FROM MY SEAT: Summer Sizzlers 

A few thoughts on my front-burner this week:

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You think Major League Baseball is suffering under a cloud of steroid-tinted scandal? Just hop on a bike anywhere near Paris and shout the name, "Floyd Landis!" The latest doping saga to hit the Tour de France -- one that appears will cost the American Landis his 2006 championship -- is beyond the scope of anything baseball fans might imagine. (Consider if baseball players were tested -- randomly and regularly -- right up through and during the World Series. Then after a game-winning homer is hit in Game 7, the hero tests positive for a steroid the very next week!) How does this sport, so extraordinarily popular in Europe, regain its integrity?

It should start by following the money: sponsors. Entities like Phonak (which sponsored Landis's team this year), the Discovery Channel, even the U.S. Postal Service (the latter two each sponsored Lance Armstrong during his seven-year reign in France) simply must take the condition of their cyclists as seriously as they do the gains they achieve through their "product placement" in the greatest bike race on earth. When the sponsors incorporate their own methods of testing, or at least establish a one-strike-and-you're-out policy for cheats, the cyclists will have much more to lose by dancing on the edge of substance abuse. And if the sponsors aren't willing to step up? Cycling's powers that be should include those sponsors in the bans they're so willing to hand out to an athlete when a sample comes up positive.

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I had a chat with University of Memphis football coach Tommy West last month, and the most striking impression I came away with is that he is simply not worried. Not about the loss of DeAngelo Williams, not about the question marks at his quarterback position, not about the loss of some standout defensive players from a year ago. Entering his sixth season in charge of the Tiger program, West seems to have the energy of a first-year coach, his perspective significantly impacted by the bypass surgery he underwent last February. "It made me stop and appreciate more," said West. "It made me realize how much I really do enjoy doing what I'm doing. I really like being where I am."

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I also interviewed John McEnroe about his upcoming visit to Memphis (October 4-8) for the Stanford Championships at The Racquet Club. When I asked McEnroe who would have won a match in their prime between Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, McEnroe claimed the two greats would have different advantages on different surfaces, and that their contrasting styles would leave a series of matches fairly even. When I followed with a hypothetical between McEnroe himself and either Sampras or Federer, the seven-time Grand Slam champ humbly said he might win "two or three out of ten" against the sport's two most recent titans.

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The Redbirds are having their worst season in nine years in Memphis. But their parent club is in a tight race for the National League Central title. Am I the only reader of our beloved daily paper turned off by the overwhelming coverage of college football in respect to baseball's late-summer drama? Do we need 1,500 words on UCF coach George O'Leary when it's 102 degrees outside?

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I saw six rather eloquent speeches in Canton's Fawcett Stadium on August 5th, as the latest class was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Highlights were the sentiments of Troy Aikman (a Hall of Famer before his 40th birthday!), John Madden (he believes the busts talk to each other after the Hall closes each night), and Reggie White's widow, Sara (who mentioned how happy the Whites' two years in Memphis were, a time when the couple welcomed their son, Jeremy, into the world). But I think my favorite remark was a simple, but heartfelt request from Rayfield Wright (the great Dallas offensive lineman of the Seventies): "Parents, teach your children well. Remember, you are the windows through which your children see this world."

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