The Early Word: A Tigers documentary, nursing homes on alert, and cancellations

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 17, 2020 8:39 AM CT | Published: March 17, 2020 6:30 AM CT
Daily Memphian

Andrew A. Smith

Andrew Smith is a digital producer and writer for The Daily Memphian. He has been writing a weekly newspaper column on comics and pop culture since 1992, which is syndicated nationally by the Tribune Content Agency, and can be found at

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Such as it is.

How bad is it? Well, here are the latest numbers for Tennesseans who have tested positive for coronavirus:

Confirmed cases
Shelby County

All the new cases yesterday were in Davidson County, which is where Nashville is, or Williamson County, which is virtually a bedroom community for Nashville.

Here then, is the cruelty of coronavirus: It’s making me feel sorry for Nashville. 


All coronavirus, all the time: When a story is this big, it’s all hands on deck. Also feet, which are really more suited to a deck. But that’s not important now. Here’s what is:

Wayne Risher reports on Memphis tourism, which isn’t doing so hot. Omer Yusuf reports on grocery stores changing hours and fretting over supply chains. Abigail Warren reports on nursing homes that are taking special precautions and barring visitors. Jane Roberts tells us what to do should we suddenly realize we have a dry cough.

On the politics front, Bill Dries reports that Mayor Jim Strickland wants drive-through testing while Memphis in May could find itself in another month. And in sports, Don Wade warns that if the NBA season resumes, it probably won’t be with fans.

Even the mighty: First it was Tom Hanks, Mister Rogers himself, who tested positive for coronavirus. Then Kristofer Hivju, who played tough-guy Tormund Giantsbane on “Game of Thrones.” Now it’s ... and I can barely type the words ... Idris Elba. Oh, the humanity!

English writer Warren Ellis sums up our feelings with this insightful Tweet:

So is that all the bad news? Nope. There’s this:

It’s canceled: I don’t even know what you’re asking about, but whatever it is, “It’s canceled” is probably the answer.

Our daily Coronavirus Live Blog is so full of closings, cancellations, suspensions and delays that I want to re-name it Coronageddon Apocalypti-Close-A-Thon. Let’s hope that catches on. Meanwhile, here are some things that ain’t happening:

Tunica casinos. The University of Memphis graduation ceremony. All AAC events. The National Civil Rights Museum. Public schools (until April 6). The Eucharist. All closed, canceled, X-ed off the calendar. It is literally easier to list what isn’t canceled than to list what is.

So I will.

Not canceled: The Memphis City Council meeting. 

The reason the March 17 meeting isn’t canceled is because it doesn’t exist. Normally the council would meet today — two weeks after its last meeting — but it’s on a break. In fact, a number of members are in Ghana, the country-of-honor for this year’s Memphis in May, according to reporter Linda Moore. So the council will meet March 24, instead.


Not canceled: The March 18 Tennessee Chamber of Commerce Coronavirus Business Update.

All you have to do is go to the Chamber’s Facebook page to hear the update live, featuring Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey. 

I’m sure it’s good news.

Not canceled: Takeout food.

To-go orders have become a big deal. In fact, Strickland has announced that parking enforcement in front of Downtown and Midtown restaurants will be relaxed to accommodate diners picking up takeout orders. 

To keep track of who is offering what and how, our own Jennifer Biggs has started a second live blog at The Daily Memphian, just with restaurant updates. There won’t be much green beer this year, but at least we can eat well.

Not canceled: The Arizona primary (Democrats only), Florida primary, Illinois primary, Ohio primary (probably).

Politics, like cockroaches, are hard to kill.


You won’t actually meet William Eggleston in Michael Nelson’s piece on the Dixon Gallery exhibition of his work, but you will learn about him. It’s good stuff.


The good people at the Poynter Institute are very concerned about the stress journalists are suffering during this crisis. If you go to their site, there’s an article on how journalists can apply self-care to their delicate constitutions. There’s even a video, with a grandparent-ish couple oozing concern for our well-being.

Honestly, this made me laugh. Don’t they know there is ink where our blood should be? Isn’t it common knowledge that journalists have video cameras for hearts? If we were normal humans, we wouldn’t be in this business!

Sure I’m a little stressed. But if I start to feel sorry for myself, all I have to do is think about the folks on the front lines: medical personnel, EMTs, care providers, county Health Department folks and all the other unsung heroes of this trying time. 

Oh, and waitstaff. I always feel sorry for them, because they always have to deal with us.

Beware the Flex: Did you know that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was once known as Flex Kavana, and wrestled Jerry “The King” Lawler? It’s true, but mostly lost to the sands of time. Then this Twitter exchange occurred:

This. Must. Happen.

The Geoff must go on: You don’t think a little thing like all sports being canceled will stop Geoff Calkins, do you? Our ace newshound finds great stories even with absolutely nothing going on. 

Today it’s two stories on “The Harder Way,” a documentary on the Tiger season that started in blue smoke and cheers, and ended with disappointment and tears. 

That’s it for today’s Early Word. We’ve reached the end — or, as we two-fisted newshawks like to say, “30.” 

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