With Elvis Week upon us, I found myself considering suitable theme songs for certain sports figures. All made famous by the King, of course. Next time you see these jocks, may you hear Memphis' most famous son.
"Big Boss Man" — John Calipari. Derrick Rose may be history. Same with Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey. But with Calipari still on the bench, the University of Memphis remains on the radar of Final Four contenders.
"All Shook Up" — The 2008 Memphis Redbirds. With Joe Mather, Chris Perez, Jaime Garcia, Nick Stavinoha, Kelvin Jimenez, Mike Parisi, and Mitchell Boggs all shuttling between Memphis and St. Louis, the local outfit's roster has changed much more than the weather at AutoZone Park this summer. Remarkably, these players could play significant roles for two winning teams.
"Return to Sender" — Kwame Brown. The "cap space" is one thing. I can be talked into liking Javaris Crittenton. But Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown? Brown is the poster boy for why the NBA concocted its age/class requirement for entering the draft. Next best thing to seeing him in Laker purple again is seeing him sign a free-agent deal with Detroit.
"Trouble" — The Regions Morgan Keegan Tennis Championships. If you're lookin' for trouble, the Racquet Club of Memphis would seem to be the place. With the club itself sitting behind a "for sale" sign and the sport's two biggest names — Federer and Nadal — absent one year after the next, tennis fans have to wonder about the future of what was once the city's signature winter sporting event.
"The Wonder of You" — Tyreke Evans. All of Tiger Nation is wondering just how much weight the incoming freshman can bear for a program with standards that now anticipate 30 wins and a deep NCAA tournament run. Evans will likely lead Memphis in scoring, but, like a certain other freshman phenom, can he make his veteran teammates better, too?
"Burning Love" — Alex Rodriguez. Lord almighty, ARod. It would seem lighting an extramarital flame with Madonna while playing the hot corner for the Bronx Bombers would be living on a prayer. But when your brain is flamin' ...
"If I Can Dream" — O.J. Mayo. Certainly the most mellow (however inspiring) song to accompany the highly acclaimed rookie to Memphis for his inaugural NBA season. But considering the needs the Grizzlies have, and the urgency the front office feels for winning, Mayo will get the kind of playing time that is the foundation for a Rookie of the Year campaign. As he teams up with Rudy Gay, Mayo offers possibilities Memphis fans have all but forgotten. "Where hope keeps shining on everyone."
"Stuck on You" — Tommy West. Stability and Memphis Tiger football have not often been mentioned in the same sentence. But with every winning season, bowl appearance, and aw-shucks interview, the current face of the program seems more a part of this city's cultural framework. And with his son suiting up at the Liberty Bowl? It's a family affair.
"It's Now or Never" — Marc Iavaroni. It's a shame "good guy" isn't among the considerations when contract extensions are drawn up for NBA coaches. The Grizzlies' second-year coach would be on his way toward a decade-plus in Memphis were it his professional conduct or code of ethics that steered the ship. But it's win, baby, and win now. The guess here is that 35 wins — in a rigid Western Conference — will be needed for Iavaroni to be on the Memphis bench in 2009-'10.
"(You're the) Devil in Disguise" — Phil Jackson. I don't care how many championships Dr. Zen has won. Comparing Memphis to "Dresden after the war" went way too far. Easiest guy to root against in the NBA.
"Rubberneckin'" — Derrick Rose was the head-turning key to the Memphis Tigers' march to 38 wins and the 2008 Final Four during his one season in the Bluff City. And he'll be the focal point (so to speak) as the Chicago Bulls aim to narrow the gap with the champion Celtics in a suddenly stronger Eastern Conference of the NBA. Stop, look, and listen, indeed.
"Jailhouse Rock" — Why, Michael Vick, of course, the NFL's baddest of bad boys. I considered "Hound Dog" only long enough to recognize how insensitive it would be to the world's canine population.