LONGSHOTS: Thanks and turkeys for Thanksgiving
By Dave Long firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s the annual column at Thanksgiving where we talk about the folks and things in sports to give thanks for and those people and things that go into the turkey category for the year. And we’ll get the turkeys out of the way first. Leading off with:
Turkey – Louisville head man and ex-Celtics coach Rick Pitino: While his sordid little tale from the Italian restaurant and humiliating details that came out in the extortion trial that followed are none of our business, his sanctimonious Success is a Choice book and speeches about leading “young men” seem, well, even sanctimoniouser than ever.
Turkey – randy golfer Tiger Woods: Not sure what the statute of limitations is on turkiness, but since it’s now been a year since the discovery of his secret life we’ll leave that sordid story out. This is for the turkey of a year he had on the golf course where he went winless — even in team play with Ryder Cup — for the first time since, I believe, before he was actually born.
Turkey – drama queen Viking quarterback Brett Favre: For craving to be the center of attention in the will-he-or-won’t-he melodramas the last few years along with his texting episode, which has me nominating him to be the subject star for the Howard Stern movie sequel, Private Parts II.
Turkey – drama queen ex-Patriot, ex-Viking and soon to be ex-Titan diva wide out Randy Moss. And not for all the new teams. It’s for his lack of business acumen in overplaying his hand to get a long-term contract extension — which I’m betting now puts him on year-to-year deals the rest of his career.
Turkey – Redskins tackle Albert Haynesworth: Dog is a more fitting animal but with Michael Vick coming up in a while, it’s safer to stick with the turkey. He knew all along he was going to cause trouble with his distaste for the defense new coach Mike Shanahan was going to use and waited until after he picked up his huge $10 million March 1 bonus. And he’s been an under-performing, out-of-shape distraction ever since.
Turkey – LeBron James: He didn’t kill anyone, lead the league in DWIs or walk away from multiple out-of-wedlock kids like other still-celebrated athletes have as his Q rating fell faster than Lehman Brothers during the ’08 crash. So it’s a lesson to all: if you make The Decision to show exactly how self-absorbed you are, it’s a good idea not to do it in a made-for-TV special on ESPN.
Turkey – Jim Gray: He’s here annually on general principles, but he cemented his spot with that weasel-like performance as LeBron’s gopher on The Decision.
Turkey – Ben Roethlisberger: Ben, Ben, Ben. I hope you really did learn your lesson after the incident in the Georgia because, as Dean Wormer said in Animal House, “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go though life, son.” And that was the highlight of his sordid behavior.
Turkey – anyone making a great opinion reversal on the aforementioned Vick simply because he’s playing out of his head. Especially in light of how the Monday Night Football crew did everything but nominate him for a Nobel Prize two weeks ago. But, while I’m not saying he’s asking for that from anyone, redemption — for something that takes the kind of dark spot in a person’s character he (and his friends) showed — is earned back over a long time of reformed behavior and not by throwing for three TDs and running for two more, even if you are a gambler who took the over. But having said that ...
Thanks – to Vick: For showing us the good side of human nature to give someone a second chance when they make a mistake — even one as big as his was.
Thanks – to the NFL for keeping the annual Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit. And not just because the Patriots play there this year. It is a tradition that means something to the folks in Detroit who started it, nurtured it and turned it into an institution. Yanking it away from the area just because the football team is more screwed up than the auto industry has been of late (and as owners of Ford Motor Company, they helped screw that up too) wouldn’t be right.
Thanks – for Fenway Park: The greatest park in America. It may be a 98-year-old dump, but it’s our dump — which I say with great affection.
Thanks – for the Tom Brady–Bill Belichick Combo: All you need to say is it’s been a great 10 years of football if you are a Patriots fan and they are the cornerstones.
Thanks – for Peyton Manning: I know he’s the enemy, but he really is good and a pleasure, at least for me, to watch chuck it all over.
Thanks – for the Doc Rivers-Danny Ainge Combo: Just listen to their interviews, which tell you they clearly get it that sports ain’t life and death, CIA-like secrecy is unneeded and, Leon Powe aside, treating people the right way pays dividends.
Thanks – for Phil Simms and Jim Nance. I’ve never been shy to offer my comments on announcers — good and bad — but these two are the best team of any doing sports today in any sport, at least in my humble opinion, and they make a game seem better when they’re the ones calling the action.
Thanks – to the NFL schedule-makers. They set Round II between the Jets and Pats a week after my annual Thanksgiving Day visit to the empire so it’ll make the football banter a little edgier and give my annual report from behind enemy lines that comes out next week a greater relevance than ever before.
Thanks – for Rex Ryan. I know, the enemy. But he’s given his J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets life and that’s given oommph to the rivalry, which always makes things a lot more interesting.
Thanks – for the legacy of Pat Tillman: The great Indians pitcher Bob Feller joined the Navy the morning after Pearl Harbor was bombed and was followed by many other pro athletes soon after, in an age when players didn’t have as much at risk financially and they were still heroes. Tillman did it after 9-11 and he was the only one to do it, which makes him a great example to all of us of a patriotic selflessness to admire and honor.
Thanks – to all the warriors: Sincere thanks to all those who have gone to defend our freedom in far off places. You’ve earned the same honor and admiration for putting it all on the line in a way most of us simply can’t imagine.
Thank you all so much for reading through the year and here’s hoping you have a happy Thanksgiving.
Dave Long can be reached at email@example.com. He hosts Saturday Morning Sports with Dave Long from 11 a.m. to noon Saturdays on WGAM – The Game 1250-AM in Manchester and 900-AM in Nashua.