Things in Sports We Are Thankful For
Turkey is selling out, shoppers are camping outdoors and Christmas music has been playing on the radio for the last three weeks.
Yup, the holiday season is here, and with it comes all the usual fuss and strain of a time originally intended to promote goodwill and appreciation for life's many blessings. In that spirit, it's time for us as fans to take a timeout and show some appreciation for the gifts that sports continues to throw our way.
The following are a number of things we as sports fans are thankful for, and no one is getting a lick of mashed potatoes before they ante up and show some gratitude.
There aren't enough thanks in the world to give this phenomenon its proper due.
Upsets are the spice of life in sports—the rare frankincense that drops out of the sky and smothers a bland matchup in delicious, sweet 'n sour drama. It's watching nobody teams take on the big boys and dump them on their fragile, overinflated heads.
It never gets old—and it never will.
Sports' ultimate dagger play, buzzer-beaters are the shots that rock living rooms and register on the Richter scale.
Many drop in from long distance—traveling half the court or more before whipping through the hoop. Even more ridiculous, however, are the buzzer-beaters tossed up under the basket. Those are the true nerve-stranglers—the slow dribblers that bounce and circle the rim for eternity before falling.
Buzzer-beaters are no fun for the victims, but when your team manages to cork one off—well, you're fully justified if you want to open a bottle of bubbly and tinsel the house in April.
NFL Red Zone
NFL Red Zone, blessed art thou amongst sports channels.
For thine is the touchdowns, and the big plays and the scoring. Forever and ever. Amen.
You've experienced a game like this before—the contest that was seemingly over by halftime.
The other guys were scoring at will, the referees were jobbing you into an early grave and your team couldn't catch a break with a butterfly net. The game was dunzo. Kaput. Or at least it appeared to be.
One minute you're floating dead in the doldrums, and the next thing you know, your guys have risen from the ashes like a phoenix. Points are scored, turnovers are forced and your team snatches victory from the maw of defeat.
These surreal moments don't come often, but when they do, you must thank God, your lucky stars and even the lights of passenger planes that look like stars—just to be thorough.
Bless them father, for they have winned.
Big-guy touchdowns are the reason the seasons change and the Earth keeps spinning.
The sight of a large man stumbling into the end zone and performing a jig is enough to break a smile on the faces of even the most cynical of football fans. The big-guy touchdown is a rare and joyous celebration of the human spirit that brings people of all creeds and allegiances together.
It's a rich, delicious experience we almost feel guilty partaking in—thus making it the Thanksgiving dinner of sports.
Every time a short guy dunks, an angel gets its wings and R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" is played over a boom box.
Nothing makes the spirit soar like the sight of vertically challenged people taking flight.
For the same reason that we're thankful for cat GIFs and James Franco, we as sports fans must be grateful for Rob Gronkowski and the wisdom that springs eternal from his mouth.
Much like the words of Voltaire, the Gronkowski School of Thought is ahead of its time and will prove its longevity before all is said and done.
Lines from Gronk's "Yo soy fiesta" manifesto continue to be picked apart and expounded on by sports scholars, and his recent thesis on Floridian time-travel has brought into question a number of formerly established ideas concerning the space-time continuum.
In short, we love you, Gronk. Thank you for never being anyone but you.
One of the best coming-of-age films in history of cinema, The Sandlot took every weird character you ever encountered throughout the course of your childhood and crammed them into one movie.
It sounds like it wouldn't work, but somehow the film managed to not only carry out the task, but flawlessly weave in the story of how sports bring children together and impact their lives.
We all knew a Scotty Smalls, a Ham Porter and a Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez growing up—and we all have a bit of them in us.
The OSU Band
Hate the Buckeyes if you want, but real sports fans know talent when they see it.
The Ohio State marching band delivers the goods week in and week out during the college football season, and it does it on an unrivaled scale. One Saturday the band brings Michael Jackson back to life, the next it resurrects a T-Rex and marches it across the field.
We can stow away personal rivalries for creative works of this magnitude and should be thankful to see their high-level work on a yearly basis.
The Manning Face
Never have struggle, desire and WTH ever been more poignantly expressed than they are in the Manning Face.
The term was originally coined by ESPN sportswriter and Grantland.com founder Bill Simmons, who uses it to describe anyone who puts on a facial expression akin to a whipped bloodhound.
Win, lose or draw, it's a guarantee that both Manning brothers will wear the glorious Manning Face at some point during any athletic contest. And for that, we thank them.
Shown but for a few fleeting moments a game, super fans are often used as sideshows for broadcasters looking to kill time during breaks in the action.
If only there were more appreciation for these strange individuals, who devote enormous gobs of their time each week to gearing up and supporting their teams.
Take Garey Faulkner, for example—the bearded Cincinnati sports fan who shows up to Bengals and Cavaliers games with new beard styles each week. Even better is the fact that Faulkner competes in professional beard competitions across the nation and donates his winnings to charity.
That's a man we can be thankful for.
Nothing stops a fan in his tracks like the sight of a great young talent.
Diaper Dandies, a term coined by ESPN analyst Dick Vitale to denote super freshmen, or whatever you want to call them, are the most intriguing specimens in the game. Following their progress becomes an addiction to fans, and nothing feels better than seeing them live up to their potential on the big stage.
Baseball season may be behind us, but the imprint that Mariano Rivera left on the game carries on.
The Sandman was a class act on and off the baseball field during his long career, and his immeasurable talents will be lauded, mimicked and perhaps never equaled. He has earned the respect of all baseball fans, regardless of their allegiances.
As the crest of another mammoth steroid scandal looms over the league, it's men like Rivera who still provide a model of class and success for future baseball players everywhere.
There are so many reasons to be thankful for backup quarterbacks that it dizzies the mind just to consider them.
For starters, backup quarterbacks are the guys who step up in times of strife. When your field general goes down or throws one too many picks, the backup becomes the guy you now depend on. He didn't plan on this happening, but nonetheless he jogs in there and assumes one of the highest-pressure roles in professional sports.
The backup also provides limitless entertainment for sports fans. If he does well—huzzah! The Internet rejoices, and the next Matt Flynn is lauded as the heir apparent. It's a real-life Rudy moment.
If he fares abysmally—huzzah! Again, this can be entertainment, especially if the backup is a part-time male model and Notre Dame alumnus.
The backup quarterbacks we're most grateful for, however, are the ones who score hilarious rushing touchdowns, a la Scott Tolzien. This is the highest level of backup quarterback entertainment.
Craig Sager and His Suits
"Don't hate the Sager, hate the game."
Trashing on Craig Sager's style is just another way of admitting you wear a blue blazer and khakis to job interviews.
This man is stared down, sweated and belittled every year by Gregg Popovich—and he keeps coming back for more. That alone merits respect by the freight-full.
On the Twitters, doing it Big Sager Style.