Happy Thanksgiving, sports fans. Go ahead and grab a turkey leg, pop a cold one and plop yourself in front of the TV. Just remember what day it is and that you're celebrating more than just the chance to watch two NFL games on a Thursday.
So, in the spirit of the day, let's give thanks for:
Having 24-hour-a-day sports and news stations so the video of the NBA brawl in Detroit can be replayed over and over and over and over again. By now, the tape has been analyzed more closely and by more people than the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination.
Living in a world where one day you're suspended for the season for punching out fans, and the next you're on the ''Today'' show taking advantage of your sudden fame to promote a new CD. ''It's positive, it's about love,'' Ron Artest said with a straight face.
The perseverance of Fred Hale Sr. Hale was the world's oldest man, and he hung around long enough to watch his beloved Red Sox finally win a World Series. Hale died last week, 12 days shy of his 114th birthday, but he lived to see the Red Sox do something they hadn't done since he was a mere lad of 27.
The College of Ayurveda in California, where Ricky Williams is studying an ancient Indian medical system called, of course, Ayurveda. The team he left in the lurch may be 1-9, but his former teammates will be interested to hear that Williams has learned ''the things we do in football don't bring more harmony to your life. They just bring more disharmony.''
Greedy players and even greedier owners, who just may hasten the inevitable and kill the National Hockey League. Yes, it's the fastest game on ice, but outside of Canada and a few northern cities, who really cares if they never play again?
Boxing, a sport that allows four men to call themselves heavyweight champion, none of whom would be recognized if he walked through Times Square in New York. Hint: One is a 6-foot-7 Ukrainian who speaks four languages and has two advanced college degrees.
The end of Tigermania, which officially came to a close when Tiger Woods failed to win a single stroke-play tournament on the PGA Tour this year. Jack Nicklaus can rest easy knowing his record of 18 major championships won't be touched, and Vijay Singh can do his best to make people remember why they never cared much about watching golf in the first place.
An NBA commissioner who lives up to his name.
An NBA players' union which will stick up for coddled multimillionaires when no one else will.
The decision by Clemson and South Carolina not to accept bowl bids as punishment for a brawl that broke out between the two schools on Saturday. The punishment may not fit the crime for players who weren't involved, but the decision showed some real college class.
The University of Utah, for going undefeated and finally cracking the very monopoly the BCS was set up to protect.
Having Phil Mickelson to kick around. Mickelson won his first major at the Masters, but fans will also remember that he changed clubs on the eve of the Ryder Cup, refused to practice with his teammates, and took a whipping from the Europeans. Then again, he did shoot a 59 on Wednesday to win the PGA Grand Slam.
Vinny Testaverde being injured so that, in a dreadful Thanksgiving matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears, you'll at least have the novelty of watching ex-baseball player Drew Henson get beaten up in his first pro start.
Doctors who care. Former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe fights again this weekend despite evidence he suffers from brain damage. States with legitimate boxing commissions won't license him, but he'll fight in Kentucky, the same state where former champion Greg Page was nearly left a vegetable from a fight a few years ago.
Fans who don't care. The WUSA is gone, and the WNBA hangs on only through the largesse of NBA owners. Little pixie gymnasts are fine at the Olympics every four years, but American sports fans have shown they simply won't support women's pro sports.
Latrell Sprewell, someone who can relate to the common man. Not only did Sprewell attempt to strangle his boss a fireable offense where most people work but a few weeks ago complained that he couldn't feed his family on $10 million a year.
Kobe and Shaq finally getting a divorce, bringing to a close a soap opera saga that overshadowed the game and allowing the NBA to focus once again on basketball. Until last weekend in Detroit, that is.
Most of all, though, let's give thanks to a society that celebrates sports and a country that allows the dreams of young athletes to be fulfilled.
After you're done watching football and eating that last bit of stuffing, remember the men and women who have chosen another path and are fighting wars for their country in Iraq and Afghanistan. They're lonely, sometimes scared, and a long way from home this Thanksgiving.
Save a piece of pumpkin pie for them.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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