A MULTICOLORED FOURTH
Weve all made (and ignored) New Years resolutions. But how about trying a Fourth of July resolution? And I dont mean hot-dog eating contests, a who-can-jump-the-firecracker competition, or anything connected to parades, watermelon, or lemonade. Find something that reminds you of why you like being an American (or living in America), and tell as many people about this charm as you can. Between hot dogs, of course.
My resolution? Im going to count the number of people, places, and things that are NOT American that make me love sports so much more than I would otherwise. After all, its the wide WORLD of sports that inspires us, no?
. This native of Mali, West Africa, arrived in Memphis the same year John Calipari did. (He stole no headlines, did he?) After starting 24 games as a freshman, Diarra spent most of his remaining three seasons on the bench. But if you happened to see his last home game at The Pyramid last March, you saw love. Rare has the parting ovation for a Tiger player been louder than the one Diarra received. And NEVER has a player visibly returned the same affection the way Diarra did. He leaves the University of Memphis with a degree, and thousands upon thousands of new friends.
. Baseball remains the Great American Pastime (sit down, football fans), but the sport has never had the kind of Latin flavor it enjoys here at the dawn of the 21st century. Having arrived in St. Louis from the Dominican Republic (via Kansas City, via Memphis!), Pujols is reminding Cardinal Nation of greatness. The kind of greatness measured in Musial terms.
The Tour de France
. Come July, I tend to mix the red, white, and blue of Old Glory with the same colors on the French flag. Whether its Lance Armstrongs continued ride to immortality or the pastoral settings the race brings into our living rooms, this is an event that somehow remains underrated in a world drowning with sports news and numbers. In my book, aside from climbing Everest (without oxygen), this is the greatest test of human athleticism in the world.
. Greatest Russian import since Smirnoff.
, Dirk Nowitzki
, Peja Stojakovic
, Tony Parker
, Yao Ming
. Finally, an NBA champion has some credibility when they call themselves world champions. If the singular beauty of a jump shot is part of what saves this ailing game, well have Europe to thank.
. Oh, for crying out loud, if Im going to include Anna . . . .
The Championships at Wimbledon
. Among my favorite childhood sports memories is watching Borg and McEnroe at my grandmothers in Cleveland, Tennessee. These two actually made me put my baseball mitt down for a few hours.
. No, he doesnt have eight major titles, but he does have as many U.S. Open championships (2) as Tiger, and this native of South Africa seems to have his career on the upswing, unlike certain Nike pitchmen. On top of all that, he plays with a smile. Always easy to cheer for a guy named Ernie.
. A product of Windsor, Ontario, becomes the face most readily attached to AutoZone Park. Whoda thunk it?
. No, not the home of the Dawgs. Considering the international climate, and the proximity of this summers Olympic Games to the Middle East, we better all be rooting for the birthplace of the Olympics. A lot more at stake here than a few more cracks in the Parthenon.
. Youre darn right. Hes in over his head when with the major-league Cardinals (and has seemed so at the plate sometimes here in Memphis). But as for comportment, approach, and professionalism, this Japanese veteran has been worth his seven-figure contract. And mark my words: if the Cardinals are contending this September, youll see Taguchi as a regular late-inning defensive replacement. The guy can play the outfield with the best of them.