Ive got a few New Years wishes . . . actually one for each month.
JANUARY -- DeAngelo Williams announces hes returning to school. The stretch of Central Avenue between Highland and the Liberty Bowl is renamed DeAngelos Lane. And the first Heisman campaign in Memphis history officially begins.
FEBRUARY -- Pau Gasol becomes the first Memphis Grizzly to play in the NBA All-Star Game. This may actually be overdue for a player whos led Memphis in scoring and rebounding since he arrived (with the Griz) in 2001. He seems to be enjoying the game more than ever, his passing skills have improved dramatically, and hes looking more and more like a player worth that $86 million contract. In other words, hes an All-Star.
MARCH -- Based on the way the U of M Tigers have looked to this point, this may be wishful thinking at its worst, but how about two NCAA tournament wins? Memphis hasnt reached the Sweet 16 in 10 years. Having been ousted in the first round two years ago, the second round last year, it seems the next step would be to reach the tournaments second weekend. Based on their dreadful start, a conference championship will be needed for Memphis to simply make the field.
APRIL -- A Memphis breakthrough at Augusta. Casey Wittenberg was the low amateur at last years Masters, and Shaun Micheel has a PGA Championship to his credit. Why not a local strolling up the 18th fairway on Sunday, a green jacket on the line?
MAY -- Im feeling lucky this month, considering Memphis in May is honoring Ireland. The Kentucky Derby will be run on Saturday, May 7th, and in checking my lunar calendar, I see a new moon on May 8th. My pick for the roses? Declans Moon.
JUNE -- Heres a special wish: a three-game sweep of the world champion Red Sox upon their inter-league visit to Busch Stadium (June 6-8). As lopsided as the 2004 World Series was, be assured of this: the Red Sox werent as good as they looked, the Cardinals not nearly as bad. Heres a chance for St. Louis to prove it. (By the way, the Yankees are at Busch June 10-12.)
JULY -- For the first time in seven years, someone besides Lance Armstrong wins the Tour de France. Dont get me wrong . . . I love Lance. Hes a hero in ways most athletes cant approximate. I just want proof hes human.
AUGUST -- Minor-league baseball can be tough in the dog days, particularly in the sweltering heat of the Mid-South. But a pennant race can drop the mercury (in spirit at least) by 10 or 20 degrees. Heres hoping the Redbirds are battling for a playoff berth with their new American Conference North rivals -- Iowa and Omaha -- and their old intrastate rival, the Nashville Sounds.
SEPTEMBER -- Whether as a draftee or free agent, Danny Wimprine makes the opening day roster for an NFL team. Last summer, Danny told me, I just want to get the chance, thats all. The guys a winner, and a winner from . . . the University of Memphis. Hes earned his chance.
OCTOBER -- For goodness sake, heres hoping the St. Louis Cardinals can return to the World Series and actually . . . take the lead . . . in at least one game. Theres no more challenging a championship to reach than baseballs. Six months of playing every day, then a two-tiered sprint to the pennant . . . and THEN a best of seven for all the marbles. Which makes the year ahead so daunting for Cardinal Nation. Itll be hard to rekindle the spirit and drive for a clubhouse that made it, only to collapse so dramatically.
NOVEMBER -- Familiar faces are wonderful (and all too rare in pro sports these days). But heres hoping a significant addition to the Grizzlies arrives for the 2005-06 campaign. The fact that five members of the Griz -- Pau Gasol, Jason Williams, Lorenzen Wright, Shane Battier, and Stromile Swift -- are playing their fourth year together in Memphis is an anomaly in todays NBA. But the mix needs to be stirred now and then. Will Jerry West be here to do the stirring?
DECEMBER -- The University of Memphis, having edged Texas-El Paso for the Conference USA football championship, hosts Utah in the 47th annual Liberty Bowl. A distinct home-field advantage, not to mention Williamss college swan song, is enough to push the Tigers to victory.
Happy new year to all.