I won’t mince words: It’s been a tough year here at Universal Santa, Inc. (currently held in a blind trust by Bain Capital). We had to lay off nearly a quarter of our elves as well as Donner and Blitzen. The Occupy North Pole protesters disrupted the night shift on several occasions, and their lack of a coherent strategy was inexplicable until I noticed Ron Washington among them.
Nonetheless, I take seriously my orders from Gary Bettman to charge ahead and deliver a smashing set of gifts to those who’ve been naughty (so many) and nice (the real 1%) in the world of sports.
To Josh Beckett: A pound of hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, the Director’s Cut DVD of Rooster Cogburn, and a guest spot next year on “This American Life” for its annual Poultry Slam.
To Adrian Peterson: A heart-to-heart talk with Barry Sanders about health and survival as a running back on a futile team.
To Sidney Crosby: A helmet made from pieces of a Tempur-Pedic mattress. (Seriously: you drop a bowling ball on it, and it doesn’t disturb the wineglass next to the dent. That wouldn’t help with concussions?)
To Ndamukong Suh: Anger management classes taught by Metta World Peace.
To Blake Griffin: Nothing. He got his gift already.
To Roger Bennett and Michael Davies: A RealClearSports patch in recognition of their brilliant and hilarious “Men In Blazers” podcast on the Grantland Network. Thanks to their gentle prodding, I have now watched enough Premier League football to know that Mario Balotelli looks nothing like Manu Ginobili.
To Andy Reid: A boxed DVD set of Zombieland, The Walking Dead, and the complete works of George Romero, in honor of the Philadelphia Eagles’ season.
To David Stern: A long, quiet look at the view of Lake Tahoe from the back porch. (Aside to Dan Gilbert: If the commissioner asks you to take his son fishing, say no.)
To Rory McIlroy: An Irish setter, to go along with his great Dane.
To Ryan Braun: A tattoo reading gam atah (Hebrew for “Et tu”).
To Bud Selig: A visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future, showing him what the world will be like if Major League Baseball keeps forcing clips from its past off the Internet. Baseball’s history is its greatest selling point; take a page from the NBA’s book, and the revenue streams will take care of themselves.
To Tiger Woods: Humility commensurate with his results.
To Theo Epstein: Greener grass, and one Chicago dog dragged through the garden and wrapped in ivy.
To Jerry Sandusky, Bernie Fine, and Bill Conlin (all allegedly): A large lump of coal. Inserted appropriately. (Allegedly.)
To Chad Harbach: A place on the Mount Rushmore of baseball fiction – alongside Bernard Malamud (The Natural), Robert Coover (The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.), and W.P. Kinsella (Shoeless Joe) – for his wise, charming, and fully-realized novel The Art of Fielding. It is a baseball novel, in the same way that The Great Gatsby is a novel about home entertaining. I nominate Curtis Hanson to direct the film and do for it what he did for Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys.
To Ryan Fitzpatrick: Fifty-nine million reasons to love Buffalo, though only twenty-four million are guaranteed.
To Kevin Durant: His own personal narrator on the sidelines in OKC, like he had at Rucker Park this summer.
To Albert and Diedre Pujols: Much happine$$ and succe$$ in Anaheim, and a place in the Angels’ pantheon alongside… um… uh…
To Peyton Manning: A fresh start. Of the 18 Hall of Fame quarterbacks who played in the Super Bowl era, only half spent their whole careers with one team. Indianapolis’s 1-13 record shows how much rebuilding must be done; must Peyton Manning end his career the way his father spent his?
To LaShawn Merritt: For the Olympic 400-meter champion who proved his positive drug test was an accident caused by taking the male enhancement pill ExtenZe, the ability to hold his form up to and through the finish line.
To Yani Tseng: Another dominant season (12 wins worldwide, with two LPGA majors) in the hope that somebody will notice this time around.
To Bobby Valentine: A fan base as fanatical about his efforts as he is.
And finally, To my readers: Gratitude for your forbearance, appreciation for your responses, hope (springing eternal) for your teams, and all good wishes for a healthy and happy Twenty Twelve.