In honor of Thanksgiving, we decided to take a moment to point out why we love sports, so here’s a handful of reasons to try and explain why we dedicate so much time and energy to the world of pro sports.
We are thankful for the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins all taking a chance on a first-time head coach instead of hiring some big name college coach or a retread who’d already been fired two or three times from other NFL jobs. These four franchises rolled the dice and risked public backlash by hiring previously unheard of men named Tony Sparano, Mike Smith, John Harbaugh and Jim Zorn. Now Miami is 6-5 (after finishing 1-15 a year ago), while the other three teams are 7-4. In a copycat league like the NFL, this should be enough to teach franchises (not run by Al Davis) to do their homework and make smart decisions instead of trying out someone else’s trash or the next Steve Spurrier.
We’re also thankful for the league’s rushing title race, which features three very enjoyable running backs – Washington’s Clinton Portis (1,206 yards), Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson (1,180) and Atlanta’s Michael Turner (1,088). All three are amazingly talented and all three have very different styles that make them special. Turner is nicknamed “The Burner” because of his breakaway speed. While everyone’s talking about LaDainian Tomlinson possibly losing a step, his former backup is showing that he’s always been good enough to carry his own team. Peterson reminds me of Hall of Famer Barry Sanders because every time he touches the ball there’s a chance for greatness. The kid can end up on SportsCenter damn near every time the Vikings hand him the ball. And Portis, well … he’s our mancrush.
He’s 5-11 and 205 lbs., which means he’s built like Brian Westbrook of the Philadelphia Eagles. The only difference – Portis relishes the chance to deliver punishment. He’s deceivingly strong and more than once this year has knocked out a defender when blocking on a play when his team called someone else’s number. Sure he’s on pace for a career high 1,754 yards this season, but watching him away from the ball is something every diehard football fan should love.
Finally, we’re thankful for commissioner Roger Goodell. Once he fixes the current problem with rookies earning more than $20 million guaranteed before ever playing one down of professional football, he’ll have tackled every issue one can reasonably expect this early in his tenure. But he’s already more successful than some former commissioners simply because he demanded football players and organizations be held accountable for their actions. Watch when (not if, but when) Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones screws up again. He’ll be banned from the NFL. Think that won’t send a message? And if he suspects teams are enabling their players, like Cowboys owner Jerry Jones with the whole Pacman debacle, then Goodell will hit them where it hurts too. Teams will lose draft picks or huge chunks of money until they step up and police the sport as well. That’s good news for folks who love the NFL. Not so much for the inmates who once ran the asylum.
We’re thankful that the New York Yankees were passed down from George Steinbrenner to his son Hank. For comedic value alone, keeping the sport’s biggest team in the Steinbrenner family is great. While George knew a thing or two about baseball, his son clearly does not. But he’s just as mouthy and as hardheaded as his father, which creates “must-see TV.”
We’re thankful for Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, who continues to churn out talent on a budget. While some teams like those in the New York, Boston and Los Angeles markets simply throw money at free agents who are developed elsewhere, Beane continues to be the industry standard while growing his own. And when they become stars and demand hundreds of millions of dollars, he trades them to the highest bidder, keeping his farm system stocked to repeat the process. Other teams may try to duplicate it, but no one else can do it quite the way Beane does.
We’re thankful for the ongoing New York-Cleveland drama involving LeBron James and his eventual free agent status. For those who missed it, when the Cleveland LeBrons came to Madison Square Garden this week James was cheered for every time he touched the ball. Why? Because Gotham city is convinced he’ll be a Knick as soon as he’s granted parole … er … free agency from Cleveland. So you’ve got two well known fanbases essentially trying to out-cheer each other to show King James who loves him more. How great will it be when he disses both of them to go play for Jay-Z’s New Jersey Nets?
We’re thankful for the emergence of players such as New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul and Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams, who are doing their part to try and make the team aspect of professional basketball popular again. No true basketball fan ever loved watching eight guys stand to the side while Kobe Bryant tried to take his defender one on one. Having guys like Paul and Williams make highlight-worthy passes night in and night out gives the rest of the guys on the floor a reason to check into the game and a reason for casual fans to tune in each night.
We’re extremely thankful for Washington Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby making it acceptable to love hockey again. One is the best goal scorer in the game. The other is a selfless leader who loves to set up his teammates. Both are breathtaking players who force networks like ESPN to show hockey highlights when they’d rather just have an extra five minutes of talking heads yelling over each other. For that reason alone, out of everything on this list, that’s what we’re most thankful for on this special day. Cheers.
Brian Murphy is an award-winning sportswriter who also goes by the name Homer McFanboy. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.