial boost they each require, I'll be ready to send some tax dollars the stadium's way.)

  • I think Memphis needs more megafights like the Taylor-Spinks affair of May 19th. Say what you will about the entertainment value of the main event (it was a lousy dance, not worthy of the term "fight"), Taylor-Spinks pulled the same unique trick Lewis-Tyson did in 2002 and Tarver-Johnson did in 2005. The fight drew a diverse crowd to a Memphis sporting event. There were too many empty seats in the lower bowl of FedExForum (a visible reason promoters should drop the prices), but it was a crowd as black as it was white. Better yet, it was an engaged crowd. Fight fans tend to pay better attention to what they've paid to see than do NBA fans or college football fans. They pay much better attention than any baseball fan you'll find at AutoZone Park. With the lights of HBO shining, these are special nights for Memphis. We need more of them.

  • I think it's promotion time in the St. Louis Cardinals system. Time to see if the power 27-year-old Rick Ankiel has shown in Memphis translates to the big leagues. And time to see if 20-year-old Colby Rasmus (hitting over .300 at Double-A Springfield) can play centerfield every day at AutoZone Park. The Cardinals are in free-fall and Jim Edmonds and Juan Encarnacion will not be manning the outfield at Busch Stadium two years from now. Time for the young (Rasmus) and not-so-young (Ankiel) to grow up, and fast.

  • With Memorial Day upon us, I think we should turn away from the ball games long enough to reflect on the thousands of lives lost -- American and Iraqi -- in the ongoing war in the Middle East. And I think we should use whatever platform available to us -- large or small, local or national -- to find an end to the horror. An opinion I hope you share.

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