I hope this letter finds you well as I prepare for what I hope will be the best Christmas yet (except maybe that first one and when I got the PlayStation). How is Mrs. Claus? Did you guys have a nice summer? I hear the North Pole is beautiful that time of year, full of caribou, birds, wolves and whatnot (look who I’m telling).Anyway, getting to the point. Instead of my usual list of selfish items, this year I want to ask you for a few gifts for the world of sports, with only a couple selfish requests sprinkled in. I think they will be easy for you because I know you’re a smart man with discerning sports tastes, much like myself.1. For the NHL to become more popular. I don’t understand why people are so resistant to giving the league a chance. There has been such an influx of young talent after the 2004-05 lockout that there will be significant star stability for the next 10 years. Players like Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Anze Kopitar, Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Mike Richards, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane are laying the foundation for some of the best hockey seasons ever and should be household names. Anyone who watched the seven-game series between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins last playoffs knows it was one of the most compelling series in a long time in any sport. I have just started to truly enjoy the sport, and it is out of my good will for humanity that I want others to feel that same joy.
2. For Tiger Woods to be in contention in all four majors next year. I love golf and will watch major tournaments regardless of who is playing, but even you must admit it’s much more fun when the best player of all time is on top of his game. If I were the best at something I’d want people watching me (unless I got in a suspicious car accident).
3. I want at least one of the four tennis grand slams to be as breath-takingly spectacular as the last two men’s Wimbledon finals. I don’t watch much tennis, but those two matches were as good as anything I’ve ever seen.
4. For NFL owners to not renew the collective bargaining agreement resulting in an uncapped year next season in the NFL. Imagine, capitalism at its finest. For one season, owners will no longer be forbidden from spending whatever it takes to buy the best players to win a Super Bowl. And hey, if my team’s owner (the Redskins’ Daniel Snyder) is willing to spend a little more out of his pocket, who are we to judge? I believe that salary caps will go back to being the norm, but it should be interesting to have a baseball-like season where the richest teams usually win. If the Yankees and Red Sox can be World Series contenders every year by outspending their opponents, why can’t the Cowboys and Redskins buy a Super Bowl?
5. For the Royals, Orioles, Pirates, Reds, and especially the Nationals to have good seasons. Good, hardworking people root for these teams and we…I mean they…deserve to have something go right. Parity is a big reason the NFL is so popular, and it takes forever to turn an MLB franchise around. The Tampa Bay Rays’ ascension may have seemed sudden, but it was the product of many years of hardship, low draft picks, and meaningless seasons. Seven franchises (Texas, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Washington/Montreal) have not made the playoffs this millennium, compared to only two in the NFL (Buffalo and Detroit). For goodness’ sake Santa, I don’t know how many more last-place finishes I can take! 6. For a time machine. I just need to use it once so I can go back to that awful call the referees made in the Pomona-Pitzer men’s water polo game against Redlands and let them make the right call. I’m not bitter; I just want those two gentlemen to be taken off the naughty list in good conscience.
7. For the United States to perform well at the Winter Olympics in February. I love the Olympics and it’s nice to feel superior to other countries. Our athletes winning medals just gives me that old-fashioned feeling that America truly is better than everybody else. Sometimes, that’s all I need.
8. For a snow game in the NFL playoffs. Snow. Football. ’Nuff said.
9. For an end to vest uniforms in baseball. What is this, the early 2000’s? Those uniforms just don’t look professional and don’t lend themselves to the popular 3/4-sleeves look that’s oh so hot right now.
10. For you to sow the seeds that fix D-I NCAA football. I don’t expect much. Just get the ball rolling. The situation is so messed up that I don’t see a solution that schools, teams, sponsors, and fans could even come close to agreeing on. BCS Champions are more disputed than whether sandwiches should be cut into triangles or rectangles. In my book, if those boys graduate and grow as humans in their time at college, they’re the real champions.So that is my 2009 Christmas list. I would appreciate receiving any of these that you can accommodate. I’ve been a good sports fan all year, staying loyal to my struggling teams and giving other sports a chance. I look forward to opening these gifts as they unfold. Until then, I will keep downing eggnog, listening to novelty Christmas songs, and going to Holiday parties waiting patiently for the commemoration of the birth of our savior. For, as Linus would say, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”God Bless, and Merry Christmas,Nick Frederick