Prior to the autumnal feast that shall soon be placed before us, we’ve already been given a lot to digest from this year in sports, including not one, but two labor strikes, improbable winners, ungracious losers, horrific tragedies, and a trip from Penn State to the state pen. Let us now take a moment to focus, not on the negatives that are overthrown passes and blown coverages (as we all know there was pass interference somewhere that should have been called), but rather on all the positives we can take away from the field; to take pause and give thanks for this culture in which we have invested our time and sanity.
Interestingly enough, the first Thanksgiving occurred when the Pilgrims went to the Wompanoag Tribe in 1621 for lessons in surviving the brutal winters of Massachusetts and how to deal with the annual collapse of the local wood-chipping team.
That autumn formed the basis of what we now know as Thanksgiving and for many years, the colonists lived peacefully and synergistically with the neighboring Indian tribes. That is, before shooing them off their land, claiming it for themselves, and then giving them casinos. It was kind of like running up the score. Nothing said they couldn’t, but it was generally frowned upon, especially by the Indians.
But I digress. These days, the holiday stands for overeating, creating weird hybrid meals like turducken, watching football, and spending time with the family you seek to avoid all year long; a chance to call a timeout to the hustle and/or bustle of our lives.
So with that tradition in mind, let me take a moment to present to you that which I am thankful from the past twelve months in sports. I am most thankful for:
Norv Turner, for defying logic and remaining gainfully employed as a head coach in the NFL. Seriously, does he have photos of A.J. Smith in a compromising position or something?
The 2011 Boston Red Sox, for making us all forget that “All My Children” had ended.
Theo Epstein, for giving Cubs fans hope, as blind as it might be, for that’s where it begins.
Jim Harbaugh, for showing that going from the college to the pros is easier than everyone prior to him has shown it to be.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, for keeping the economy growing with fines levied from hits. C’mon, James, it’s been a while. Your country needs you!
The NFL, for making it a safe game to play again, except to the myriad players foolish enough to get injured on a weekly basis.
Tim Tebow, for being a great quarterback even though the numbers show he sucks at it.
Ndomakung Suh, for being a dirty player while remaining so damned likeable.
Andrew Luck, for saving the Indianapolis Colts while still at Stanford.
Boise State, for losing a game this year so as not to confuse things in the BCS as they did in 2009.
The Big East, for keeping the words “big” and “east” in their title even though both are misnomers.
Dirk Nowitzski, for winning that ring he deserved five years earlier.
The NBA players, for standing their ground and taking a charging foul.
The NBA owners, for arguing the call, saying it was a blocking foul.
David Stern, for continuing to ruin a league he once built to prominence. The guy’s like a gambler at Vegas who doesn’t know when to leave once he’s accumulated a stack of chips. It’s become quite comical to watch.
Novak Djokovic, for showing he should be on “Dancing with the Stars.”
Roger Federer, for finally allowing others the chance to win trophies.
Tim Tebow, for forcing us all to love him.
Bob Costas, for getting the interview with former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky so we could see the worst denial in the history of speaking, a 16-second denial on whether or not he is sexually attracted to young boys where the alleged child rapist repeated the question, qualified it, danced a little, then finally denied it once we had all switched over to “Dancing with the Stars” that we had TiVoed.
NCAA football conferences, for making geography class irrelevant.
Michael Vick, for regaining the respect of his fans, only to lose it again with his performance on the field.
St. Louis fans, for being so even-tempered.
Albert Pujols, for doing something legendary just days before his contract expired.
The Texas Rangers, for allowing networks to replace footage of the 1986 Boston Red Sox with them.
Playoff beards, for making a world of difference in how you play.
Cal Ripken Jr., as a reminder not to take his feat for granted. He played in 2,632 consecutive games. I, for one, took a week off between writing the beginning and end of this piece.
Tim Tebow, for making us all believe in ourselves.
Sports karma. That’ll teach you to take anything to South Beach.
Floyd Mayweather, for finally realizing he gets paid a ton of money to fight Manny Pacquiao. . . whether he wins or loses.
Mike Tyson, for being viable again. . . in some funny acting bits.
Coach K, even though we all hate your team, we gotta admit, you’re pretty good
Shaq Fu, the Shaq Daddy, The Big 401K, and so on, for his fun-loving personality we hope continues into retirement.
Chad Ochocinco, for his tweets before he got to “heaven.”
Major League Baseball, for stepping up to the plate and showing America it’s still a force to be reckoned with.
And finally, Tim Tebow, for making every day just a little brighter.
What a year it’s been. Sports are as they always are – intriguing captivating, nauseating, emboldening, and demoralizing. And that’s only on a Sunday. Here’s to the other six days of the week. Now, pass the turducken. I’ve still got some eatin’ to do before I watch “Dancin’ with the Stars.”
[Featured image by: David Castillo Dominici]