This is a great time of year to be a sports fan. From professional and college basketball or football to global football to hockey to combat sports to racing to, heck, a group of guys playing high-stakes darts in the back of some dive bar in your old hometown on Thanksgiving night, sports are everywhere you look.
Sports are as ubiquitous as pre-Thanksgiving holiday decorations, and with the ever-increasing dependence on digital media and mobile devices, we can watch any event at any time, no matter where this holiday season brings us.
Take this week, for example. From Thanksgiving Eve through the final whistle of Monday Night Football, there are hundreds of different sporting events to watch around the world. Trust me, I counted.
There are 511 events if we just tally NFL, Division I football and basketball, top-flight global football in Europe and North America, NHL, NBA and UFC events. And that is surely omitting several dozen niche sports some network is certainly televising somewhere in America this week.
That—all 511 contests, plus the ones I've forgotten—is what I'm most thankful for in sports this year. I surveyed my Bleacher Report colleagues to get their top Thanksgiving picks, too. You'll find them below, after I have my say.
I'm thankful that our collective opinions on all of those events can be so easily shared, debated, debunked and championed online, sometimes all at once.
It's difficult to be a general sports columnist with so much going on around you, and it's hard to have a salient, reasoned and informed opinion on everything. That's the fun challenge with this job—finding the topics most worthy of discussion and trying your darnedest not to come off like an idiot. I'm thankful I get to try, and I'm thankful when people tell me it worked…or it didn't. (Less thankful for the didn'ts.)
Specifically, I'm thankful for the never-ending series of events that fill our sporting days. I'm thankful for people like Jason Collins and Robbie Rogers who were willing to put their personal lives on display in an effort to change a cultural conversation.
I'm thankful for Alex Rodriguez, mostly for making such a circus out of his drug suspension that fans have been forced to decide between pulling for a detestable liar and Big Baseball, where there can't be a winner because both sides have come off looking like such giant losers.
Speaking of giant losers, I'm thankful we've had so many stories about them this year that it takes this long to remember Lance Armstrong.
Enough losers. Back to the winners.
I'm thankful the Sixers finally have a plan, even if that plan is tanking. (I guess that means I'm tankful for Sam Hinkie this year.) I'm thankful that Chip Kelly came 2,800 miles east to set up his NFL workshop in my town. I'm thankful Ruben Amaro hired an analytics guy, even if the Phillies will never listen to him.
I'm thankful this is the last year we will ever have to debate which two teams deserve to play for the BCS National Championship, eager to start next year's incredibly more difficult debate of which FOUR teams deserve it.
Whether you work in the industry or not, be thankful we have the distraction of watching and witnessing a truly golden age in sports.
Last, I speak for everyone who contributed to this article when I say I'm thankful for having a job at a place that's always changing, and always working to get better at what we do.
I've been doing this project for as long as I can remember, back on my old podcast and the last two years here at Bleacher Report. I decided to keep the Thankfuls in house this time, so here is a look at what some of our other Bleacher Report contributors are thankful for this year. (Note: they are all great. The last one is my favorite.)
I'm thankful the NFL still doesn't play games on Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday nights (for now).
Kevin Ding, NBA National Columnist
I'm thankful for athletes who don't stop trying, fantasy sports trades, and people who love college sports even when I don't have the time. I'm thankful for the Indiana Pacers making life interesting for the Miami Heat in the East, the curious contrast between Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook and Tim Duncan/Tony Parker, and pitchers who still take pride in complete games.
And I'm thankful for having learned a little something from all of "my" coaches along the way, especially Jimmy Johnson and Phil Jackson, because we are all better for having coaches in our lives.
I'm thankful for the BCS. In just a few months, the BCS will become a thing of the past, and the anger, angst, bitterness and feigned outrage that encapsulates the month of November in college football will become a thing of the past. Sure, that discussion may shift to which team belongs at the No. 4 spot, but it won't be the same. Thank you, BCS—your presence over the last 16 years has been the catalyst for a surge in college football interest, and while the College Football Playoff may take the torch, it'll never replace what was the best postseason format in American sports.
I'm also thankful for Les Miles. Remember when he was on the hot seat prior to the 2010 season? How crazy was that? There's nobody better than Les Miles. His postgame tirades are epic, his grasp of the English language is unparalleled, and college football's postgame press conferences would be a vast wasteland of never-ending clichés without Miles in the mix.
Never change, Les. Never change.
I'm thankful for the potential of the greatest World Cup ever next summer. We have Spain going to Brazil as arguably the finest international side in history, to take on a host nation tasked with not only lifting the trophy, but playing to the romantic spirit of the game's heartland.
Stir in Brazil's great rivals Argentina, led by the incomparable Lionel Messi, and the presence of a rampaging Cristiano Ronaldo, and a German side made up of the dominant club side in Europe, and the rising powers of Belgium and Colombia, and the always competitive Italians, and the shocks and twists and epic drama we're guaranteed to witness.
It's going to be an attacking feast, overflowing with goals.
Will Carroll, Lead Writer for Sports Medicine
This year, I had a heart attack. Therefore, I'm thankful to be alive.
That's the simple part, but sports was a big part of why I survived. I couldn't wait to see what the baseball season would be like. I think we all use sports as a distraction, but at some point, we realize that it's something more than that.
I'm lucky, I don't hate my job. I wake up in the morning and think "wow, what cool things do I get to do today?" I get to go to the ballpark or watch sports...and get paid! Other people aren't so lucky, and even if they are, sports are that distraction. I think of the first World Series game after the 9/11 attacks. I think of the soldiers in Afghanistan watching the Super Bowl in front of a big screen.
I'm thankful that sports are my distraction and that I know they'll be there. The players I grew up watching are gone. My boyhood hero, Ryne Sandberg, is now a manager. I can't count how many sons of players I watched who are now players. I'm one of those guys telling "I saw Prince Fielder hitting homers when he was 12" stories, for cripe's sake. (And who the heck is cripe anyway?)
Bud Selig will be gone soon. David Stern will walk off into the sunset. Greg Maddux isn't throwing strikes. Brett Favre is still a scumbag, but he's doing it outside of my view, so I'm fine with that. There's going to be a game this weekend and the next weekend and the weekend after that. I've got injuries to write about and maybe injuries to prevent.
I'm just thankful I'm typing these words, but sports makes me more thankful.
I'm thankful Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche broke through the UFC's glass ceiling, becoming the first women to compete in the Octagon. Cage fighting, long the ugly duckling of athletics, is well on its way to being one of the most progressive sports on the globe.
I'm equally glad that some of the world's toughest women rewarded UFC president Dana White's decision to include them on the same fight card as their male counterparts by routinely putting on some of the best fights of the year. What a long way we've come!
I am thankful for the 300-pound men that somehow score touchdowns in football games, especially the individuals that run great distances to make that possible. I am thankful for Oregon’s uniforms and the weekly attempts to create a better neon spacesuit.
I am also thankful for Johnny Manziel and his ability to bring video game-like traits to the real world. And finally, I am thankful for Brent Musburger and his not-so-subtle gambling references that we are treated to each and every Saturday night.
Andrea Hangst, NFL Lead Writer
I'm thankful for the DirecTV Game Mix, which has allowed me to avoid around 99 percent of all commercials during NFL season, which makes a big difference when spending one day a week watching nothing but football. I am thankful for the parity that exists in the NFL, which helps make for a never-boring season.
I am thankful for Twitter, without which I don't know what I would do. I am thankful for all the football players, boxers, MMA fighters and pro wrestlers who choose to do what they do, knowing the risks, in order to live their dream, entertain fans and give us something to write and/or yell about every day.
As a baseball guy, there's one thing about 2013 I'm not thankful for: Biogenesis. The scandal arrived early on and lingered...and lingered...and lingered. And thanks to that one guy who decided to appeal his suspension, it's still lingering. Darn.
Aside from that, though, the turnaround of the Boston Red Sox both on the field and in the likeability department was a real humdinger. So was the rise of Chris Davis and the ace-ification of Max Scherzer. Clayton Kershaw was even better than Clayton Kershaw usually is. If he was a hitting T-800 in 2012, Miguel Cabrera was hitting a T-1000 in 2013. And against the odds, Mike Trout was the best player in baseball yet again. Put together, his first two seasons are scary.
And yeah, the amount of young talent in baseball today is ridiculous. After Trout and Bryce Harper took the league by storm in 2012, this year it was guys like Shelby Miller, Starling Marte, Manny Machado, Andrelton Simmons, Jean Segura and the ultra-entertaining Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig doing the honors.
So even despite Biogenesis...Man, it was another great year, wasn't it?
Gabe Zaldivar, Pop Culture Lead Writer
I’m thankful my own daily grind isn't nearly as physically perilous as Derrick Rose’s. I want to give a personal shoutout to the Dodgers’ collective ownership for making it rain like Floyd Mayweather up in the club. To the Lakers front office, for reminding me humility is a worthwhile lesson, even at my age. Oh, Dodger Dogs and Vin Scully.
I'm thankful that Dave Dombrowski is 20 times the general manager that Joe Dumars is. Frankly, I couldn't handle all of my hometown teams stinking at once. Along those same lines, I'm thankful that Michigan has a basketball program to distract me from their football. I assume that I'll be thankful for football recruiting to distract me from basketball in a few months.
I'm thankful for whatever Tim Tebow is now doing in his free time, and to the many personnel men around the league who have done their best to convince their teams not to sign him. Finally, I'm thankful for the NFL draft, which is just around the corner, to give me something to talk about from January to June.
Brad Gagnon, NFL Lead Writer
I'm thankful for the glorious dynamic that we have as a result of combining dramatic nationally televised NFL games with Twitter. Whether we're collectively mocking replacement officials for their incompetence or wondering how the presumed juggernaut Broncos could blow a 24-point lead, or just LOLing as the Cowboys do something Cowboys-like, the important part is that we're the world's best online peanut gallery. It's irresistible.
During a year in which Major League Baseball was rocked, rolled and otherwise occupied by the Biogenesis scandal and all the hubbub, speculation and drama that accompanied that all-too-prevalent controversy (ahem, A-Rod), I'm thankful for one of the genuine good guys, not just in baseball but in all sports—Mariano Rivera.
I can only imagine what the 2013 season might have been like had there not been so much to celebrate and enjoy during the final campaign for an all-time great pitcher and person. This year, more than ever, Mo did what he's done better than anyone else in his career by earning one last much-needed save.
Jeremy Botter, MMA Lead Writer
Since I cover a combat sport, I want to offer my thanks to those who are spearheading research into the effects that boxing, mixed martial arts, football and other sports have on the brain. With MMA being a fairly new sport, the pile of things we don't know about the sport and its effect on the human brain is considerably larger than the pile of things we do know.
We know that boxing has long-term negative effects; all you need is just one look at Muhammad Ali and other boxers from his generation to know that it's not exactly great for your well-being. And while we don't know if mixed martial artists—who take fewer punches in the cage—will be affected in the same way, I believe it's good that doctors and researchers are trying to find out.
After all, a safer sport is a more palatable sport. And in a sport defined by violence, it's good to know there are folks who overlook the glitz and care about the fighters putting their health at risk to entertain the fans at home.
I am thankful for one more big year out of Peyton Manning on our fantasy football rosters. That trio of Denver receivers became a quartet with the sudden emergence of tight end Julius Thomas. Here is a toast to Manning losing the battle but winning the war against Tom Brady—retaking his single-season touchdown record back. Averaging three touchdowns per game in his next five will get him there!
Ty Schalter, NFL Lead Writer
I'm thankful for all the barriers being broken down in sports.
I'm thankful that LA Galaxy midfielder Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay male professional athlete in North America. I'm thankful that NFL fans and media alike are beginning to stand against using the nickname of the NFL team in Washington. I'm thankful that more and more people are coming to understand the NCAA's unsustainable, indefensible exploitation of unpaid athletes.
Last, but not least, I'm thankful that the international corporate hegemony of macrobrew beer is being overthrown by local craft brewers, one ballpark and stadium at a time.
Josh Martin, NBA Lead Writer
I'm thankful UCLA football is solid and respectable again. I may be an NBA aficionado (and a Lakers fan) by trade, but Bruins pigskin was, is and will always be my first love, as painful as that may be at times.
Hopefully, I'll have plenty more for which to be thankful after braving the elements at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (i.e. obnoxious Trojans fans, uncomfortable seats, more obnoxious Trojans fans, disgusting facilities, and have I mentioned how obnoxious Trojans fans are?) to watch my alma mater take on $outhern Cal (dollar sign intended) in the annual battle for the Victory Bell.
Go Bruins, amen.
I'm thankful for point guards with vision, big men with footwork, help defense, rim haters, crossovers, old arenas, student sections, Indiana's uniforms (never change!), rivalries, John Beilein's offense, the secondary break, Bill Raftery, Rec Specs, walk-ons at the end of the bench, and I'm thankful for November, December, January, February, March and the first few days of April.
Jonathan Wasserman, NBA Draft Lead Writer
I'm thankful for having the New York Knicks in my life, a team that's taught me how to avoid disappointment by simply expecting less. I'm thankful for having the New York Mets, who have also taught me that exact same valuable lesson. And finally, I'm thankful for having the New York Jets...who've taught me that losing is OK, because butt-fumble.
I'm thankful for the dump the Oakland Raiders call home. Yes, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, aka O.co Coliseum, is what I'm thankful for in sports. When I call it a dump, I mean that quite literally—there have been multiple sewage leaks.
I'm thankful for that rundown concrete eyesore of a stadium mostly just because it's in Oakland—where the Raiders belong. There is just something about games in Oakland that remind you how things used to be before billionaires starting building shrines to themselves (like the one the Raiders will play in on Thursday).
The Raiders are leasing O.co on a year-to-year basis now and could leave for another city that is willing to fund a new stadium at any time. Publicly, the Raiders say they want to stay in Oakland, but they know as well as anyone that current stadium proposals have no shot of coming to fruition without participation from the A's, Warriors or both. Even then, it's no slam dunk.
To stay competitive, the Raiders have no choice but to try to find a new venue. It may not happen for several more years, but the Raiders are going to leave Oakland.
The divorce from Oakland this time around will be more protracted—like slowly ripping a fabric Band-Aid off an arm as hairy as Gorilla Rilla's. It will be different from the first time they left because there will be a greater sense of permanency.
O.co has aged about as gracefully as a shoe in the median of the 880 freeway, but the Raider Nation still loves it. There is no way to make the stadium shine or take the stench from all the horrible football played there over the past decade out of it, but it's still a gem. We'll miss it.
Michael Felder, Lead College Football Writer
I'm thankful for legitimate discourse on Twitter. Not the drive-by fan who gets mad that you don't pick his team. Not the guy who is so entrenched in his squad that he cannot imagine them losing.
No, I'm thankful for the guy who understands we say what we say for a reason and who understands that there is work behind the point being made. The guy who separates a pick rooted in reason from a "you is bias" complex is certainly worth celebrating.
I'm thankful for Eddie Lacy. I'm thankful that the Giants and Jets are both horrible, which makes living in New York a bit easier. And I'm thankful that Chelsea are watchable. Barely.
Reese Waters, B/R Video Host
I'm thankful the Redskins season is almost over. I'm thankful somebody else's mayor smoked crack.