Every year about this time, we publish a cover story on the University of Memphis football team. We've been doing it for almost 20 years, since the days when the late former Flyer editor Dennis Freeland brought sports coverage to the paper. For the last 10 years or so, Frank Murtaugh has admirably carried the ball for our Tigers coverage — both in football and basketball.
To say the least, Tiger basketball has been a lot more fun to cover recently. Bluntly speaking, Tiger football has been a mess — beginning with the final two years of Coach Tommy West's tenure and continuing through the comically disastrous Larry Porter "revolution."
Now, with a new athletic director, Tom Bowen, a new coach, Justin Fuente, a revamped Liberty Bowl, and the prospect of moving to the Big East Conference, Tiger fans are allowing themselves a bit of hope that change is in the air. Beginning Saturday, we shall see how that "hopey-changey" thing works out for them.
The art director and I talked half-seriously about making the cover for this week's issue a caricature of Lucy from the "Peanuts" comic pulling the football out from under a little cartoon Tiger kicker. But — arrrgh! — that would have been cruel.
Personally, I'm also a fan of some other Tigers — those from Mizzou, my alma mater. I was talking with my 92-year-old mom this week, and she thinks it's "interesting" that Missouri will be playing "some of those Southern teams." I said that it might be tough to win against the likes of Alabama, LSU, Georgia, and South Carolina. She said, "I don't really know who's in that conference, but I think we'll do fine." Take that, SEC fans.
But any rate, football season — the South's true religion — is upon us, and other obsessions — local schools, the county commission, the city council, even national politics — are forgotten, at least for a few hours every Saturday. For non-football fans, the zoo, the parks, the golf courses, the Greenline, and the museums will all be less crowded on weekend afternoons. The weather will be glorious — crisp and sunny and dry — the endless dog days of summer finally behind us. Yes, we are ready for some football.
And if the fates are with us, the Memphis Tigers might even win a few. If not, we can always run that Lucy cover next year. Arrrgh.