In this week's cover story, writer Frank Murtaugh interviews new University of Memphis basketball coach Josh Pastner, a fresh-faced young fellow who exudes optimism and extols the virtues of positive thinking. He utters Dale Carnegie coach-speak so earnestly that you have to believe he believes it himself.
This, to put it mildly, was not the case with his predecessor, John Calipari, who spewed blarney like he was putting out a four-alarm fire — or selling you a used Kia Sportage. It was all part of the act — the genial, fast-talking flim-flam man — but it had worn thin.
Now he's gone, and this year at least, when it comes to Tiger basketball, we're trying another tack: sincerity! And (I'm being sincere here, really) nothing dispels cynicism or anger like sincerity. Take, for example, the simple power of a sincere apology. Imagine if, say, Bill O'Reilly went on the air and said, "You know, I was totally wrong about X. I made a mistake, and I'm truly sorry. I'm going to try to be a better person." (Or, if it makes you feel better, imagine the same words coming from Keith Olbermann's lips.) The contrite man's image and reputation would soar. He'd get a fresh start. Such is the power of sincerity.
And sincerity is just what Memphis needs right now. We've got a new leader, a chance at a fresh start, a chance to heal old wounds. The angry, divisive flim-flam mayor is gone. Maybe we all need to sit in the locker room and listen to a pep talk from Coach Pastner. Or perhaps we should put him in front of the county commission and city council and let him do his thing.
"I have a word painted above my door," Pastner says. "Gratefulness. It's the most important word. When you're grateful, you keep things in perspective. You keep your ego in check. You realize how precious life is. You don't live with a fear base: if I don't do this, if I don't do that. What you have to do is live in the moment, being present, being centered, having clarity. ... Attitude is based on choice, and you choose how you want to be."
Okay, I might suggest that the word he's looking for is "gratitude," but I don't for a minute doubt the man's sincerity. And sincerity trumps snark every time.
So, go Josh! Go A C. Go Memphis. I mean it. Sincerely.