It happens to me — rather, to everyone who wants to know — every year these days. Christmas rolls around and inevitably the question comes.“So, what do you want for Christmas?”
With a loving wife and a beautiful 4-year-old daughter, I find it hard to find wants this time of year. To be quite honest, that is more than enough and more than I ever thought I’d have. So asking for something particular come Christmas always makes me feel a tad bit guilty.
But then I got to thinking about it. Thinking hard, even. And there are a few things I’d like to see come my way.
I want steroids to go away. Somehow, someway, I want them gone, and gone for good.
I want to believe that what I’m seeing play out in front of me is the real thing, not some medically enhanced mutant performing spectacular, Herculean tasks on the playing fields I enjoy so much.
And while I find myself wanting to know more — when, how, why, why not, and yes, who — I want it all to be done. Let’s get it all out into the open air, fix it somehow, and move on.
If that could be found wrapped up tidily under a tree somewhere, whether it be my tree or George Mitchell’s, Tom Davis’, Marion Jones’, Floyd Landis’ or even Roger Clemens’, I’ll take it.
You know what else I want, though? I want to see professional athletes stop being targets for criminals.
This isn’t necessarily anything new, I realize. But it wasn’t that long ago when athletes being targeted meant they just needed to be careful and take care of certain things when the groupies came calling. The days of waking up to a paternity suit as the worst thing imaginable are long gone.
These days, it’s good if our pros just wake up.
Darrent Williams. Sean Taylor. Something evil is lurking in the underbelly of professional sports, and it’s happening often to young, rich, black men. And even though millions of us cheer for them and wear their jerseys proudly, when they need us the most, to find a way to put a stop to what’s happening, we can’t find the time. Are we still that backward, that uninvolved in matters concerning those who don’t look like us that we can’t sit down and figure this out?
I don’t have the answer. I wish I did. It’s definitely a complex, societal thing. So that’s why I want Christmas to work its magic, I guess.
At the same time, I want our professional athletes to start thinking for themselves, too. To rethink whether it’s a good idea to sign a $100 million contract one day and chain dogs to a rape stand the next. To consider whether the boys back at home really do have your best interests at heart, or your wallet.
I’d also like to believe that pivotal NBA playoff games aren’t at the mercy of a referee who might have a bundle of cash on the line. When I hear a late whistle, I want to think it had fallen out of his mouth for a second, not because he needs the points.
I also want people to think before they react, to look back on how their team has performed over the long run compared to a season here or a season there. If you make the playoffs every year but don’t win a championship, do you really stop knowing how to do things because another team played better than yours over the course of one week? Is that all it really takes to move a man from genius to bum?
While we’re at it, can we do whatever it takes to change the coaching carousel in college athletics? I want that, too. Move the recruiting period, at least enough so coaches don’t have to stray while the kids they promised the world to in their homes prepare for their last game of the season, or the last game of their careers.
And sure, I’d love to ask for a college football playoff, but I’ll concede here if it means getting a few things at the top of this list. Keep the BCS, just don’t release the first rankings of the season until October. Must everybody be a slave to television ratings? Do we all really need the little number next to a team’s name for us to tune in and watch at the beginning of the season?
But if there is still room in that big bag, let’s use the BCS for at least four spots and then play it off. Next, year, though, I’ll be looking for eight.
I guess that’s all. Surely it’s enough. A lot, really.
Steroids. Death. Federal prison. Deceit.
Granted, I guess I could be asking for peace on Earth while I’m at it. I probably have as much chance of getting that as any of these.
But really, that’s all I want for Christmas.
I want my sports back.
Like any kid this time of year, I just want to believe.