Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hard Hits: What We Have To Be Thankful For

This Thanksgiving, most of us will celebrate the holiday with family in style feasting on turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings. It's only one of the best American traditions. Truth be told, this is my favorite time of year. It reminds me of all that's good in life. I've been blessed to have two great parents who have always been there along with a great brother who I consider my best friend.

I enjoy the cold weather and try to take advantage of the days without rain or snow by getting out for walks in the park. Sure, you have to bundle up but it's always worth it. There's something about the crispness of the air. It's just better for some reason.

In any event, this column usually covers a particular topic in sports. But this week's a little different. There is plenty to be thankful about when it comes to athletics. So, let's examine what there is to appreciate when we follow our teams and players:

1.That the two New York baseball teams can compete every year without the financial difficulties that Florida and Tampa Bay deal with.

2.That the Giants are giving us the kind of football season we expected from the Jets. That Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress connection is darn good.

3.Sadly, the Jets are just thankful that the season is almost over. At least they still have Jonathan Vilma.

4.That Larry Brown got all that money up front from Jim Dolan to coach these Knickerbockers. At least they drafted Channing Frye.

5.That Jason Kidd has Richard Jefferson on his left and Vince Carter on his right to lob the ball up to.

6.That the Rangers actually have a pulse this season and play with a passion not seen in years. It always helps to have a motivated Jaromir Jagr.

7.That the Devils are still waiting for Patrik Elias to return to see how good they are.

8.That the Islanders don't play Ottawa today to ruin their holiday. At least Chris Campoli is playing well.

9.That St. John's basketball won't be a laughingstock anymore in its second year under Coach Roberts. Plus Showtime Hill and Anthony Mason Jr. should be fun to watch.

10.At least Seton Hall doesn't have to play Duke again on their schedule.

11.If Rutgers can scratch out one more win, they'll definitely go to a Bowl game even after their embarrassing loss to Louisville.

12.To watch Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush for one more year try to three-peat at USC.

13.To see Charlie Weis make Notre Dame football relevant again on Saturdays.

14.Feel great for Joe Paterno, whose Penn State Nittany Lions have silenced all the critics and will play in a BCS game in January.

15.Picture Texas QB Vince Young making life difficult for USC unlike Oklahoma's Jason White last year.

16.Enjoy these preseason college basketball tournaments with games like Michigan State-Gonzaga, Arizona-Michigan State and Gonzaga-Uconn all going down to the wire.

17.It also helps to hear Dick Vitale and Bill Raftery in midseason form with great enthusiasm, "Baby!"

18.How great it is to have the NHL back on ice and see an improved product that keeps fans interested.

19.Watching Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin show that they're the real deal and will be the new faces of hockey for years.

20.Being able to watch kids compete on the hardwood during a Thanksgiving Eve Staten Island tradition between neighborhood rivals Curtis and St. Peters.

21.That ESPN posterboy Terrell Owens won't be on our TVs for the rest of this football season.

22.That LeBron James really is this good already and will only get better.

23.That the NBA has two talented rookie guards like Chris Paul and Deron Williams who will be stars for years to come.

24.That the shootout hasn't turned off NHL fans. Not when they jump out of their seats in anticipation to see what happens.

25.Watching Roger Federer play tennis like a Van Gogh work, inventing shots from difficult angles. Only the best player of his generation. Sorry Pete.

26.That James Blake could revive American tennis with a quarterfinal show against Andre Agassi that people will still be talking about years from now.

27.That aside from her looks, Maria Sharapova can actually compete for a slam title at any event. But could comeone please get her father Yuri to shutup?

28.That the women's game could have the variety that it does, making it truly unpredictable.

29.The prospect of Hot Stove is underway creating lots of anticipation for pitchers and catchers. Less than 11 weeks to go!

30.That in tough times, sports can take the stress away and allow people to enjoy individual athletic prowess at its best.


Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there who reads this column and enjoys the good that sports has to offer! Always remember that there are people who are less fortunate on days like this, which makes us appreciate it more.

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