These words are being written even before we know the result of this week's NBA contest at The Pyramid between the Michael Jordan-led Washington Wizards and the Memphis Grizzlies. But whatever the outcome, one fact has been made fairly clear. With the UT football team having just taken a tumble from LSU at the Southeastern Conference championship game in Atlanta and with the disappointing Nashville-based Titans of the NFL floundering in the lower half of their division, the best sports action in Tennessee is where it ought to be -- right here in River City.
The Grizzlies are bringing up the rear of their division, as far as that goes, but the young team, made up so predominantly of rookies like Shane Battier and Pau Gasol and players still on the way up like homegrown Lorenzen Wright, has clearly shown in recent weeks that they can play in the NBA. And the crowds, having dropped off just a tad from opening night, have started picking up again.
The University of Memphis Tigers, sparked by freshman phenom Dajuan Wagner, also seem poised to make waves in the national collegiate ranks, despite hitting a bump in the road at Ole Miss last weekend. It's our guess that by NCAA tournament time in March no one's going to want to tangle with John Calipari's bunch.
Throw in the Redbirds and it's safe to say that when it comes to sports, Memphis has never had it so good. Perhaps the most revealing comment on the developing Memphis sports scene came from Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey, a diehard opponent of the public/private financing deal that brought the Grizzlies to Memphis from Vancouver. Even he confessed to having attended three of the team's games and to getting caught up in the spirit of things. We know how he feels.
Last October, county officials began an experiment to see if the way prisoners are housed in the Shelby County jail could be made more efficient and more conducive to the safety of prisoners, jailers, and -- not least -- the public. The system, chronicled in this issue by reporter Mary Cashiola, is called "direct supervision" and is based on an emerging penal concept that resembles the now established technique of community policing in the outside world.
As is the case with community policing, the custodians of law and order will inhabit the same universe as that of their charges. It is one thing to do this in neighborhoods, of course, and another to do it with jailers working at stations situated directly in cell blocks -- especially when the cell blocks in question belong to one of the most troubled facilities in America. It is certainly one of the most frequently litigated over. And there's the rub: Shelby County is attempting this expedient because it is literally running out of options. The direct-supervision initiative is in fact part of the county's response to the latest federal court order and it is regarded on all sides as an exploratory mechanism.
If it works, we will have learned something -- and gained much. If it doesn't? Well, things could hardly get much worse than they are right now.