A few not-so-random thoughts from the world of sports:
admire coach Tommy West and the University of Memphis football program for the
strength they showed in playing last week's game against Marshall, as
scheduled, in the aftermath of Taylor Bradford's murder. The marching band's
rendition of "Amazing Grace" at halftime may have been the most poignant
moment I've experienced at the Liberty Bowl.
I strongly disagree with the decision to play less than 48 hours after a member of the team was shot and killed, but if three hours in helmets and pads in front of 25,000 friends helped ease the pain, even briefly, the effort was worthwhile.
It's now the responsibility of the U of M administration, of course, to be proactive in raising awareness about gun violence in Memphis. Our flagship educational enterprise simply must focus attention on this city's single most damning weakness. However isolated or "targeted" the administration considers Bradford's murder, guns taking the lives of young Memphians is epidemic. The university owes this larger battle (and far more than a football game) to the memory of Taylor Bradford.
Having caught my first glimpse of the 2007-08 Memphis Grizzlies at last week's public "Lunch Time" scrimmage, I've got a name for you: Casey Jacobsen. Mike Conley and Darko Milicic will be popular new faces at FedExForum and will play large roles in determining how close this team is to playoff contention. But the sharp shooting Jacobsen -- a college star at Stanford who cut his pro teeth in Europe -- is going to be among the most popular Grizzlies in the season ahead.
Can SEC football get any better? The 12th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs go to Tennessee, ready to put a beat-down on the sagging Vols, having won their last three games in Knoxville. Instead, UT discovers it can run the ball and whips the Dawgs by 21 in a game that wasn't that close.
Then a few hours later, top-ranked LSU finds itself on the ropes against the defending national champions, only to rally with one fourth-down conversion after another, scoring the winning touchdown with less than two minutes to play. Don't bet against these Tigers the rest of the season. (And how many Mid-South football fans were shedding tears over Florida being eliminated from the national-title hunt the first week in October?)
Tradition will take a beating in the National League Championship Series later this week. The senior circuit's two historical whipping boys -- the Cubs and Phillies -- both went down in three-game sweeps, and at the hands of two clubs (the Diamondbacks and Rockies, respectively) that weren't playing baseball as recently as 1992.
Consider these "historical" factoids. The greatest player in Arizona history -- the currently hobbled Randy Johnson -- has pitched in more games as a Mariner than he has as a Diamondback. In 10 years of baseball, Arizona has changed its uniform design more often than the St. Louis Cardinals have in 116 years. As for the Rockies, they aim to reach their first World Series having still never finished atop their division. Bless the wild card.
Even with tradition out the window, the NLCS will be a healthy introduction for many fans to some of the best young players never seen east of the Rocky Mountains. Colorado's Matt Holliday (.340 batting average, 36 homers, 137 RBIs) is -- with Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins -- one of two viable NL MVP candidates. Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (.291, 24, 99) is a likely Rookie of the Year winner. And rightfielder Brad Hawpe (.291, 29, 116) could stand -- in full uniform -- at Times Square and not be recognized.
As for Arizona, reigning Cy Young winner Brandon Webb (18 wins, 3.01 ERA) would be making commercials if he played in New York, and centerfielder Chris Young (32 homers at age 23) will be a perennial All-Star by 2010.
So forget the uniforms, the swimming pool in one ballpark and a humidor in the other. (Mark this down: If Colorado wins the pennant, we'll see the first snow delay in World Series history.) Sit back and enjoy some great baseball.
How does a King lose his kingdom? He starts by wearing the opponent's baseball cap to a playoff game in Cleveland. How tone-deaf must LeBron James be to show up at Jacobs Field in a Yankees lid? Here's a thought for the next time the Bombers come to Ohio for a game, LeBron: Yankee boxers.