SAN ANTONIO — After witnessing the University of Memphis basketball team dismantle my beloved UCLA Bruins Saturday night in San Antonio the Tigers seem the odds-on favorite to win tonight’s National Championship game against Kansas University.
As they should be.
Phenom Memphis guard Derrick Rose made his UCLA counterpart look like a fumbling middle-schooler barely able to dribble the ball down the court without it flying off his foot. Veteran Memphis big men Joey Dorsey, Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart denied UCLA freshman standout Kevin Love the ball so often that the doughy Bruin center look malnourished as he reluctantly waddled off the court and into the locker room.
As he should have.
Memphis coach Jim Calipari beamed at his team’s chance to set a single-season wins record at 39 with a win against Kansas.
As they should.
The Tiger should win their first NCAA title tonight not because they somehow deserve it or their skill is so superior to that of Kansas, but the lengths they’ve gone to get here. What lies beneath Memphis’ beautiful, high-flying brand of basketball is a recklessness, an unchecked criminality that anticipates a laundry list of arrests and accusations. Memphis has been a program of criminals ever since Calipari — a greasy sleaze whose last Final Four appearance was stricken from the record after it turned out his best player was getting paid by an agent all along — took over as coach in 2000 and began letting everything from inciting riots to marijuana possession go effectively unpunished. This is a team that values winning over anything else, and its penchant for allowing its players to roam the city punching out girlfriends and making it rain in clubs so long as they can hit a 3-pointer should let it coast past law-abiding teams to a championship.
But if there is such thing as karma, if the universe aims to punish the unpunished and reward the unrewarded, the Tigers will lose tonight. Consider the legal history of the Memphis Tigers.
The Tigers got their crime season going before the hoops season even tipped off as the aforementioned Shawn Taggart and reserve player Jeff Robinson were arrested for inciting a riot outside the Plush Club. The charges were dropped after the players completed anger management classes and the two were never suspended. Either was starting center Joey Dorsey, who made it rain at the Plush Club just before his teammates were arrested. For those of you who don’t know, making it rain entails tossing money in the air just to watch it fall to the ground … like raindrops … get it?
This was not Dorsey’s first brush with the law by any stretch. Back in October 2006 Dorsey and his teammate Hashim Bailey were accused of threatening, pouring water on and throwing water bottles at two female students. Dorsey has also been in two other police reports alleging he punched someone in the face then ran away.
Dorsey’s frontcourt mate Robert Dozier got in on the action in February when he followed his ex-girlfriend after she left the Plush Club, got out of the car he was driving in at an intersection, and proceeded to hit her twice. Dozier was suspended for one meaningless blowout game against SMU.
Dozier wasn’t the first Tiger to beat up on his girlfriend however. Back in 2005 then Memphis standout Jeremy Hunt was arrested for battering his girlfriend. Hunt went on to break his hand in a bar fight, a crime that got him kicked off the team until two Memphis players left for the NBA and Calipari brought him back on the team out of desperation.
The most recent issue involves reserve guard Andre Allen, who seemed to be back on the right track after getting caught with a whore, er, soliciting a prostitute back in 2005. Allen was suspended prior to the Final Four for a, “violation of team rules.” This is obviously ridiculous as Memphis’ team rules are a) there are no rules, and b) THERE ARE NO RULES. Allen reportedly failed a random drug test given by the NCAA, something that makes sense considering teams usually suspend players for failing a drug test before the NCAA has a chance to.
There are more cases of past Memphis legal trouble (Marcus Banks’ burning of a 15-year-old girl’s leg with a cigarette as part of a gang ritual), present legal trouble (Pierre Niles’ slapping of a UAB fan following a post game melee in February) and future legal trouble (Memphis is one of the only teams still in the running to land top recruit Tyreke Evans, who was admittedly in the driver’s seat during a drive-by shooting resulting in the death of a teenage earlier this year), but the picture is clear.
Keep in mind the background of these kids. Many of them come from impoverished, inner-city areas where crime, for better or for worse, is a part of life. They are in part victims of circumstance, and the fault is not all their own (although slapping around your girlfriend is pretty inexcusable, especially when you’re 6’9”). But John Calipari knows better. If he is going to recruit kids from tough neighborhoods then he bears the responsibility of not only teaching them basketball lessons but also life lessons. Calipari is giving these kids a way out of a life sadly destined for crime or prison, but he has to give them the tools they will need to remain above crime and prison. He isn’t doing that. He’s too selfish to put installing new plays aside for instilling needed discipline. He supports the winning way over the right way no matter how lost his players find themselves off the court.
Memphis should win tonight, but we all know they shouldn’t.
Tony Manfred is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Absurdity Exhibiton appears alternate Mondays.