Picking Splinters: A Few Thank Yous

November 29, 2006 3:19 PM0 comments

Thanksgiving weekend I noticed a lot of columnists churning out pieces with warm and fuzzy “thank yous” to a number of items in their personal lives, essentially telling their readers how lucky they are. I’m not going to write that column. For starters, I’m sure there are very few, if any, readers of this column that actually care about my personal relationships and their profound effect on my spirit. This is a sports column, not the Hallmark Hall of Fame.

I also sincerely hope/believe that the most important people in my life (my family, girlfriend, friends, co-workers and the Pentagon Row Starbucks baristas) know how grateful I am for their presence in my life.

So instead, I thought I’d pass along some more particular notes of thanks this year, related specifically to the world of sports.

Thank you to Mama and Papa Ward, the parents of goaltender Cam Ward. He was the net minder that the Hartford Whalers rode to the Stanley Cup last spring. In short, this was The Whale’s finest hour. Prior to this, the franchise was best known more for its superb location next to the shops of the Hartford Civic Center than for its performance on the ice. That all changed when Ward led them to the Cup.

I’ll admit that it is slightly troubling that the Hartford Whalers are neither a.) in Hartford or b.) the Whalers any longer, but honestly those are but petty details. Being a Whaler’s fan is a state of mind ( … make that an altered state of mind) and for those lucky enough to experience their run in the Insurance Capital of the World, will always see Green when they look at the Carolina Hurricanes’ red jerseys. Unless they are red-green color blind, in which case they’ll see a sort of muddled brown.

Thank you to Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weiss for being such a great guy. The story of how he let a dying child call a pass on the first play of last year’s game against Washington (and then Weiss sticking to his promise, despite being backed up to the Notre Dame one yard line) is one of the most altruistic stories I’ve ever heard. It’s so heartwarming, in fact, that I’m able to overlook the abysmal performance by the Notre Dame secondary last Saturday — a performance in which the Irish defensive backs showed the approximate mobility of a gimpy slug with a crippling case of the gout. I’m not even sure if slugs can contract the gout, but I’m willing to bet that even if they could, they would have done a better job covering Dwayne Jarrett.

Heck, while I’m at it, thank you to the gout for being a highly humorous, versatile and utilitarian affliction. I don’t know what I would do without it, but I’m positive my writing would suffer.

This next one may surprise some of my fellow Yankees fans — thank you to Theo Epstein for winning the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka with the outrageous bid of $51.1 million.

Most Red Sox fans have become particularly adept at crafting completely infallible positions against critics of their team. If you try to tweak them for finishing third last season, they’ll say “That’s just the Sox being the Sox.” No, that’s the team with the second-highest payroll in the league failing to make the playoffs in spectacular fashion. Still, they’ll happily jibe about how the Yankees choked in the playoffs despite the highest payroll in the game.

It was never really true that the Red Sox were the baseball equivalent of Robin Hood, fighting against a seemingly-omnipotent foe with whatever they could scrape together. After a bid like $51.1 million, however, (and that’s just for the privilege of talking to Scott Boras, Matsuzaka’s agent) that flawed rationale will never fly again.

A very big thank you to the Roman numeral III for making Hoyas basketball relevant again. In the year following my graduation in 2003, the Georgetown men’s basketball team had reached a level of obscurity roughly on par with that of Bhutanese microbrews. Then-Head Coach Craig Esherick was trying to make John Thompson Jr.’s systems work with recruits far less talented than Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson and the ineptitude on the court reached levels normally reserved for the Woodlands Preschool JV team, or any squad managed by Isaiah Thomas.

Enter III, as in JTIII, as in John Thompson III. He used his background at Princeton to infuse elements like back door cuts and give the Hoyas an edge in the athlete-rich Big East. Since last Thanksgiving, the Hoyas have defeated then-No. 1 Duke, run to the Sweet 16 and earned a pre-season top-10 ranking this season. That success has led to improved recruiting, particularly in the D.C. area, and has a once indifferent student fan base stirred into a frenzy. Now, being a Georgetown fan no longer equates to permanent residency in the eighth circle of Dante’s “Inferno,” a fact for which I am very thankful.

Finally, just one Hallmark-style thank you to all of the readers who endure my Georgetown-praising, Red Sox-bashing, Whalers-adulating rants on a weekly basis. Without you, I’d probably just be blogging away in my parents basement … possibly with a raging case of the gout.

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