Not a bad year in local sports, particularly when you consider the football programs at Tennessee, Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Mississippi State will be almost a month into their off-seasons as they watch the University of Memphis play in next week¹s Motor City Bowl. Herewith, my ten favorite sports moments of 2005 (those I witnessed personally):
10) Memphis 7, East Carolina 2 (men¹s soccer, October 9th) -- The Mike Rose Soccer Complex is to the twenty-first century soccer mom as the Briar Patch was to Br¹er Rabbit. And the stadium where the University of Memphis men and women play their home games is simply immaculate (ignore the stretch of Nonconnah Parkway on the opposite side of the bleachers). The 2005 Tigers didn¹t match the ¹04 squad, finishing 8-8-2 and failing to return to the NCAA tournament. But on this overcast Sunday, the Tiger stars did what stars do. Senior Dayton O¹Brien (the program¹s alltime assist leader) scored a goal and added two helpers, while senior Andy Metcalf scored twice with an assist. For good or ill, there was plenty of room for my daughters to scamper about those bleachers.
9) University of Memphis Athletic Office Building (January 14) -- It came down to the NFL versus the city of Memphis . . . and Memphis won, hands down. You had us at I¹m staying, DeAngelo. Even before his heartfelt explanation, Tiger football star DeAngelo Williams turned a midwinter press conference into, yes, a sporting event, with cheers loud enough to shake FedExForum, let alone this little room on the second floor of an administrative building. When I sit down with my grandchildren to help share the Legend of DeAngelo, his exploits on the field, quite honestly, will begin to blur. But the day he told a university and a city that he loved them, too? That¹ll be the bedtime story.
8) Evergreen 21, Grace St. Luke¹s 19 (May 12th) --In an early-season showdown
at the Grace St. Luke¹s athletic complex in Midtown, Evergreen
Presbyterian¹s T-ball squad took the field against an imposing Grace St.
Luke¹s nine. In the top of the second inning -- with the bases loaded --
rookie infielder Sofia Murtaugh snagged a line drive off the bat of a GSL
hitter, then managed to tag an overzealous runner between second and third.
Turned out to be the only unassisted double-play in Evergreen¹s 12-game
season. And a highlight that nearly had this reporter in the hospital, heart
pumping with a rooting interest only known by that breed of sports fan more
typically called Dad.
7) Grizzlies 108, Timberwolves 96 (February 8) -- With the reigning NBA MVP
in town, Memphis took an early lead and never slowed down. Kevin Garnett
scored his 24 points for Minnesota, but it wasn¹t enough, not even on a
night when the Griz were led in the scoring column by a mere 18 points from
Stromile Swift and Lorenzen Wright. The Grizzlies¹ 28th win matched their
season total from 2002-03 . . . with more than two months left to play.
(Come April, it was Minnesota on the outside of the playoffs looking in.)
6) Redbirds 1, Nashville 0 (August 14) -- In seven innings against the
Sounds, Anthony Reyes -- the top-rated prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals¹
farm system -- set a franchise record by striking out 15, while giving up
only two hits and nary a run. Alas, he didn¹t factor in the decision, as
Memphis scored the game-winner after Reyes was relieved. The big righty had
made his major-league debut exactly a week earlier in Milwaukee (Nashville¹s
parent club), earning a victory after six innings of work. This will be the
game I¹ll remember when Reyes is in the St. Louis rotation next season.
Come back next week for the top five.