It’s been a rough year in these parts.
From the never-ending winter of 2007-08 to the unbeaten Patriots losing in the Super Bowl, from the skyrocketing fuel prices of midsummer to the current economic meltdown that’s turning everybody’s 401k into a 201k, the 2008 that’s winding down has challenged all the optimists and hardened all the pessimists.
So it’s left to one S. Claus from the North Pole to salvage some good tidings in this holiday season, his vast reservoir of gifts immune to recession thanks to the relentless work ethic of the elves among us.
Even Santa can’t satisfy the ultimate gift list: a lifetime cap of $1.99 a gallon for No. 2 fuel oil, food prices back to before the transportation-related hikes of summer, an American car in which the “check engine” light doesn’t come on every three months, and the hope that hope and change represents more than just a slogan.
But certainly there are a few presents for the sports-minded that Saint Nick can deliver once he extricates himself from the chimney, at least in return for a few cookies and a glass of milk.
For Red Sox Nation: Manny Ramirez to the Yankees. It’s the next logical step in the rivalry, and just the thought of Manny reunited with Johnny Damon in the outfield seems too good to be true. Plus there’s the intrigue of wondering if Manny will join Damon in the ranks of the corporate haircuts.
For Cam Shorey of Calais, Logan McLaughlin of Central Aroostook of Mars Hill, Jerell Arefein of Penquis of Milo and any other basketball player sidelined by ACL tears or other injuries: the healthiest of recoveries so you can resume playing the sport you love as soon as possible.
For Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics: a jump shot. Not that he really needs it, as he is proving himself to be too quick off the dribble for even the premier point guards in the NBA to cope with, but just think how good he would be if he could force defenders out to him with the threat of a 17-foot jumper?
For University of Maine women’s basketball coach Cindy Blodgett: that one or two special recruiting classes that enable the Black Bears to turn the corner in returning to the glory years she remembers from her playing days on the Orono campus.
For the New England Patriots: a return on the investment known as Matt Cassel beyond the current playoff chase. The little-used quarterback has surpassed all expectations while replacing the injured Tom Brady, particularly for a guy who had started as many games as you and I — zero — since high school until being forced behind center in his fourth year with the Patriots. Cassel is expected to get a big free-agent payday during the offseason, and here’s hoping the Patriots’ brain trust can extract a few draft choices for its patience in nurturing the former seventh-round pick.
For University of Maine fullback Jared Turcotte: more carries next season. If he’s good enough to be named a first-team Colonial Athletic Association all-star as a redshirt freshman, seems as though he merits the bulk of the carries, not just 10 or 12 a game.
For Sean Daniels, the Easton High School basketball player now back in the lineup after losing his left hand and forearm in a potato farming accident a year ago: one shining moment at the Bangor Auditorium come tourney time.
And lastly, for all this holiday season: the love of family, the best of health and the spirit of optimism. Merry Christmas!