Tuesday, December 6, 2011

For these things I give thanks

posted a bit late... wrote Thanksgiving week

It’s that time of year when we are asked constantly what we are thankful for. In what has become as much a tradition to me as watching football and eating turkey and gravy on Thanksgiving, I write a column about the things in the sports world that I am thankful for. This year we have much to be thankful for, that pesky NBA lockout aside.

First, I am thankful that I am from a town that has great sports teams. I know I am one of the lucky ones whose team is always in the hunt – as a New England native and sports fan, I (currently) have four teams that are always in the hunt for the playoffs. Since 2001, I have seen all four teams win a championship (with the Pats and Sox winning three and two, respectively), with the Bruins finalizing the quad-fecta (had to make that word up) this past season. Even though the Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs this year, they are always in the playoff picture in September; the Patriots have been one of the top teams in the NFL every season since 2001; the Celtics have been a powerhouse since the Kevin Garnett trade; and I mentioned the Bruins finally raised Lord Stanley’s Cup in June for the first time since the 70s.

But make no mistake – I do not take this for granted. I was born in the early 1980s and remember when Boston was the laughing stock of the sports world; I grew up with the Red Sox never being able to clinch anything, the Celtics stinking post-Larry Bird, the Bruins ownership being too cheap to bring in a decent team, and grew up calling the Patriots “The Patsies.” I remember the sinking feeling when Grady Little left Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, and just to make sure we in Boston don’t forget the heartbreak we were at one time so used to, we watched Eli Manning of all people lead the Giants to the Super Bowl XLII (which I like to think never happened).

The second thing I am thankful for is this crazy college football season. Over the weekend, three of the top five BCS teams lost, as No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 4 Oregon and No. 5 Oklahoma were all upset. The last time three of the top five teams lost on the same weekend was Oct. 11, 2008, when No. 1 Oklahoma lost to No. 5 Texas; No. 3 Missouri lost to No. 17 Oklahoma State; and No. 4 LSU lost to No. 11 Florida.

What did this do to the BCS standings? Well, it proved emphatically what everyone has always known – that the SEC is the best conference, as they hold down the top-three spots – the first time one conference, and one division (SEC West) within a conference at that, has held the top three slots. LSU continues to stand atop the leader board for the ninth straight week, followed by Alabama (who lost to LSU on the road a couple weeks ago) and Arkansas.

Nothing is more exciting than a down-to-the-wire college football season… now if only they’d have a playoff and get rid of the silly BCS bowls.

The third thing I am giving thanks for is Thanksgiving football. Watching Dallas and Detroit host a game on Thanksgiving has become as much a tradition as turkey and pumpkin pie, but this is the first year in it’s something to be excited about. No longer a basement dweller, the Detroit Lions have become a force to be reckoned with, thanks to Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson (who really DID just need a good quarterback to turn into the player we all knew he was) and Ndamukong Suh, the sickest second-year defensive lineman I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. And not only do we have those two games on this year, the NFL Network (which I am also thankful for) is giving us a dessert match, of the Baltimore Ravens vs. 49ers.

But of course, on Thanksgiving when I bow my head to give thanks, I will recite the things I am most thankful for – my amazing family, my wonderful friends and to have a job that not only puts food on the table, but lets me work with and for our nation’s finest and their families. Thank you all and Happy Thanksgiving!

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