A Sporting Thanksgiving
It’s a week to give thanks, so herewith my annual list of sport-related blessings.
• I’m thankful for Tom Hornsey on fourth down. Yeah, I’m a big fan of the punter. The one record in the Memphis Tiger book that will never be broken? Career punting yards. Through last Saturday’s game, Hornsey is up to 12,337.
• I’m thankful for George Lapides. The face (and certainly voice) of Memphis sports media.
• I’m thankful for having witnessed four Michael Wacha starts at AutoZone Park. (Including a three-generation treat — with my mom and one of my daughters — for his debut on April 7th.) From Triple-A rookie to NLCS MVP in six months.
• I’m thankful for Penny Hardaway. If he’s not careful, his post-NBA philanthropy is going to make Memphians forget his playing days. (And the man was All-NBA. Twice.)
• I’m thankful for the 2013 NBA Western Conference finals. Never has a Memphis team felt more nationally relevant. (As for things I can do without, let’s start with teams that wear black.)
• I’m thankful for Memphis-Louisville on the hardwood twice this winter. And hopeful that Tom Bowen, Josh Pastner, and their Cardinal counterparts recognize the significance.
• I’m thankful for stories like that of D.J. Stephens. They make a sportswriter’s job easy.
• I’m thankful for David Freese memories. Remember, he was a postseason hero in Memphis two years before his Game 6 heroics during the 2011 World Series. He homered to win two different games, 1-0, on the Redbirds’ way to the 2009 Pacific Coast League title.
• I’m thankful for the tried-and-true University of Memphis football fans. You know who you are if you happen to read this list. (There are fewer than 20,000 of you.) The wait will be worth it.
• I’m thankful for Marc Gasol at the high post. And counting the days (if impatiently) till we see him there again.
• I’m thankful for Wolo and Bash.
• I’m thankful for SEC football. My goodness. You think the Pope takes Sunday seriously? He hasn’t seen Tuscaloosa (or Baton Rouge, or Gainesville, or Auburn, or even Knoxville in tough times) on fall Saturdays.
• I’m thankful for two daughters who have come to love soccer and softball. Team sports shape us in ways no classroom or job ever will.
• Along those lines, I’m thankful for a week last June with a three-sport teammate of mine. Wives (one each) and daughters (two each). Never saw it coming. Bliss.
• I’m thankful for the 11th hole at TPC Southwind. Every course should have an “island” green. I remain awestruck when the pros land a ball on that dry patch.
• I’m thankful for the Musial Sign and Pujols Seat at AutoZone Park.
• I’m thankful for Jacob Karam. Memphis will take pride in Karam years from now, and his football career will be incidental.
• I’m thankful for Josh Pastner’s positive energy. The man has a serious challenge on his hands, one that will impact his career path. He’s got to find a way to beat a strong opponent. I know there are cynics who’d prefer a grouchy coach who goes to the Final Four. Not me. I’ll take the coach with a positive outlook who goes to the Final Four. And I think Memphis can have both.
• I’m thankful for weekday matinees at AutoZone Park. Best drag on business under the sun.
• I’m thankful for the chance I had last spring to coach my 10-year-old daughter’s softball team. Undefeated seasons are special at any level. I’ll never forget the 2013 Ladybugs.
• I’m thankful for the Flyer’s loyal readership. We don’t make it a quarter century (in February 2014) without you.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.