Since it's Elvis Week, let's take a look at a story we published in the sports section back in 2002:
By John Pitts
Seeing as how it’s the 25th anniversary of his death, and this is the paper in his hometown, take a moment to consider the sporting side of Elvis.
You might not immediately think of Elvis as living the sporting life. But he liked fast cars and karate and guns and football.
There’s a corner of the museum display at Graceland dedicated to some of his sports memorabilia, including one of his karate outfits and an autographed pair of boxing gloves from another giant, Muhammad Ali. (Those gloves, by the way, were part of the traveling Graceland exhibition that’s toured the country.)
Here are some items I’ve dug up about Elvis and sports:
1. As an upperclassman at Humes High School in Memphis, Elvis tried out for the football team, but got cut by the coach when he wouldn’t trim his sideburns and ducktail haircut. Even then, you see, he was a little bit of a rebel.
Also at Humes, Elvis joined the boxing team. According to his coach, a man named Walt Doxey, Elvis got his nose bloodied in a bout. “Then Elvis came to me and said, ‘Coach, I hate to tell you this, but I’m quitting the team.
“I’m a lover, not a fighter.”
That’s our boy.
2. He got to do a lot of both – fighting and loving – during his movie career. In 1962’s “Kid Galahad,” he even played a boxer.
3. In three of his movies, Elvis played a race car driver: Viva Las Vegas (1964, with Ann-Margret), Spinout (1966) and Speedway (1968).
4. Elvis also followed the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.
In a 1966 Sporting News interview, Harry Caray recalled an unexpected meeting with the King.
Caray said he was in Memphis one winter for a St. Louis Hawks basketball game and the phone rings in his hotel room.
“Harry,” the voice says. “Been listening to you for years. How are the Cardinals gonna be this season?”
“Who is this,” Caray asks.
“Elvis,” the voice says.
“Elvis who?” Caray asks.
“Elvis Presley,” the man answers. “If you don’t think it’s me, be down in front of the hotel in 10 minutes.”
Ten minutes later, a big Cadillac pulled up with Elvis in it. After the game, Caray said he and Elvis stayed up half the night at Graceland, talking about sports.
5. Elvis was a karate black belt, and while there’s always been some skepticism about whether he really earned it, there was a time in the early 1970s when he was quite serious about the discipline. According to one of his teachers, Master Kang Rhee, Elvis first got interested in the martial arts while stationed in Europe during his 1950s Army stint.
6. Then there’s this undated quote from an previously unpublished Elvis interview, published in September’s Esquire:
“I’m not knocking people who like golf and tennis, but I like rugged sports – boxing, football, karate, things like that.”
7. Regrets? He had a few.
Writing in the Nashville Scene newspaper, veteran reporter Bob Battle recalls a phone interview a few months before Elvis died.
“I remember it especially well because of what he told me: that he had never attained his biggest goal in life,” Battle wrote.
“I wanted to have a son – someone I could play football with every day,” Elvis said. “If I should ever have a son, I’ll probably have him on the 50-yard line by the time he’s able to walk.”
8. Let’s leave the last word on Elvis to somebody who may have understood him better than most: Ali.
“I felt sorry for Elvis because he didn’t enjoy life the way he should,” Ali said in Thomas Hauser’s oral biography, “Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times.”
“He stayed indoors all the time. I told him he should go out and see people. He said he couldn’t because everywhere he went they mobbed him. He didn’t understand. No one wanted to hurt him. All they wanted was to be friendly and tell him how much they loved him.”
9. Not much more we can add to that. Except ...
Thank you, thank you very much.
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