There can be no doubt that Thanksgiving in the greatest holiday ever invented. There’s minimal shopping involved, no gifts, no wrapping or running around. It consists of nothing but football, drinking, eating to excess, more football and leftovers. Minus a half-dozen lingerie models, it really is the perfect day. And all the Almighty asks in exchange is that you give thanks for all you’ve been given. How easy is that? If gratitude is all that’s asked of me, I got gratitude by the truckload.
The only problem I see is that my in-laws have scheduled dinner for noon, and the Patriots-Lions game kicks off at 12:45. And I find myself living in the greatest sports town in America during the greatest time to be a sports fan in the city’s history. Which means if I try to list the things I’m thankful for at the dinner table, dinner will be colder than a Bruins Ice Girl’s shovel by the time I’m done. So if I can beg your indulgence, and because I’m sure the Creator is a regular visitor to WEEI.com, I’ll save myself and everyone in the family a lot of time and just list everything here.
In no particular order, the things for which I am most thankful:
The Pats have reloaded. It’s funny how the Anti-Patriot jihadists insist Bill Belichick has drafted badly the last few years. They’ll rattle off a carefully memorized list of the picks that didn’t work out as proof of His Hoodedness’ failings, like drafting is science or the rest of the league hasn’t had its share of JaMarcus Russells, Alex Smiths or Vernon Gholstons. But here’s what the Pats have to show for the last three drafts: Mayo, Chung, Vollmer, Tate, Gronkowski, Spikes, Hernandez, Brace and Deadrick, just for starters. And by that, I literally mean starters. On an 8-2 team. The Pats have done the impossible by NFL standards: torn the team down to the foundation and built it back up without having a down year. Incredible.
The 2010-11 Celtics. Does anyone else remember that this is the season that was never supposed to happen? In the days immediately after the gigantic kick in the testicles that was Game 7 of the NBA finals last year, it was a given that the current run of championship contention was as good as dead. Ray Allen was heading out of town to get a max contract somewhere else. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were both supposed to be checking in at retirement’s scorer’s table, with at most one or two years left in them. And Doc Rivers was all but gone. He was supposed to be moving back to Atlanta to work for TBS, watch his kid play and get going on his wife’s Honey-Do list. But miraculously, none of those things happened. Everyone’s back, they’ve added some veteran bench help, and for all intents, look like they’re a major force once again. Granted, Mrs. Rivers will have to wait a while longer on that spice rack, but that’s a sacrifice worth making.
Athlete’s sexual shenanigans. When you write for a tawdry, guy’s R-rated sports website like Barstool Sports, you’re at the mercy of the news to a certain extent. If ballplayers aren’t texting pictures of their junk around, making it rain in nudie bars or tomcattin’ around on their insanely hot wives, it makes my job tougher. Fortunately though, the world is full of wealthy, stupid, careless, reckless athletes with no moral compass, and covering them is the easiest job I’ll ever love.
Tom Brady. On a related note, I’m thankful that in a league full of quarterbacks who spend their free time sexting, harassing drunk coeds, running interstate dog fighting rings or tossing their uniforms into the stands and walking out on their teams, I’m grateful the worst thing our franchise player does is grow his hair long.
The Miami Heat. Your average NBA season is unbearably long. Like Thanksgiving at my in-laws, but with way less passive/aggressiveness. But there’s nothing like a bitter, grudge-fueled rivalry to make regular season life worth living, and that’s exactly what Miami has given us. Winning a championship is the Celtics’ goal. Making the playoffs is the mission. But slapping the smug smile off the collective face of the insufferable Heat is a sacred quest for them; you can tell. That great, national media circle jerk that surrounded LeBron, Dwyane, and whatisname … Shemp … the other one… has given the C’s a focus and a purpose until playoff time. And like Clark Griswold’s “Jelly of the Month Club” membership, that’s a gift that keeps giving the whole year long.
Heidi Watney. I suppose this is as good a time as any to let the rest of you in on this, but you know when Heidi is doing one of those Fenway sideline reports on NESN? Well she’s looking directly at me. Sorry, fellas, but search your hearts. You know it’s true.
The Carolina Panthers. For the life of me, I don’t know how Belichick did it, but somehow the Patriots ended up with Carolina’s second-round pick in the 2011 draft. I think he might have used one of those scams that start out with you asking for two 10s for a 20, but that’s neither here nor there. The Panthers currently have the NFL’s worst record. And coach John Fox is currently weighing which failed former Division 1 Catholic school quarterback, Brian St. Pierre or Jimmy Clausen, will be throwing multiple interceptions for him this week. So as it stands, the Pats are looking at having three of the top 33 picks in the draft.
Massachusetts politicians have some sense of decency. As much as I admire the owners of the local teams … well, the ones who’ve won titles, anyway [shoots a look at the Jacobses] … I’m glad they’re on the hook when it comes to building their own damn stadiums, unlike the way it works in other states. It’s grotesque for a government to confiscate money from wage-earners to hand it to billionaires so they can build ballparks and line their pockets even further. Even a cartoon character like Jesse Ventura, when he was running Minnesota and the Vikings came to him looking for a handout, had the sense to say, “When we build a library, we don’t charge people to get in.” Granted, our pols usually squander your tax money on something equally stupid. But I’m happy that they leave the taxpayer-funded stadia boondoggles to backwoods, podunk, jerkwater hellholes like Jacksonville, Scottsdale or New York.
The Bruins are relevant again. As recently as a couple of years ago, I subscribed to the “12,000 Hockey Fans” theory that states the only people who follow the Bruins are the ones who sit in the stands every game. But I’m convinced otherwise. I truly believe there’s a good percentage of the population that is dying for a Cup contender and thousands more ready to pink hat their way onto the bandwagon if it happens any time soon. It helps that the B’s seem to be using last year’s historic choke job as a riding crop, driving them forward instead of letting it crush them under its weight.
The Lilliputians. Is it me, or are we in the middle of an unprecedented period of undersized superstars/folk heroes in this town? Dustin Pedroia. Wes Welker. Rajon Rondo. Kevin Faulk. Deion Branch. Danny Woodhead. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about watching diminutive athletes play at a high level that’s gratifying to a guy like myself who’s barely 5-foot-10. Woodhead’s touchdown run against Indy, with Welker and Branch blocking, had enough drama, danger, adventure and short guys for a “Lord of the Rings” deleted scene. It even had a brilliant wizard in a gray hood calling the shots. And lots of rings.
WEEI. Go ahead and groan. Yes, I’m going to shamelessly kiss the hand that feeds me here. Among other body parts. I haven’t said this before, but being given column space every week by the major sports media outlet in the city is pretty heady stuff for a lifelong Boston fan with no background in journalism whatsoever. Plus I get invited to be on the air on a regular basis and do “Fanthropology,” a fan-in-the-street video segment. I’d be lying if I listed the things I’m giving thanks for this holiday and didn’t mention the opportunities I’m being given here.
And the best part is, 'EEI is letting me get away with the hackiest column idea in the history of writing, the “Things I’m Thankful For” Thanksgiving article. And for that, I’m truly grateful.