Column: Things we're NOT thankful for in the world of sports
Another Thanksgiving in the books.
So passes that day when sports columnists observe a 24-hour moratorium on griping in order to roll out all the things they're thankful for, a tradition that was perfected by the late, great Furman Bisher in Atlanta.
Well, we've never been one to follow the crowds on Black Friday, especially when it goes against everything we're about.
So, with our bellies properly stuffed and our grouch meter at full blast, here are some things we're NOT thankful for:
CONFUSION COMES IN STRIPES: It's beyond time for the NFL to actually hire full-time officials, but a rash of blown calls this season has only raised the urgency. To be fair, it's not entirely the fault of the guys in the stripes. The rulebook is a convoluted mess, filled with contradictions and unnecessary attempts to account for every possible scenario. For example, does anyone know what a catch is anymore?
BOWLING GONE WILD: GoDaddy Bowl. Camelia Bowl. Boca Raton Bowl. Foster Farms Bowl. The NCAA has created a ridiculous glut of postseason games - 40 in all, not even counting the national championship - setting up the very real possibility of some slots being filled by teams with losing records. Essentially, the bowl system is nothing more than ESPN's December programming schedule. The folks in Bristol should at least cut everyone's costs by staging the games in a studio with a green-screen backdrop, projecting images of whatever city they're supposed to be in.
SCOUNDRELS OF SOCCER: Compared to FIFA, the Corleones were an upstanding bunch. Led by Sepp Blatter, the governing body of soccer has been thoroughly exposed for what we suspected all along - it's nothing more than a pack of thieves lining their pockets with millions of ill-gotten gains from all corners of the globe. Blatter is planning to retire and just about everyone else is indicted, but soccer fans will be feeling the pain at least until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which must be staged in winter instead of its usual summer slot because of the country's sweltering heat.
SCARY STADIUMS: After the terrorist attacks in Paris, which included the attempted bombing of the country's national stadium during a high-profile soccer match, we'll all have to get used to standing in long lines and enduring even more TSA-like security measures to see the games we love.
BRING ON THE ROCKERS: From Joe Louis to Willie Mays, our biggest stars have long had a knack for hanging on far too long. Now we've got Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant. Hopefully, they're planning a joint retirement announcement pretty soon so we can start remembering their mammoth accomplishments instead of how bad things got in the twilight of their careers.
SHIRKING RESPONSIBIILTY: College coaches demand to control every little aspect of their programs. Until something goes wrong. Then, like Sgt. Schultz, they know nothing, nothing! Sorry, Rick Pitinos of the world, you don't get to proclaim ignorance when, for instance, allegations emerge that one of your assistants was running a brothel on campus.
A FISH CALLED LORIA: If you think your favorite team's owner is incompetent, imagine what it's like to be a fan of the Miami Marlins. Jeffrey Loria has continually fleeced the good people of South Florida, most notably getting them to build him a new stadium without bothering to reciprocate with a major league team. Just this week came word that beloved TV announcer Tommy Hutton was let go after 19 seasons. That'll teach him to be honest about Loria's joke of a franchise.
CON GAME: Along those same lines, we can't figure out why local governments keep spending hundreds of millions of dollars building new stadiums for teams owned by billionaires. The worst offender is metro Atlanta, where they're actually constructing TWO new stadiums - one for the Falcons, the other for the Braves. What makes this even more galling, there was nothing wrong with the stadiums those teams already had, both of which were constructed in the 1990s. Good thing the Colosseum was in Rome instead of the A-T-L. Otherwise, it would be a parking deck.
BOXING ON THE ROPES: Remember when a championship bout was the most exciting event in sports? Those days are long gone. Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao was the last glimmer of hope to make boxing relevant again. But we can at least be thankful for Holly Holm, whose upset of Ronda Rousey removed any reason to pay attention to MMA, a bloodlust that sells itself as the successor to the sweet science.
GOONS ON ICE: Really, NHL, it's time to get rid of the fighting. It's the 21st century. We've evolved. You'll be better off without it.
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .