Keidel: Giving Thanks For Sports

By Jason Keidel

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Since we are upon our great day of gratitude, a pretext for gorging on poultry and then taking our swollen torsos to the nearest television for some football, let’s look to sports for reasons to give thanks.

I am grateful for Aaron Rodgers. No one doubts Peyton Manning’s monastic devotion to his craft or Tom Brady’s throaty, preteen spirit, despite all their success. But Rodgers, who appropriately plays in the womb of pro football, is just different. And special. And the best. This year he’s thrown 30 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Three.

The Packers play in some kind of nimbus. Between Lambeau and Lombardi and the conga line of luminaries that place has produced, it just feels fitting that Rodgers is the Man in a league of men. Even as a Steelers fan, I concede there’s something right about the world when the Packers are prominent.

I am grateful for cable television. As all New Yorkers should be. Otherwise, we would have no competitive sports to watch this winter. Since the Yankees stopped forwarding their mail to October, we have no baseball of note. Then the Yanks pass the baton to the Giants, who have yet to beat a winning team this season.

Then Big Blue hands off to Gang Green, perhaps the worst team in football, and getting worse. Oh, and despite all the lofty talk about Phil Jackson’s NBA wizardry, the Knicks are horrific, still a one-man show. And, that man, Carmelo Anthony, has yet to win a meaningful game since Syracuse.

I am grateful for Lebron James’s surreal decision to return home. In his effort to bring social and financial lube to the Rust Belt, James has told us that there is no price high enough for our soul. If you think he sold out when he migrated to Miami, then he must get some love for the reverse.

No one in their right mind swaps jet skis for snow plows, sailboats for salty roads, or palm trees for pine cones unless you have a conscience and immutable loyalty to your native soil. It’s dangerous to think for other folks, but based on what LeBron has already endured in his brief time back, he’s clearly tethered to a higher truth. And that’s so much more interesting than giving Pat Riley another ring.

I am grateful for college football rivalries. New Yorkers have absolutely zero allegiance to a football powerhouse, because we’ve never had one. But we can get great, vicarious thrill from the buffet of blood rivals playing each other this weekend, from Auburn – Alabama to Ohio State – Michigan.

We get a group of Michigan grads squatting at some tavern in Manhattan, who moved here to chase their Sex in the City fantasies. Swathed in their “Go Blue” garb, they haven’t had much to cheer for the last handful of years. But other than the occasional flock of lost souls who fled to the five boroughs and opened a hot yoga shop in Brooklyn, we don’t have an organic loyalty to a college football team. So we root for rivalries. And if your blood can’t boil for a game like last year’s Iron Bowl – perhaps the best college football game I’ve ever seen – then don’t bother watching sports.

I am grateful for Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

Say what?

Yes. Despite his bulging rap sheet and third-person diatribes, Mayweather has kept boxing on our tongues.

No doubt the sport has largely been relegated to the back alleys of the sports pages, nestled nicely between horse racing and high school wrestling. But once or twice a year, Mayweather brings his mouth and singular commerce to Las Vegas, and his considerable boxing gifts to the squared circle, the one place where he behaves like an adult.

Sure, he’s impossible to like personally. His shtick is borrowed from boxers who were way more original when they brought their hubris to the sweet science. A dwindling few still think Floyd’s angry monologues are unique, but Muhammad Ali he is not. The stacks of cash, conga line of cars, and harem are boring facsimiles of a ’90s hip-hop video.

So this pseudo-salute is not to Mayweather the man, but rather the boxer. And if you are a pure devotee to a sport or craft, you can’t dispute Floyd Mayweather’s craftsmanship, which has helped keep boxing’s pulse, no matter how faint. Besides, part of the Thanksgiving spirit must mean we look past the less gracious parts of personality.

Twitter: @JasonKeidel

Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden.

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