JAMBALAYA 

JAMBALAYA

GETTING IT RIGHT Herb Kosten is a giant in the history of the Memphis sports market. From his days at Central High School in the Fifties through his years with the University of Alabama baseball team through the period in which he was a respected umpire on the pro tennis circuit, Kosten has been someone that all Memphians could point to with pride. I know all of that. But somehow in a story about Kosten’s involvement with the ABA Memphis Pros this week in the Flyer, I got his name mixed up. To say that I misspelled it, would be giving me the benefit of the doubt. I screwed up. Royally. People often talk about something or the other being the First Rule of Journalism. Well, if there is such a thing as the First Rule of Journalism it should be this: Spell the names right. There is something permanent about the printed word, even in a free alternative weekly. If you make a mistake on radio or TV, you correct it and go on. In the weekly newspaper biz we have to live with our mistakes for at least a week. I called Kosten to apologize as soon as I realized my mistake. He was gracious and kind. I think it might have been easier for me if he had been angry, but that would not have been Herb Kosten’s style. Kosten was a two-sport star at Central High School. A hard-hitting shortstop and second baseman, he made the all-city team three times and twice led Memphis high schools in batting. He was also all-city in basketball two years, leading the Warriors to a runner-up spot in the state tournament. He won a baseball scholarship to Alabama, where he was twice voted to the all-SEC team as a third basemen. Later he was selected to the All-Century Alabama baseball team. He calls it is his “greatest honor in athletics.” Kosten has also had been among the top amateur tennis players in the region. His daughters, Julie and Lori, were both ranked junior players. And today, Kosten owns Little Miss Tennis, one of the top makers of children tennis wear in the country. But it was his involvement with the Memphis ABA team in the early ‘70s that drew my interest this week. As one of several businessmen that kept the Pros (later the TAMs and Sounds) in Memphis for five years, Kosten played a major role in the development of pro sports in this city. Kosten is a long-time Tiger basketball fan, having owned season tickets for 39-consecutive years -- dating back to the days at the Fieldhouse. In fact, he wonders how Memphis basketball fans will handle the adjustment to the pro game. “In the college game, you come out to root for your team every game,” says Kosten who frequently attends NBA games out of town. “With the pros, you come out to watch the best players in the world, and root for the home team. There is a difference.” And he still laments the fact that he and his partners were unable to come up with a local owner for the ABA team. If they had, Kosten believes, Memphis might have made it into the NBA when the two leagues merged in 1977. But they didn’t and now Memphis stands at the threshold of being in the big leagues. Kosten thinks we have already been there. “I contend that the ABA franchise that we had here was the only major-league team we have had here because that league merged with the NBA,” he says, pointing out that 11 of the 20 players who participated in the first NBA all-star game after the merger came from the ABA. Who will argue the point? Certainly not me. I’m not feeling very argumentative after the week I’ve had. PLAYING ROAD SAGE Once upon a time, before there were many people living and working downtown and before Tom Lee Park was expanded, it may have been smart to close Riverside Drive for the entire month of May. But it makes no sense at all today. It creates extreme traffic congestion on Front and other downtown streets. disrupts businesses, and makes it difficult to get from I-55 to I-40. It’s time to say no to MIM. Close Riverside for the big events, like this weekend’s music fest, but the rest of the week keep it open to through traffic. YOUR SERVE, NOLAN John Calipari has made no secret of his dislike for the attention the area SEC teams get in Memphis. Like refusing to call the University of Mississippi by its preferred nickname, Ole Miss. By saying that he may not continue playing the Rebs and Arkansas. And by saying that his critics on talk radio are “just SEC fans.” So it was only appropriate, on the day of Jim Rome’s “Smack-Off,” a story appeared in The Commercial Appeal in which Calipari talked a little smack of his own. “We don’t need Arkansas to fill our building,” Cal told Zack McMillin. “Now, they might need us to fill theirs.” Bet Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson,no shrinking violet himself, will have a comeback. Quote Of The Week “I think some of those same people, who were naysayers about our project are now coming to the ballpark and enjoying every minute of it. I think it will be that way with the NBA arena, you’ll have people who will be converted very easily.” -- Redbirds co-owner Kristi Jernigan.

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