Sat update: Tiger basketball rant, blues @ CSF and FreeWorld @ Saucer, All-Star Comedy Jam

Friday after Thanksgiving is one of the biggest sports days of the year. And let me tell you, between Memphis Tigers basketball and Arkansas Razorbacks football, I would have been happy to tune all the TVs in the bar to the Weather Channel.

Actually, I didn’t watch the Tigers game, because if you want to get on a TV channel that most bars carry, it helps if you win games. I heard all about it on Twitter though. It reminds me of a story. A few days after our new CEO at work arrived last November, he held a company-wide meeting. He told us about the time he spent in the athletic department at UC Berkeley, working with the rowing team. “When we had one or two superstars who were great, we’d never win championships. However, when we had a team full of very good but not great players, and they all worked together in rhythm, we’d win.” That’s the problem with the Tigers. We have a team full of superstars who lose because they don’t work as a team.

It reminds me of the Tiger teams of the mid-90s. What I am about to say is nearly sacrilege in this town, but I was never a huge fan of Larry Finch as a coach. I thought he did an incredible job recruiting and a poor job getting the best out of the players he recruited. (Sound familiar?) Year after year I’d watch as Nolan Richardson would take an Arkansas team with far less raw talent deep into the NCAA tournament, whereas Memphis would be early-outs if not relegated to the NIT. Coach Richardson knew how to maximize what he had.

But wait a minute… didn’t we have a team full of superstars when Calipari was here? What’s the difference? I think Calipari knew how to communicate to his players that this is a business. All five of the current Tiger starters, plus Antonio and Shaq and maybe one or two more, are talented enough to make some money playing pro ball after college. I’m not saying they’ll all get to the NBA, but they’re all good enough to get contracts in Europe or China or D-League. Cal would tell them, look, you put your ego aside and do what I say and I will show you how to maximize your future earning potential.

On the off-chance that Coach Pastner reads this blog, two pieces of unsolicited advice from someone who knows little about basketball:

1) Stop using the all-Memphis starting lineup. Yeah I know it’s a feel-good thing for the city, but it makes them want to show off for their homies. From the games I’ve watched on TV, the mood is different when Antonio Barton (from Baltimore) or Shaq Goodwin (from Atlanta) subs in. It’s not that they don’t have fun – I love the big smile on Shaq’s face when he’s playing – but they look for their teammates more. Get that energy going from the start.

2) If you choose not to cuss at your players, that’s all good. That’s your style and you shouldn’t feel like you have to change it. But, one suggestion: Stop referring to your players as “young men.” It sounds like you think they’re all Eagle Scouts, or aspire for them to be. Eagle Scouts don’t win NCAA championships.

So there you have it. I’m sure JP was just waiting to hear from a blogger who hasn’t touched a basketball since the 1980s, and who dedicates a 41-day-long month to tube tops, to tell him what to do with his team.

Congrats, by the way, to the Memphis Grizzlies on returning to the top of the Western Conference with a win over the L.A. Lakers last night at FedExForum. I wonder if Coach Hollins ever refers to his team as “young men.”

All right, enough of that. Let’s get on to the news.

It’s Blues Saturday Night at the Center for Southern Folklore. At 8 PM Billy Gibson will get things started with his classic blues sound. At 9:45 fife player Sharde Thomas takes the stage. She’s the granddaughter of the legendary Othar Turner. Tickets are $7 in advance or $10 at the door.

Around the corner, Memphis jam band FreeWorld takes the stage at 9:30 tonight. FreeWorld recently earned their note on the Beale Street walk of fame after 25 years of hard work. Shows at the Saucer wrap up about 1 so you easily have time to catch the entire Center for Southern Folklore show and then FreeWorld’s second and third sets. I’d say that’s about as good as a Memphis Music 101 as you can hope to get Downtown on a Saturday night. There’s no cover for FreeWorld.

Over at the Orpheum, there’s the All-Star Comedy Jam. It’s hosted by Gary Owen, with “The Gangsta of Comedy” Capone, “The Comedians’ Comedian” Tony Roberts, and “The African King of Comedy” Michael Blackson. Spinderella is the featured DJ. More info on this show here.

Back to the Grizzlies for a minute… huge respect points to part-owner Justin Timberlake for dancing along with the Grizzlies Grannies and Grandpas last night. I’m a huge fan of the over-50 dance team that performs during game breaks.

All right, time to jump in the shower. Going to hit Panda Manda’s bar at 11 then head down the street to do some more tutoring about trapezoids, rhombuses and parallelograms. Plans for tonight TBD.