Thursday, November 26, 2009

Game Changers

Shopping for Memphis in the spirit of Black Friday

Posted By on Thu, Nov 26, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Hoping to beat the holiday rush, I did a little fantasy shopping this week. Not for me and mine, but for Memphis. It went something like this:

Good to see you out here, sir. What may I help you with?

I'm looking for game-changers.

Yes, game-changers. I think I know what you mean. We have several possibilities, but this could take a while. How much did you want to spend?

Millions, maybe more.

That's the spirit. You seem to be familiar with the vocabulary of sports. Let's start over there. Football or basketball?


Coaches or players?

Both. A college football coach who can win seven games a year, put 35,000 people a game in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, and take the heat off R.C. Johnson and some of the load off Josh Pastner. And a pro basketball team that wins consistently and fills FedExForum like the Tigers and Josh Pastner do and gets people excited like Allen Iverson did.

Sorry, I'm a shopping consultant, not a miracle worker. You ever hear of one-to-a-customer? Or listen to Tommy West's rant? Or see those Iverson jerseys that were shipped this week to Tanzania? What else is on your list?

A game-changer for Shelby County.

That would be the new mayor, Joe Ford. You've heard about the Ford turnaround. This one comes with a lot of mileage and an unusual warranty. Instead of running for a long time, it promises to stop running for good after one year.

What accessories do you recommend?

Might I suggest relevance?

How about something for the new city mayor A C Wharton? He's so popular that he even got an invitation to the White House West Wing when he visited Washington last week. What do you get the man who has everything?

A Ford for a foil isn't enough? How about some help in the kitchen? Just make sure to remind him that he's the head cook.

Anything else?

How about a warmed-over consolidation recipe? We're running a special this year. Our research says it's very popular.

Your research wasn't listening when the County Commission chose a new mayor this month and half the members put their names in nomination for a job that will last eight months. What do you have that will provide lots of jobs?

Well, actually that would be two governments. More local government, not less, is the greatest jobs stimulus we have going. It makes it hard to sell our consolidation game-changer though.

I can see that. What do you have that's educational?

We can set you up with $90 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Sounds good. What's the catch?

Your schools have to be really bad, and you can't just use it to balance your checkbook. Michelle Rhee, the chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools, says her district spends more money per child than anyone, and their results are at the bottom. So we're packaging this with accountability and political courage.

I'll take it. What's behind that wall over there?

You can't go in there. That's where we keep grand juries. Sort of like Bad Santa's elves, 23 of them and a federal prosecutor, busy all year making nasty indictments for people who've been naughty.

Anyone in particular?

Let's just say you don't want a target letter in with your Christmas cards. If the target is an ex-mayor, then you've got your game-changer. A few years ago they gave one to Rickey Peete and Ed Ford. Did it in December, too. Call them sentimental.

But couldn't the elves say "no" to the prosecutor?

That's very rare. The prosecutor only needs 12 votes, and the elves have been working for more than a year. A target letter usually means you'll get a "gift."

I'm not sure that's the kind of game-changer Memphis needs.

We know. And it's not returnable either. People who get one have been known to make quite a scene. That's why we say, "Be careful what you wish for."

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