With a name like Murtaugh, St. Patrick's Day is bound to be special. And considering my dad was born on March 17, 1942, the one day Americans devote to all things Irish is indeed a highlight on my calendar. This is the third St. Patrick's Day I've experienced since I lost my father, but I retain a belief in good fortune, good cheer, and yes, good luck. And in the world of sports, we all know the cliche: better to be lucky than good.
Here are a few wishes -- tied to the games we play and cheer -- that could use a four-leaf clover or two:
Shooting touch for the Memphis Tigers. What a remarkable season the 2007-08 Memphis Tigers have enjoyed. But aside from five weeks atop the national polls, there's a degree of redundancy, believe it or not, to this team's high achievements. Thirty wins? Done that (the two previous seasons). Conference USA championships for both the regular season and postseason tourney? Done that (the two previous seasons). Undefeated in C-USA play? Yep (did it a year ago). C-USA Player of the Year? Twice before (2004 and 2006).
For this year's Tigers to separate themselves from the blur of excellence Memphis fans have enjoyed recently, the team will have to -- minimum -- reach the Final Four for the first time in 23 years. And for that to happen, a team that struggles with its shooting is going to have to make shots. Andre Allen and Willie Kemp are capable of dropping five treys each. But will they under the heat of the NCAA spotlight? What about Doneal Mack (4-for-5 one game, 2-for-8 another)? This team can win four games in the NCAAs on the backs of Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. But they can win a national championship with some shooting luck from its supporting cast.
A senior season for Chris Douglas-Roberts. The Tigers' All-American -- and NBA prospect -- might define "luck" a little differently than the fans who cheer him. But if CDR were to return for the 2008-09 season, he would increase the likelihood that his class (which includes Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier) would leave Memphis as history-makers. They've already achieved something no college basketball player outside Lexington, Kentucky, can claim: three consecutive 30-win seasons. Why not make it four-for-four, and set the bar for Tiger greatness as high as it can possibly reach?
Colby Rasmus for the Memphis Redbirds. Rick Ankiel was fun to watch last season, doing his Babe Ruth imitation at AutoZone Park, proving that a pitcher-turned-outfielder can, in fact, hit the long ball. But not since J.D. Drew first took centerfield at Tim McCarver Stadium during the Redbirds' inaugural season of 1998 has our Triple-A outfit suited up a player with the kind of prospect tag Rasmus could bring. With the St. Louis Cardinals beginning what can mildly be described as a transition year, some luck will be necessary for Rasmus to be in a Memphis uniform beyond April. (To begin with, if Ankiel locks up the centerfield job for the Cards, Rasmus -- having never played above Double-A -- will likely spend a full five months with the Redbirds.) The last two summers have been long for local baseball fans. Young Rasmus will bring smiles -- and win games -- for a minor-league outfit all too green with envy of its Pacific Coast League rivals.
Looking a bit ahead -- to June's NBA draft -- perhaps the playoff-bound Celtics can spare a shamrock for our pitiful Grizzlies. Having lost out on the LeBron (2003) and Oden (2007) sweepstakes, perhaps the Griz can score Kansas State phenom Michael Beasley to accompany Rudy Gay and Mike Conley into a new era of local pro hoops.
Luck is where hard work and opportunity converge. So here's hoping for a magical convergence, dear reader. One where the harder you cheer (read: work) for your team, the "luckier" that team becomes near trophy time.
I miss you, Dad.