Christmas Eve 1994, the Kansas City Chiefs were playing the Oakland Raiders and the winner of the game advanced to the playoffs. Joe Montana was quarterback for the Chiefs and I was watching the game just before with my family left for Mass. As the game went down to the fourth quarter, I turned to my Dad and said, "There is no way God would let Joe Montana lose on Christmas Eve." I was right of course, the Chiefs won 19-9. Christmas time is not as tied-in with sports as Thanksgiving, but it does have some connection. Recall the University of Kentucky Invitational Tournament (UKIT) being played over the holiday season. High School Basketball tournaments will be going on across the state. Along with NBA games on Christmas Day, almost always featuring either the Los Angeles Lakers or Michael Jordan. Future All-Stars and All-Pros will open their very first basketball, football, or baseball mitt. A bicycle might be put together for a future Tour de France winner and a soccer ball will be given to the next Landon Donovan.
Christmas time is also a time for questions. Have I been naughty, like the NFL's Randy Moss who attempted to run over a traffic cop, or nice, like the NBA's Tracy McGrady who visited a young victim of the Washington D.C. sniper? Will I get what I asked for? What time will I sneak out of work on Christmas Eve? What size in clothes does my newly pregnant sister wear now? Why doesn't anyone go Christmas caroling anymore? And the biggest question of all, What am I going to get for Christmas? Well, if I was Santa Claus, which might be difficult considering how long it takes me to grow a beard, these are some of the Christmas wishes I would have for people out there in Sportsland.
Tubby Smith, UK Basketball Coach- For Tubby, a season with less than 10 losses, a top NCAA seed, an SEC regular season and tournament title, and a trip to the Final Four. That is not too much to ask is it? And it should get people off his back for at least a couple of weeks.
Mitch Barnhart, UK Athletic Director-To find a new football coach, and very soon. A piece of advice Mitch, do not hold a press conference announcing you will hire a new coach by Christmas unless you really plan on doing it. Hopefully Santa can fit a new coach down the chimney, which of course eliminates Bill Parcells.
Jared Lorenzen, UK QB-This will be J-Lo's third offensive coordinator in four years, something that is never easy on a quarterback. To make it easier, let's hope you receive a tread mill for Christmas and we'll try to use our old connections to get you a lifetime salad bar pass at Ruby Tuesday's.
Dick Vitale-Hopefully Santa brings you a new schtick, because your current one is getting old, real old. Vitale gets old soon after you pass the age of 19. When was the last time you heard him actually make an insightful comment, or criticize a coach? Maybe we could send him some tapes of the late and great Cawood Ledford.
John Madden-On the subject of schtick getting old. At least his video games are good.
Rich Pitino, UL basketball coach-To show we're not a Grinch, let's wish Coach Pitino and his loved ones good health and no tragedies. Hmm. Wonder, if he gets visited by the ghost of Christmas Past, does it look like Richie Farmer?
Tim Couch, former UK QB, current Cleveland Browns whipping boy-A box of tissues for his next sob-fest on national television. OK, maybe that was unfair, but it is not working out in Cleveland for Timmy C. The fans do not like him, and he does not like them. He should be sent to a new city and soon. Spurrier up in D.C. could use a live arm.
John L. Smith and Dave Ragone, UL football coach and UL quarterback-They wish they would receive two tickets to the Fiesta Bowl so they can fulfill their preseason promise of going to a BCS bowl.
Guy Morriss, former UK football coach-This guy just parlayed a 9-14 career record into a multi-million dollar contract. What else does he need?
Keith Bogans, UK basketball Senior-Tayshaun Prince and now Keith Bogans, proof that seniors can succeed. For him, continued success this season and a high selection in the NBA draft.
Cliff Hawkins, UK point guard-Cliff should realize the tremendous opportunity being an athlete on scholarship gives him. Do you know how hard it is to fail classes when you are a top Division I athlete? They have access to academic support systems the average student can only dream about. Here's to hoping he gets his act in gear and graduates with a degree.
To the new UK football coach-Either Male's Michael Bush or Trinity's Brian Brohm. Hopefully, these incredibly talented football players will grace us all by staying in state. The annual UK vs. UL football match up would be much more appealing with these guys suiting up against one another.
To UK fans-For you a basketball team that can knock down three's and a football team that can knock down Hail Mary's.
For me-Well, the same Christmas wishes I always have. Peace on Earth. Goodwill toward Man. And the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
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