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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Wishes

Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the country
Not a league was content; all commishes were grumpy.
Dollars and cents are what drive their train,
And even the successful still have something to gain;
The athletes play hard, and the fans they all cheer,
But the games can be bigger by this time next year.

As the year comes to an end, the folks in charge of every major sports league have visions of things besides sugar plums dancing in their heads.  If I was in charge of sending a Christmas letter to Santa on behalf of each of the major American sports, here is what I'd ask to see under the tree on Christmas morning.  Only one request per sport.  After all, Santa is a busy man.

College Basketball:  If we could have one thing in the world, we would like to see Santa swoop in and change the NBA's age requirements.  The media and fans gripe and complain all the time about the "one-and-done" rule that allows players to leave after their freshman year.  But, the thing is, it's not our rule.  It's an NBA rule.  If we could get Santa to force the NBA into a system more like the one that MLB maintains with college baseball, we'd be in much better shape.  Instead of featuring unpolished freshman who haven't attended a single class in the spring semester, we'd have a slate of older guys who can read and hold decent press conferences.  Now, that's what we'd call marketable.

College Football:  Santa, what we really want is an 8th day in the week.  A decade ago, we expanded out of Saturdays and moved into Thursday nights.  It was a good run.  We had UVA beating FSU in 1995 and NC State beating FSU in 2012.  But, the NFL has moved into our Thursday space and cramped our style a bit.  We have now claimed Tuesdays, Wednesday and Fridays for MACtion.  But we need a night for the Sunbelt and the WAC to shine.  If Santa could bring us a night between Thursday and Friday we'd be delighted.  And we know that all degenerate gamblers will be, too.

NFL:  We're basically the gods of the sports world.  Unfortunately, the real God didn't consult us when he designed the human brain.  So, we need to ask Santa for a concussion cure.  And let's be clear.  We're not asking for a concussion prevention device.  Injuries are a part of the game.  But, even our bloodthirsty fans don't really want to promote the early onset of dementia.  And the fans especially don't want key players missing games for precautionary reasons.  So, if St. Nick could bring us something that would fully cure concussions after a few hours and completely erase the lasting effects, that would be excellent.

NHL:  Oh Santa, if we could have anything in the world, we'd like to have a TV contract with ESPN once again.  No offense to our current partners at NBC.  They do a fine job with the broadcasts.  But we all know that ESPN drives the sports conversation.  And they drive that conversation towards sports they actually broadcast.  Just ask the MLS.  Their TV contract gets them a slot every night on the SportsCenter Top 10.  We know we'll never be as popular as the NFL.  We just want ESPN to force Mike and Mike to talk about us once in a while and to have a reason to occasionally run our stories on the ticker at the bottom of the screen during Tuesday night MAC football games.

MLB:  We don't know if Santa has the power to erase memories, but if you do, here is our request:  We'd like to have all sports fans' recollection of the years 1998 through 2005 erased.  We know that the summer of 1998 made everyone who was burned by the strike of 1994 feel good about our national pastime again.  But, those juiced up years have cost us more PR than we ever bargained for.  We don't want to give back the revenues we earned in those years.  We just don't want modern day journalists and fans to think about any of those years when they are voting on the Hall of Fame or discussing our current and strong steroids policy.

NBA:  Santa, what we really need this Christmas is for you to deliver a contender to the Big Apple.  We did our best to create this ourselves.  We let that crazy Russian billionaire move his team from the swamps of Jersey and into trendy Brooklyn.  He broke the bank on bringing a collection of all stars to the Nets, but even that hasn't worked.  Basketball is an urban game, and it just seems like a crime to us that America's greatest urban center hasn't had a good team to root for in a couple decades.

MLS:  If we could ask Santa for one thing, it would be that we actually deserve to be on a list of "major" American sports.  Perhaps Santa is already working on this request by giving us a brand spanking new franchise in Orlando for 2015 and another one on the horizon for Miami in the near future.  Moving into highly populated Florida will certainly propel us to attendance heights that will demand national respect, right?  Wait, what?  Professional teams in Florida struggle for fans in baseball and football?   Well then, we'll just ask Santa to continue to let us get on SportsCenter's Top 10 on even if American football was played that night.

NASCAR:  Our number one Christmas wish is that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would win a championship.  Actually, our top five Christmas wishes are all that Junior would win a championship.  We've got a lot of great personalities in our sport.  But, the sports landscape is a crowded one.  And, we admit that if we want to get ourselves back into the spotlight, we need our most famous and most popular driver to really shine on the track.  Junior certainly has the talent and Hendrick has the resources to make this happen, so we're really not asking too much from Santa here.

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