Recently in Sports Category

Paul Hayward at The Telegraph recounts a globe-spanning ultra-marathon of sports journalism that he and a colleague undertook in 2002, when the England soccer side was competing in the World Cup in Japan at the same time heavyweight champion and Englishman Lennox Lewis was to fight Mike Tyson at The Pyramid in Memphis. Somehow, they made it, their itinerary a sort of time-travel adventure involving multiple crossings of the International Date Line. Hayward recounts some encounters with authentic Memphis color on a previous boxing trip to Memphis:

Memphis would revive anyone with a pulse. It is one of America's most underrated cities. On another boxing trip, a few of us ventured out to a blues club where the band stopped for a fist fight during the set and then resumed as if nothing had happened.

We all bought meat raffle tickets to be polite. You guessed it: one of us won. In a working-class black neighbourhood, the white journalists from England debated how to return the Sunday joint without a side order of ingratitude and condescension. It was a night of delirious pleasure.

On that same trip we called in at Sun Studios and listened to an early Elvis acetate down in that atmospheric basement, took a cab to Graceland and paid our respects to Martin Luther King at the Lorraine Motel, where he was assassinated. Beale Street was the regular evening hang-out once the daily task of reporting dire threats from boxers had been completed.

The feature documentary film "Undefeated," about the football team at Manassas High in North Memphis, is being screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, which runs this week and next. After its premiere in spring at the South by Southwest Film Festival, the film was picked up for distribution by the Weinstein Co. The Hollywood Reporter has a positive review of the film:

In the 110-year history of Manassas High School in North Memphis, the school's football team, the Tigers, has never won a playoff game. But the 2009 season provided their strongest shot ever, thanks to a star left tackle, O.C. Brown, attracting attention from college scouts for his size and speed, though struggling academically to achieve qualifying grades. Even more crucial, however, is the dedication of volunteer coach Bill Courtney

... While some audiences might chafe at seeing another story in which disenfranchised African-American lives are elevated by white benevolence, there's no questioning the conviction of the story as presented here, or the unstinting commitment of Courtney, a white businessman, and his fellow coaches.

From the archives, here's the story The Commercial Appeal published two years ago about Brown and the families who worked to keep him on the right path to college and beyond.

Baltimore Ravens pick Egypt Central track as kickoff song

Memphis band Egypt Central is lending its hard-rock sounds to the NFL season that starts this weekend, ESPN's Page 2 reports:

For the better part of the new millennium, the Baltimore Ravens have become known for their take-no-prisoners style of play. After partnering with Memphis-based band Egypt Central, the Ravens and their fans may have found a way to kick the intensity up another notch.

The two sides recently agreed to use "Kick Off" -- a spinoff of the band's hit "Kick Ass" -- as the official kickoff song for the Ravens. The band has also received airtime at NFL games in Philadelphia, Kansas City and Dallas, but lead singer John Falls said that Baltimore has always had special meaning to the band.

"They've always shown us a lot of love and support," he said. "Baltimore kind of became a second home to us."

The song debuts as the Ravens kickoff song Sunday when the team hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Memphis Redbirds mark 'Organ Donor Night' with body-part jerseys

I didn't get around to posting this one late last week, so here goes ...

Yahoo!'s Major League Baseball blog, Big League Stew, dipped into the minor leagues to recognize the Memphis Redbirds' upcoming "Organ Donor Night" promotion, coming Saturday, Aug. 13. That evening, the AAA ball club will don its home white uniforms, specially decorated with depictions of human bodily organs, like this ...

mustsee_memphis_redbirds_will_wear_organthemed_uniforms.jpg More, from the Redbirds' press release:

On Saturday August 13, the Memphis Redbirds will host Organ Donor Night at AutoZone Park with first pitch scheduled for 6:05 p.m.

The Redbirds will be encouraging fans to sign up to be an organ donor at the National Foundation for Transplants table located on the concourse. Those who sign up or show their driver's license that they are already a donor will be entered to win a keyboard organ donated by AMRO Music, a team autographed jersey, or a heart healthy basket from US FoodService.

And finally some reaction from Yahoo! blogger Duk!:

It's a worthwhile promotion, though as @kevin_reiss remarked, we can only consider the night a complete success if Slim Goodbody is invited to throw out the first pitch. Let's make this happen, Redbirds.

The Miami Herald's wrestling column features an interview with legendary Memphis wrestling promoter Jerry Jarrett, who is promoting both the film documentary "Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin'" and his own autobiography, "The Best of Times." Jarrett touches on everyone from WWE mogul Vince McMahon to Jerry Lawler to the great Saturday-morning announcing duo of Lance Russell and Dave Brown.

"At that time, Lance felt compelled to say every card was great. He was the carnival barker. Your credibility is more important than the credibility of our company because if the people don't believe you, who else will they believe. So Dave and Lance would literally tell the people, 'Here's the card Monday night folks. Let's get ready for our next match.' If it doesn't excite them, it doesn't excite fans. If it was a card Lance and Dave thought was great, they would say that, and people would come, because it was great. The people believed in it."
Justin Timberlake gets philosophical over a round of golf on a public course in Brooklyn with New York Times writer Bill Pennington in this post and (corny) video on the On Par blog. The 30-year-old Memphis-area native is a skilled golfer who says he embraced the game as a way to unwind and clear his mind while working on the road. And he has found some correlations between performing and playing golf as well:

"Tempo is everything in music," he said. "I see a correlation to golf. The tempo and pace of a round are important. Having good balance, too."

He does not, however, see similarities between the pressure to entertain 20,000 fans and making a 3-foot putt.

"I don't put that much pressure on myself on the golf course," he said. "So, I don't feel that. Being an entertainer can be very, very intense. I felt that. To me, golf is getting out in nature with my buddies, or getting to play with my father."

Timberlake has joined with Callaway for a Father's Day contest in which the prize is a weekend golf outing at Mirimichi, the Millington course that Timberlake owns and had renovated for $16 million. Sign up at

Meanwhile, Timberlake's new movie, "Bad Teacher," comes out in a couple of weeks, and he has been telling interviewers during his media rounds that he himself had a "bad teacher":

And although Timberlake's unnamed seventh grade teacher wasn't that bad, she did give him a hard time over his songwriting dreams.

He explains, "She told me I should have more realistic goals than being a songwriter, because my schoolwork was suffering.

"You can quote me on this directly to her: 'Suck it!'"

The Tampa Tribune features today a long, detailed takeout on the story of Ben McDaniel, the Memphian who apparently died after he went missing during a dangerous diving expedition at Vortex Spring in Ponce de Leon, Fla. I'll provide some excerpts here, but I do recommend reading the whole story; it's worth your time:

On the recovery efforts in the claustrophobic cave where McDaniel dived:

Edd Sorenson stood aboard a yacht in the Bahamas, in the middle of an expedition, when his wife texted. Diver missing. Searches Friday and Saturday unsuccessful.

If there's a go-to recovery diver in Florida, it's Sorenson, a lean and muscular scuba-shop owner who has notched somewhere close to 2,500 dives. Sorenson goes where others can't.

He was bombarded with calls from recovery divers when he got back on Sunday.

Nobody without training could have gone farther than I got, one diver said.

I almost died in there, said another.

Even an official with the International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery told him not to go.

Sorenson suited up on Monday. To save air, he used an underwater scooter to quickly maneuver through the tunnel. Sorenson abandoned the scooter when the cave narrowed and worked his way deeper, through tiny passages, like shimmying under a car, under water. At tight restrictions, belly on the floor and back to the limestone ceiling, Sorenson had to turn his head sideways to squeeze through.

On the lead-up to McDaniel's fateful journey to Florida:

Shelby, 68, and Patty, 62, had just seen Ben on Monday in Memphis. He was loving the Florida sabbatical, diving at every opportunity and trying to land a job as an instructor. He had taken a survey course and was mapping the cave at Vortex.

He seemed happier than he'd been in two years. Back home, he'd faced hardship: his construction company failed, he lost his house and his wife left. What hurt the most was when his brother died.

Paul was 22, the youngest. He loved Ben, looked up to him. The two were always running off together to go rock climbing.

In late 2008, Ben found Paul unconscious at home from a stroke. He tried to clear Paul's air passage, then sat with him in the hospital, then mourned him as they played Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah at the service.

He struggled to shake the grief. Something as simple as a Citizen Cope song would send him to his room in tears.

But that sadness seemed to be passing.

Closer to home, McDaniel's parents were to hold a benefit today to raise money for a reward for divers willing to brave Vortex Spring to find their son's body.

Washington Post writer takes running tour of Memphis

With our city's reputation as a deep-fried public-health Gomorrah, one might not think of Memphis as a destination for an active vacation. But Memphis couple John and Crissy Lintner have set out to change that reputation, offering guided running tours of Memphis through their Rockin' Running Tours.

The Lintners, and Memphis in general, feature prominently in a Washington Post on the phenomenon of sightjogging or sightrunning. Writer Nancy Trejos took both the Midtown and Downtown tours, and she recommends them as a good way to take in some less-touristy but worthwhile sights like Central Gardens, Cooper-Young and Victorian Village.

Trejos seems to enjoy Memphis; she speaks of being in awe of the Levitt Shell -- where Elvis got his start -- and Galloway United Methodist Church -- where Johnny Cash got his. Kudos to her for wanting to dig deeper and see more of the city.

Churches using mixed-martial arts to bring Gospel to young men

The New York Times continues its recent string of Memphis-datelined features (see here and here) with a story in Monday's editions about evangelical Christian churches using mixed-martial arts to minister to young men.

The setting for the story was a Cage Assault MMA show on Beale Street. One of the teams participating in the card was Xtreme Ministries, "a small church near Nashville that doubles as a mixed martial arts academy." Xtreme is one of a growing number of churches -- the story stresses that nearly all of them are white -- that are using cage fighting "to explain how Christ fought for what he believed in."

The goal, these pastors say, is to inject some machismo into their ministries -- and into the image of Jesus -- in the hope of making Christianity more appealing. "Compassion and love -- we agree with all that stuff, too," said Brandon Beals, 37, the lead pastor at Canyon Creek Church outside of Seattle. "But what led me to find Christ was that Jesus was a fighter."

The background to this effort is to increase church attendance among young men. Some pastors interviewed for the story say they fear that churches have become too focused on women and children.

Men ages 18 to 34 are absent from churches, some pastors said, because churches have become more amenable to women and children. "We grew up in a church that had pastel pews," said Tom Skiles, 37, the pastor of Spirit of St. Louis Church in Arnold, Mo. "The men fell asleep."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a nice profile today of Missouri basketball star Laurence Bowers, a product of St. George's Independent School. The peg for the story is that Mizzou, yours truly's alma mater, hopes to knock off the hated No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks tonight on the road, something that hasn't happened since 1999 (when I was still in school). Bowers figures to be a key part of any Mizzou upset bid; he is filling the shoes of departed teammate and Memphis Grizzlies rookie DeMarre Carroll, blocking shots, rebounding, and generally bringing lots of energy to the floor.

The Post-Dispatch article peaks back at Bowers' upbringing and his longstanding ties to Mizzou coach Mike Anderson, and catches us up with how he's getting along on campus:

He dates an Eritrea-born nurse named Feven Melake ("Great catch," he says), has considered studying nursing himself and rooms not with teammates but friends from his dorm last year.

"I don't want to be just known for basketball," he said. "I think it's important to embrace relationships with people of different cultures and beliefs."
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