So many games . . . so little column space.
Need a player to root for at AutoZone Park this summer? Try Kevin Witt. Last month the Redbirds 28-year-old third-baseman became just the sixth active minor leaguer to hit 200 home runs. (Talk about a dubious career achievement.)
Witt is the second player to reach 200 minor-league dingers as a Memphis Redbird. Ivan Cruz came to Memphis in 2002 with 199 round-trippers in the bushes (he had also hit 20 in Mexico, 14 in Japan, and one as a New York Yankee). The big first-baseman added 35 homers that season, a figure that led all of minor-league baseball.
At the annual media luncheon hosted by the University of Memphis last month, the most charming speaker was womens basketball coach Joye Lee-McNelis. Having been in charge of the Lady Tigers for 13 years now, McNelis is in full command of her program and has an honest, gracious understanding of where her team sits in the local medias pecking order. (Like a pros pro, shes grateful for the coverage she gets . . . all the while seeking a little more.)
When I asked McNelis about how she competes with the twin beasts of womens college hoops -- Connecticut and Tennessee -- she was just as honest: We cant. She nonetheless does her homework and is aggressive in pursuing international players who just might slip under the radar in Storrs and Knoxville. The energy she brings to this underrated program is invaluable to Memphis.
At the same luncheon, athletic director R.C. Johnson announced that 111 of 320 varsity athletes at the U of M carried a 3.0 GPA during the fall 2003 semester. Not a bad number at all . . . and room for improvement. Wouldnt 50 percent be something?
Speaking of the Lady Vols -- and to accentuate how different their world is from the rest of womens basketball -- Tennessee will welcome three of the five prep stars named to USA Todays All-USA team: Sade Wiley-Gatewood, Alexis Hornbuckle, and the national player of the year, Candace (She Dunks) Parker. UConn is going to have their hands full in seaking a fourth straight national title.
It may be sacrilege to suggest this around here, but playoff hockey is simply more exciting than the NBA variety. The primary reason? Less down time. Take a stopwatch and count the minutes of your next NBA playoff game absorbed by commercial breaks, timeouts, and free throws. You could squeeze in two episodes of Friends. (By the way, did the Friends finale make you laugh . . . once? If so, share the scene.)
I can understand the over-the-top music blared from arena speakers to accentuate the atmosphere of an NBA game. But DURING play?! When will the NBA come to understand that relative silence can be a virtue. Theres no music during NFL, NHL, or major league baseball action. When the clock is running during an NBA game, turn the stereo off!
Remind me why the NBA expanded its first-round playoff series from best-of-five to best-of-seven. Seven of the eight series that opened this years postseason ended in four or five games. Mismatches everywhere.
Oh, right. Television money.
The best story of the 2004 baseball season thus far is, hands down, the Texas Rangers. After three last-place finishes with Alex Rodriguez headlining, Buck Showalters club -- minus Quarter-Billion Boy -- is aiming to challenge Anaheim and Oakland for the AL West crown. With Rafael Palmeiro now an Oriole and Juan Gonzalez a Royal, the team is actually three Hall of Famers short of last years roster . . . and all the better for it.