November 2009 Archives

A large majority of respondents to a Los Angeles Times poll believe that Fox Sports overreacted by suspending Los Angeles Clippers broadcasters Ralph Lawler and Mike Smith for one game after the pair made remarks about Memphis Grizzlies center Hamed Haddadi that led one viewer to complain to the network.

The exchange about Haddadi, the NBA's first Iranian player, came toward the end of the Clippers' loss Wednesday night at FedExForum. The Huffington Post has video, and the L.A. Times' sports blog has a transcript:

Smith: "Look who's in."

Lawler: "Hamed Haddadi. Where's he from?"

Smith: "He's the first Iranian to play in the NBA." (Smith pronounced Iranian as "Eye-ranian," a pronunciation that offended the viewer who complained.)

Lawler: "There aren't any Iranian players in the NBA," repeating Smith's mispronunciation.

Smith: "He's the only one."

Lawler: "He's from Iran?"

Smith: "I guess so."

Lawler: "That Iran?"

Smith: Yes.

Lawler: "The real Iran?"

Smith: "Yes."

Lawler: "Wow. Haddadi - that's H-A-D-D-A-D-I."

Smith: "You're sure it's not Borat's older brother?"

Smith: "If they ever make a movie about Haddadi, I'm going to get Sacha Baron Cohen to play the part."
Lawler: "Here's Haddadi. Nice little back-door pass. I guess those Iranians can pass the ball."

Smith: "Especially the post players.

Lawler: "I don't know about their guards."

Comments on the L.A. Times blog posts overwhelmingly support the announcers and oppose the suspension. Clippers point guard Baron Davis said it was "just an unfortunate situation" after Friday's game, for which Lawler and Smith were suspended. Citing Voltaire (!), columnist John McMullen laments the rise of "political correctness" in the NBA:

At least FOX acknowledged the obvious, the fact that Lawler and Smith weren't trying to offend anybody. And, at the end of the day, the whole episode was a no-harm, no-foul situation. FOX issued a punishment that clearly lacked teeth and the P.C. police were fed and placated.

The 71-year-old Lawler, in his 31st season doing Clippers games, and Smith clearly weren't all that well-versed on Iran and this little faux pas, along with the consequences that stemmed from it, aren't going to make them thirsty to educate themselves.

As usual, when the political correctness crowd is involved, nothing gets accomplished.

Personally, I'm baffled that two announcers from Los Angeles -- a city with a huge and prominent Iranian population -- would risk such potentially offensive remarks. Imagine Marv Albert tweaking a Puerto Rican or Dominican player's appearance or nationality during a Knicks telecast. As McMullen allowed even while opposing the suspension, "In today's world, (the suspension was) a no-brainer ... ."

Marlo Thomas talks about St. Jude in USA Weekend

As St. Jude Children's Research Hospital kicks off its Thanks and Giving fundraising campaign, Marlo Thomas checks in with USA Weekend magazine to talk about what's new at the Memphis institution.

The daughter of St. Jude founder Danny Thomas noted "amazing progress" in human genome-related research that has improved outcomes for the hospital's young patients:

"St. Jude scientists have pinpointed a genomic abnormality found to predict childhood leukemia relapse. By determining which patients are likely to relapse, physicians can tailor treatment intensity appropriately. ...

"St. Jude clinicians also have found that this disease can be treated without the use of radiation, which is a very toxic approach. By using personalized chemotherapy regimens instead, our research clinicians have actually improved cure rates for the disease. And that's why doctors across the country are referring their young patients to us."

Thomas also relates an old anecdote about how St. Jude came to be located here in Memphis:

Affordable, accessible health care was my father's inspiration when he founded St. Jude. He was urged to launch St. Jude in Boston. But he read in the newspaper about an 8-year-old African-American boy in the South who was hit by a car and couldn't be treated because they couldn't find an emergency room that would take him. That boy died, and my dad was determined then to open St. Jude in the South. That's why St. Jude ended up in Memphis."
Remember, as the holidays approach, one way you can support St. Jude is by purchasing hand-blown glass ornaments* from the St. Jude gift shop. All proceeds go to the hospital.

* See final item.

Poster for Tennessee Williams film 'The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond'

Check out the just-released poster art for "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond," the film adaptation* of a rediscovered Tennessee Williams screenplay that will debut in Memphis on Jan. 8.

"Teardrop Diamond" stars Bryce Dallas Howard as a Memphis plantation owner's daughter who rejects the debutante lifestyle that is expected of her. Other stars include Ann-Margret, Ellen Burstyn, Chris Evans and David Strathairn.

* See second item.


Links to Memphis is back after a week and a half of vacation. I'll start by catching up on an item from Wednesday ...

Jason Lee has been cast in the lead role in the George Clooney-executive-produced TV pilot "Delta Blues" for TNT. Lee ("My Name Is Earl") will play Dwight Hendricks, a Memphis police officer who moonlights as an Elvis tribute artist.

New York Times blogger plugs Memphis literary mag The PInch

The University of Memphis-published literary magazine The Pinch gets a mention in a post on The New York Times' Arts Beat blog. Blogger Dwight Garner says he is a fan of the publication, and he has some recommendations for the most recent issue:

The best thing in the magazine's fall issue -- besides Paul Watsky's terrific poem "Cumbersome," about a crawfish that escapes from his son's bedroom aquarium and creeps down some stairs -- is a rangy interview with the novelist Percival Everett, who confesses his utter inability to get zonked on peyote while attending what he calls a "Native American church."

More background on Jackie Moore, former CBU guard, dead at 28

E-Illinois-Coach-Death.jpg Eastern Illinois University assistant women's basketball coach Jackie Moore, who played guard at Christian Brothers University, died late Wednesday at age 28. 

Moore, of Windsor, Ontario, collapsed while working out. Authorities said an autopsy would be performed today to determine a cause of death.

The Ottawa Citizen has more background on Moore's career:

Along with assisting in recruiting, Moore worked primarily with the guards.

Moore came to EIU after a yearlong internship with the Detroit Shock and Detroit Pistons.

She was an All-Gulf South Conference honoree at Christian Brothers University, which is based in Memphis, and later played professionally for the Power Basket Tigers, a professional team in Austria.

As an intern for the two Detroit professional basketball franchises, she performed a long list of duties at games, special events, camps, clinics and other promotions.

Medtronic, medical devices and health care reform

The New York Times has just moved a story examining the unusual -- one consultant says it can appear "dysfunctional" -- market for medical devices, and how any emerging health care reform package might address their rising costs. The industry has a prominent footprint here in Memphis: London-based Smith & Nephew, for instance, has a Memphis division that makes artificial joints such as hips and knees. Minnesota-based Medtronic bases its spinal device and other units here.

As the population ages, spending on medical devices is rising at a faster rate than even prescription drugs, according to the Times. Medicare is picking up an increasing share of the cost, which is around $76 billion a year. However, the government program does not negotiate costs with device manufacturers. That's between the hospitals and the manufacturers. Then, doctors, not hospitals, determine which devices to use in a procedure. Many doctors have financial ties to device makers and see little reason to shop around. The result of all this is a highly distorted market, observers say.

One doctor compared it to giving a car buyer a blank check and letting him choose between a Maserati or Honda.

"You are going to walk out of a dealership with a really nice car, if you don't have to pay," said William Maisel, a cardiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

The story features a photo from Medtronic's spinal facility here in Memphis. Medtronic is the nation's largest device manufacturer, and it -- along with other Minnesota-based firms -- has dug in against efforts by Congress to slow federal spending on the items.
A story in the Cookeville (Tenn.) Times contains a morsel of good news for Memphis amid a sobering assessment of manufacturing job losses in Tennessee.

First, the statewide bad news:

Manufacture's (sic) News Inc. (MNI) a Chicago based manufacturer's directory publisher released a report on the industrial jobs in Tennessee. A total of 15,110 jobs were lost between September 2007 and September 2008; 41,537 jobs from September 2008 and September of this year.

According to the MNI report, currently Tennessee's 7,711 manufacturers employ 403,030 workers compared to 547,494 workers in 2001. There was a 26.4 percent decline amounting to 144,464 job losses.

MNI reports this year's 41,537 job losses is sharpest decline in the past twelve years.

The article says the losses were led by cuts in the transportation sector, firms like Peterbilt, Nissan and Cummins. Since the period surveyed appears to end in September, this might not take into account job losses in Spring Hill since the Saturn brand was discontinued.

Now for the slightly better news for Memphis:

Almost all major cities in Tennessee experienced the job losses except for Memphis.

Despite recession, Memphis witnessed a half percent rise in manufacturing jobs, while Nashville lost 5 percent, Knoxville lost 15.8 percent. While Chattanooga dropped 12.2 percent industrial jobs Morristown dropped 10.7 percent.

To be sure, that increase is just a drop in the bucket as Memphis, like the state as a whole, has lost about a quarter of its manufacturing jobs since 1998.

Reviews, interviews about John Grisham's latest book, "Ford County"

Best-selling author John Grisham has been all over the media this week to promote his latest book, "Ford County." It is the first collection of short stories from the former attorney, who practiced law for years in Southaven, Miss., and who based some of his hit novels -- including "The Firm" and "The Client," both of which became major motion pictures -- in Memphis. The latest collection features an opening story in which Memphis, including its hospitals and strip clubs, plays an important role.

Here are positive reviews from USA Today and The New York Times, as well as an interview by The Associated Press.

Perhaps the most newsworthy aspect of this latest Grisham release is how it has been caught in a price war of sorts involving major retailers like Walmart and Amazon. AP's story says the book's price has been fluctuating like a stock today. In an interview this morning with Matt Lauer, Grisham said the price war, along with the rise of electronic book readers, could drastically impact the publishing industry.

New York Times prints ode to Chuck Berry's 'Memphis, Tennessee'

Sunday's editorial page in The New York Times carried an essay by author and editorial board member Verlyn Klinkenborg about Chuck Berry's classic song "Memphis, Tennessee," which Klinkenborg says is his pick for "the best short story in the form of a song lyric." The article includes a handy link to the lyrics, which unfold with an unexpected revelation of the object of the narrator's affections: his 6-year-old daughter. Klinkenborg, who favors Johnny Rivers' version of the song, wonders what happens next:

I'm no longer surprised by Marie being 6 years old. But her "hurry home drops" do still surprise me, every time. I wonder even now about the operator on the other end of that connection, and the sequel. I like to think that, in the end, the call was placed and a happy ending found, if only in joint custody.

Grizzlies-Kings game to pit NBA's first Iranian vs. first Israeli

If tonight's Memphis Grizzlies game at the Sacramento Kings didn't have enough points of interest -- Allen Iverson's Griz debut, former Tigers great Tyreke Evans leading the opposing team -- USA Today presents another fascinating angle to the contest: The NBA's first Israeli player, Kings rookie Omri Casspi, might face off against the league's first Iranian, Griz big man Hamed Haddadi. Let your imagination run wild with the geopolitical implications.

As USA Today points out, "Iranian athletes or teams have withdrawn from international competitions where they might face Israelis." (Examples here and here.) However, Haddadi -- who spent time in Iran during the summer of protests and crackdowns -- isn't making much of it:

"It is just a sport," Haddadi told "I don't know what happened with the two countries. I don't care. I just do my job." also isn't making much of it, perhaps echoing the thoughts of most Memphis fans: "I mean come on, this is really bigger news than AI's first game as a Grizzly?"
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