Sorting Through Holiday Humbug and Sports Cheer

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A look at who should be on the naughty and nice list.

Will Elf on a Shelf be paying you a visit? (Photo via MNN.com)

’Tis the Season, and with it come traditions like Santa’s list of “Who’s Naughty and Nice,” and that creepy voyeuristic elf-on-the-shelf character…meaning its time to take a step back and reflect on how we’ve been behaving. So let’s take a look at some of the athletes making news this week, and what they should expect to find in the stocking this year.

First up, some “ballers” all to familiar with bright things and shiny objects. LiAngelo Ball and crew made news for stealing sunglasses from a store in China a few weeks ago, but ok, mistakes get made. Let’s chalk that up to immature stupidity; no harm, no foul. Small trifles like that (although this ‘oh, he’s just young and foolish’ moment did kinda create an international incident…) can easily be surmounted by taking ownership, accountability, and offering a sincere apology. Yet that’s not what happened here.

Instead of moving on from LiAngelo and his UCLA teammates getting sticky fingers overseas, LaVar Ball just keeps digging the hole deeper for his family. LaVar pulled LiAngelo from UCLA this week because he saw the indefinite suspension handed down by the basketball team as too severe. Since his son isn’t in prison, he should be allowed on the court, or so the LaVar logic goes. That’s setting a pretty low freaking bar for good sportsmanship and decency. “He’s not a convict, so why won’t the team just let him play?!” That gets coal for the father and a TBD for the son, ’cause at least LiAngelo did try to apologize. Maybe he’s just a bystander caught up in the swirl of LaVar’s stupidity.

Speaking of acceptable behavior and accountability, that leads us to the football field, with Rob Gronkowski doing his absolute best to set a bad example.

Not only did he basically assault a guy- leveling Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White long after the play- but when called out on it and gifted a one-game suspension by the National Football League, Gronk actually fought that too! He and the Patriots had the audacity to appeal the punishment, a mere slap on the wrist from the league (thankfully, upheld!).

This holiday season, we’re changing the rules a bit. Not only should Gronkowski’s original punishment for the cheapie have been harsher, but appealing the suspension should mean upping the ante. He wins, punishment gets lifted; lose and you’re out for the year for being so tone-deaf and wasting our time and energy. Which means a nice, year-long suspension (and maybe a slap upside the head) waiting for Gronk under the Christmas tree.

Enough with the seedy side of sports, and on to the nice! For every late hit in football, there’s also a J.J. Watt taking the field for the Texans (well, maybe not this year with the injury, but you get the idea…). He and fellow Houstonian Jose Altuve were named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsmen of the Year for their incredibly charitable work uplifting the area after it was ravaged by Hurricane Harvey. Watt and Astros second baseman Altuve raised money, hope, and cheer for the devastated community.

Actually, the philanthropy among Astros ballplayers went even further this year, as two of Altuve’s teammates worked to uplift other communities similarly.

Houston Strong! (Photo via BusinessInsider.com)

Outfielder Carlos Beltran brought the relief effort to Puerto Rico, helping the island decimated by Hurricane Maria and proving that kindness from athletes transcends borders. George Springer, also an outfielder on the Astros, demonstrated that it doesn’t take a natural disaster for an athlete to be a good guy and help those in need. Springer served as a reassuring role model to those that stutter by doing interviews during the MLB playoffs this year where he openly addressed the personal difficulty he’s had speaking confidently and clearly.

As Springer’s selfless courage shows, there are ongoing uplifting efforts and positive contributions that come from the field. Or court, as the case may be this week in New York City, where the Jimmy V Classic was played. The basketball tournament is one of the V Foundation’s many annual efforts dedicated to raising money and awareness for cancer research. For all their positive efforts, these good guys in sports can look forward to nicely wrapped presents full of our unfettered admiration and cheers.

Perhaps we should see this list of Naughty and Nice as sports’ gift to us during the holidays. It illuminates us at our worst, highlights us at our best, (gives us all something to scream at on the TV), and proves that it really is “all about how you play the game.”

*Please remember that this year when entering the UFC that is the holiday shopping season. Triangle offense for a parking spot; zone defense for your place in line….eh, let’s be real, we’re all just going to order everything from Amazon anyway…

Alexa, Get the Yankees a World Series! (Photo via Wired.com)

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