‘Tis the season of giving! Whether you trim the tree, light the Menorah or kinara, or rally around the Festivus Pole for the annual airing of grievances, the spirit of the season engulfs us.
Filled with that holiday spirit, we now bestow upon some of our unsuspecting friends in the sports world what we hope will be some useful, and appropriate gifts:
Baseball fans: A 2022 season. I’m afraid this gift might go undelivered. I have absolutely no faith in the ability of commissioner Rob Manfred and his adversary, MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark, to resolve their differences. I hope I’m wrong, but I foresee a summer watching replays of the Braves’ glorious march to the 2021 World Series title. Could be worse, but not by much.
Tom Crean: Retirement. In his fourth year at the helm in Athens, his basketball team is no closer to reaching the NCAA basketball tournament than it was when he took over. He couldn’t even lead his team into the Big Dance with Anthony Edwards on the floor. Crean has amassed a magnificent record of 45-55, capped by Saturday’s 80-67 loss at home to a middling George Mason Patriots quartet. The consensus preseason choice to finish dead last in the SEC looks like a sure bet.
Joni Taylor: Crean’s job. The Georgia women’s coach wins more often than Crean’s team loses, which is really saying something.
Dan Mullen: A turtleneck sweater, a job as ESPN’s studio analyst during recruiting season, and a large, framed print of Abraham Lincoln’s appropriate adage: ‘’Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”
Florida football fans: Patience and a decent recruiting cycle. Are you kidding me? With all the resources the Gators have available, they should never drop out of the top 10 in recruiting rankings, let alone the top four dozen. Billy Napier’s going to need some time to reverse and overcome this trend.
Geoff Collins: Something to go right. Three straight three-win seasons have resulted in coaches fired, coaches leaving, players leaving. Geez. Collins is about as popular in Atlanta as Tom Crean is in Athens.
Lincoln Riley: The University of South Carolina’s Man of the Year award. What a chain of events he kicked off when he bolted Oklahoma for Southern Cal. Archrival Clemson’s defensive coordinator Brent Venables took over in Norman. Then, Sooner QB Spencer Rattler and TE Austin Slogner slid into the transfer portal and wound up in Columbia.
Lane Kiffin: A lifetime supply of golf balls, courtesy of the Knoxville Volunteer Booster Club. No hard feelings, coach.
Bulldog Nation: Two more wins. Is that too much to ask? Just two more wins.
Brian Kelly: A speech coach. Among other things.
Bobby Petrino: Who?
Blake Anderson: Peace. You couldn’t help but smile as Anderson’s Utah State Aggies upset Oregon State in Saturday’s LA Bowl. The former Arkansas State coach needed a fresh start after his wife, Wendy, died after battling breast cancer just before the 2019 season. Anderson took over a Utah State team that went 1-5 last year, rebelled against the school’s administration, and boycotted its final game. Anderson rallied this crew and led them to an 11-3 record and the Mountain West championship. Yes, every now and then, nice guys do win.
NFL: A return to a schedule with an even number of games. That’s the only way the league can achieve its ultimate goal of having all 32 teams finish the season with a .500 record.
Urban Meyer: Where to begin? He merits the Bobby Petrino Longevity Award, the Lou Groza Golden Toe Award, and the Marquis de Sade Nonhumanitarian Award. Let’s just settle for this: an uninterrupted retirement.
Shad Khan: A good hire. Less than a year ago, the Jaguars owner proclaimed, “This time I got it right.” Wrong again. Open mouth, insert foot. His team has lost at least 10 games in nine of his 10 seasons as Jacksonville’s owner. Maybe he should hire the guy who sells him his moustache wax. That lasts longer than his coaches and general managers.
Freddie Freeman: An end to the lockout so he can sign a new contract and finish his career with the Braves. I’d love to say it’s a lock to happen, but we’ve seen this franchise allow Henry Aaron, Phil Niekro, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux to end their careers elsewhere. Surely this won’t happen again. Will it?
Brian Snitker: The acclaim he toiled so long for and so richly deserves. Yes, every now and then nice guys finish first.
And to all you wonderful readers out there, peace, love, and happiness, now and throughout the new year.