Phil Cannon’s Fight ... 

And a few reasons to hate the Thunder.

Phil Cannon

Phil Cannon

Like countless other Memphians, I was rocked by the news last week that Phil Cannon is battling lung cancer. The longtime director of the FedEx St. Jude Classic made it clear in a press release that he intends to take on this fight "with grace, calm, courage, dignity, and a big dose of humor." Anyone who has known Phil as long as five minutes would expect nothing less.

I distinctly remember Phil taking me on my first tour of the TPC Southwind course 20 years ago. I was relatively new to Memphis and working on my first feature for Memphis magazine. But Phil treated me like a reporter with The New York Times, escorting me via golf cart from one fairway to another, explaining the nuances of the course (since redesigned) and how important the tournament had become to this community.

Today, we need to remember how important Phil Cannon has become to this community. In giving most of his life — 47 years and counting — to the longest-running big-league sporting event Memphis can claim, Cannon has made friends far and wide with his passion, first, for Memphis and also for the FedEx St. Jude Classic. The millions of dollars the tournament has raised for St. Jude have Phil's thumbprint. The corporate connections made over a week of PGA golf were each, in part, handshakes with Phil. And all the smiles. Those you see on the faces of golf fans, the army of volunteers who make the tournament happen, even the golfers themselves. Each of those smiles serves as a salute to Phil Cannon.

Phil's a pure gentleman. And he's tough as leather. He'll win this battle.

• It's okay to hate the Oklahoma City Thunder. Really, let the hate flow, Grizzlies fans.

We're raised to believe hatred is the most shallow of human emotions, poison to the one doing the hating. "Hater" has become a modern tag for those who choose views — usually to an extreme — that don't snuggle comfortably with our own. In watching your favorite NBA team face the same opponent for the third time in four postseasons, though, you can toss these views on intolerance to the wind. Picture a Kendrick Perkins scowl, a Nick Collison flop, or, yes, a Kevin Durant jumper from the scorer's table ... and hate the Thunder.

To begin with, I loathe this team's name. Starting with the Miami Heat in the late Eighties, NBA (and NHL) expansion brought us teams named for weather conditions or, even worse, natural disasters. The Lightning. The Hurricanes. The Avalanche. And, of course, the Thunder. First of all, the name is a grammatical land mine. "The Thunder is a team with bland uniforms." Or "The Thunder are a team with an ugly logo." When a young Oklahoma City basketball fan aspires to play for his favorite team, what does he tell his parents? I want to be a Thunderclap?

Oklahoma City, I've heard, is a wonderful town. My feelings toward its NBA outfit are exclusive to the team. I actually sympathize with a community that harbors the Houston Astros' Triple-A affiliate. As redundant as that sentence reads, the RedHawks at least have a nickname worth wearing on a T-shirt. (Alas, the RedHawks also beat Memphis last Saturday night.)

It's okay to hate the Thunder, Memphis. Channel the emotion wisely, and save some steam for Thursday night when the Grindhouse will (again) host the Grizzlies' Sooner State nemesis. There's nothing like some healthy loathing to make your heart pound a little extra for the one you love.

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