A weekly columnist must be careful in measuring the life span of his or her work. The math is precisely the opposite of the way we examine a car's "life": it's the age, not the mileage. This being my 300th column in this corner of cyberspace, it's not so much the nice round number that matters, but all that's happened to the sports world -- and naturally, my world -- since Week 1 back in February 2002.
Allow me a few lines of self-indulgence (or bewildered attempts at perspective):
"From My Seat" has now been a part of my life longer than was high school or college.
I've got to be careful in calling this space "my baby," as it happens to be older than my actual daughter, Elena.
While I've spent most of my 30s wondering when I'd finally find inspiration for my first book, I've now written -- cumulatively -- more than 180,000 words for a website that archives the copy. Not exactly a leather-bound bestseller, but let's just say my keyboard is ready for the real deal.
Among the attractions that brought me to sports in the first place was the beauty of numbers, and how they reflect -- maybe even illuminate -- the games we watch and the athletes we cheer. St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa reduces baseball games down to the cold, hard numbers we all read each morning in the newspaper. A win goes in the left column, a loss in the right. Add them up at season's end, and the best teams will reveal themselves.
Which has me considering some Memphis sports numbers, less than or greater than 300, but all of significance over the last five years.
0 -- Number of coaching changes by the University of Memphis football and men's basketball programs. The current seven-year stretch without a change atop the U of M's flagship teams is the longest since Zach Curlin coached BOTH programs from 1924 to 1936. There's much to like about stability, particularly in the fickle world of big-time college sports.
66 -- Number of wins by the Tiger basketball team over the last two seasons.
61 -- Number of Tiger basketball wins over the FOUR seasons before John Calipari arrived in 2000.
6,026 -- Number of rushing yards by former Tiger All-America DeAngelo Williams from 2002 to 2005.
6,039 -- Combined total of yards by the Tigers' leading runners over the NINE seasons before Williams arrived on campus.
633,129 -- Number of tickets sold by the Memphis Redbirds in 2007, the lowest total in eight years at AutoZone Park, and a figure that has the Redbird brass scrambling for new promotional ideas for 2008.
397,339 -- Highest baseball attendance in Memphis history before AutoZone Park was opened in 2000. The Redbirds have been pitiful on the field for some time now, but baseball in the Bluff City is alive and well. Wait till the Cardinals finally fuel their farm system.
3 -- Number of former Sam's Town 250 winners competing in this year's NASCAR Nextel Cup Chase for the Championship (Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, and Kevin Harvick). The ST250 is the most underrated sporting event in the Mid-South, and I'm not sure what's second.
Numbers, of course, only scratch the surface in the stories the sports world provides. Watching Anthony Reyes shut down the Round Rock Express one night, then win Game 1 of the World Series merely a few weeks later provided a rather direct link between AutoZone Park and the St. Louis Cardinals' 10th world championship.
If you saw Darius Washington miss those two free throws that cost his Tigers -- his city -- the 2005 Conference USA tournament championship and an NCAA tournament berth, there's no number to represent the heartbreak . . . or the courage Washington showed in leading his team to the Elite Eight a year later.
And how about the taken-for-granted number search Memphis sports fans get to enjoy every winter now: our place in the NBA standings. Right before our eyes, the Bluff City went big league! This column space came into being as the Grizzlies wrapped up their first season at The Pyramid. May it still be here when the first championship parade turns from Beale to Front Street.
In a move that may someday help expand the exposure of college basketball in China, the University of Memphis ...
Quarterback Martin Hankins threw for 355 yards ...