FROM MY SEAT: Just Thinking... 

A few not-so-random thoughts from the world of sports:

• As disheartening as it was to read of the Tiger basketball program's latest appearance on the police blotter, it was that much more discouraging -- though somehow not surprising -- to find Joey Dorsey's name in the mix. When freshman Jeff Robinson and transfer Shawn Taggert were arrested on Beale Street in the wee hours of September 2nd, some margin might have been granted to a pair of kids not yet aware of the responsibility that comes with the quasi-royalty of being Memphis Tiger basketball players. (Having been on campus a year, though, Taggert gets less margin than does Robinson.)

But Joey Dorsey? The 23-year-old senior "leader" of a team with national title hopes? Having been previously connected with transgressions large (bar brawls in February and June) and small (pouring water on another U of M student), Dorsey's track record already made him a lightning rod for controversy. Even if he was, say, handing out 20-dollar bills, for the 6'9" center of the city's flagship basketball institution to jump on top (!) of a bar is well beyond any boundaries of taste and civility (at least this side of the Coyote Ugly staff).

I, for one, can't figure Dorsey out. I recall his humble post game assessment as a sophomore on areas he needed to improve upon for his team to advance deeply into the NCAA tournament. When I tried to touch on the same area last winter, he held up his hand and proclaimed his policy of not speaking with the press. From there, he proceeded to compare Ohio State's Greg Oden to the Biblical David with Dorsey himself in the role of Goliath . . . in front of the national press. However lacking Dorsey may be in the details -- and message -- of scripture, he's apparently just as shallow when it comes to his conduct after dark. It's gonna be an interesting year covering the Tiger cagers.

• When I saw Pete Sampras win the 1996 Kroger St. Jude championship at The Racquet Club of Memphis, I told myself that -- at age 26 -- I had already seen the greatest tennis player I'd ever see. From his serve to his forehand, from his net game to his decade-long consistency, Sampras was a standard I placed on a pedestal beyond reach of mortal players.

Then along came Roger Federer. In winning his fourth straight U.S. Open -- on the heels of winning his fifth straight Wimbledon title in July -- the 26-year-old Swiss titan has made a tennis court his canvas, his opponents merely part of his medium of choice. Whether it's power (he out-aced Andy Roddick, remember) or the surgical precision of his groundstrokes, Federer brings a beauty to a sport that has been customarily bludgeoned in recent years by power-serving sluggers who can't cover half the court if their service is returned. Next time you watch Federer play, count the times he stumbles or grunts. (Wouldn't you think the countless players -- men and women -- who incorporate screams with every stroke might look at Federer and reconsider their volume as wasted energy?) With 12 Grand Slam titles to his credit, Federer may well break Sampras' record of 14 next year. It seems the only challenge ahead of this racket-toting magician is Rafael Nadal's supremacy at the French Open and a calendar-year Grand Slam sweep. Don't bet against him.

• On July 19th, I took my 8-year-old daughter to her first night game at AutoZone Park. It happened to be Rick Ankiel's 28th birthday. When Ankiel reached first base after his second at-bat, the stadium organist serenaded the Thursday-night crowd -- and Mr. Ankiel -- with the familiar jingle of "Happy Birthday." I remember how complicated it felt to try and explain to Sofia how exceptional it is for a baseball player who has reached the highest level of his sport as a pitcher to metamorphose into a power-hitting outfielder . . . and return to the major leagues. That conversation was, well, kid stuff compared with the topic of human growth hormone. Is a third-grade mind ready for a summary of HGH?

• The 39-19 loss suffered by Southern Miss at Tennessee Saturday is not a good sign for Conference USA. It's never easy to win in Neyland Stadium, but when the preeminent program in C-USA loses by 20 to a team generally considered the third best in the SEC's Eastern Division, the recruiting gap between these conferences is growing, not shrinking. Try convincing a blue-chipper life as a Golden Eagle -- or as a Memphis Tiger -- would be better than that of a Vol, or a Gamecock, or heavens, a Wildcat.


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