By DERON SNYDER
Birthdays are the most common method for noting our individual orbits around the sun.
Collectively, we reflect and celebrate our treks when New Year’s Eve slides into New Year’s Day.
While I certainly rejoice on those occasions, Thanksgiving has become just as meaningful. Gathering with family has a lot to do with that, recognizing we survived another 52 weeks and remembering those who didn’t.
The next holiday isn’t guaranteed for any of us.
So, when I’m blessed with the opportunity to express gratitude on the fourth Thursday of November each year, it carries special significance. Especially with Vanessa, Sierra and Sequoia by my side. With food, clothing and shelter to address my physical needs. With family, friends and loved ones to meet my emotional needs.
And I can’t forget about sports. The industry has provided entertainment for as long as I can remember, and employment throughout my adult life.
With that said, I’m thankful:
• FOR THE NFL’S REALIZATION THAT IT’S NOT IMMUNE TO ADVERSITY.
I understand setting the bar high. But the league got full of itself in attempting to generate $25 billion a year by 2027. It showed disdain for fans (full-price tickets for exhibitions), players (a full slate of Thursday games) and advertisers (an increasingly sloppy product). Having POTUS pick on you as TV ratings decline doesn’t help.
Karma is no joke.
• FOR DAVE MARTINEZ’S SHOT AT BEING A MAJOR-LEAGUE MANAGER.
Lots of good baseball men never got a chance, despite widespread belief they had “it.” Martinez checked all the boxes for the Nationals: baseball IQ; personable; analytics proponent. He also reached the postseason regularly as Joe Maddon’s bench coach. All that helped Martinez overcome an apparent obstacle – his surname. There are 699 managers listed on Baseball-Reference.com.
Only 17 are Hispanic.
• FOR JOEL EMBIID’S ABILITY TO BE HEALTHY (KNOCK ON WOOD).
The 76ers center is excelling after injuries cost him his first two NBA seasons. He entered Wednesday averaging 21 points and 9 rebounds in just 29 minutes per game. His stats against the Lakers – 46 points, 14 boards, 7 assists and 7 blocks – were historic. Embiid’s nickname is “The Process” but Lakers coach Luke Walton calls him something else:
“He’s a problem.”
• FOR KELLY OUBRE’S CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT AND EXUBERANCE.
Wearing a coat that featured an expletive showed poor taste and bad judgement, but that’s the worst we can say about the Wizards forward thus far. While fellow Kansas alum Markieff Morris recovered from injury, Oubre made the most of extended minutes. His 3-point shooting percentage, rebounding and scoring have increased significantly. And he’s still an energizer bunny.
With fashion choices to match.
• FOR KYRIE IRVING’S DECISION TO STEP OUT OF LEBRON’S SHADOW.
Say what you will, but the Celtics point guard is fearless. He wasn’t afraid to leave Cleveland. He wasn’t afraid to take one of the NBA Finals’ biggest shots. And he wasn’t afraid when Gordon Hayward went down on opening night. Irving has led Boston on a 16-game winning streak, putting his name in the MVP discussion.
Guess he was right.
• FOR THE NATIONALS’ RESOLUTION TO OVERPAY JAYSON WERTH.
Washington had to offer a premium to induce the A-list free agent in 2011. The Nats averaged 96 losses in the prior five seasons. Werth, a Top 10 MVP-candidate in 2010, gave them a measure of credibility that was bought, not earned. His $126 million contract was outrageous, but it marked the franchise’s first step from laughingstock to perennial contender.
Money well spent.
• FOR SHOHEI OHTANI’S DETERMINATION TO BE A TWO-WAY STAR.
The 23-year-old has thrown fastballs 102 mph and hit homers 500 feet. He’s so anxious to leave Japan and do it in the majors, he’s forgoing the millions he’d earn after his 25th birthday. Ohtani can play a few days per week and pitch on the other days – if not do both in the same game.
He puts the flex in roster flexibility.
• FOR CAYLIN NEWTON’S CHOICE TO ATTEND HOWARD UNIVERSITY.
An older brother is a famous NFL quarterback. But this Newton made his own name in his debut, directing Howard to college football’s biggest-ever point-spread upset. He proceeded to become the MEAC’s first freshman to eclipse 3,000 yards from scrimmage, leading the Bison to a 7-4 record after the program totaled three victories combined in the prior two seasons.
• FOR COLIN KAEPERNICK’S WILLINGNESS TO STAND BY KNEELING.
On Monday, a Chicago police officer was convicted of excessive force for firing 16 times into a moving vehicle filled with teenagers. The Chicago Tribune said Marco Proano might be the city’s first cop ever sentenced to federal prison for an on-duty shooting. Kaepernick’s protest cost him his job. But it might help to right wrongs and fight injustice.
If so, his sacrifice isn’t in vain.
We all can be thankful for something.