Giving thanks on this day, at least to those who deserve it

It was a year ago at this time, during the annual intersection of Thanksgiving and Georgia/Georgia Tech crushed dreams, when I decided to resume the tradition of the late, great Furman Bisher and wrote a, “What I’m Thankful For” column (as the Bish almost certainly looked down from the heavens and said, “I applaud your ambitiousness, young man, but don’t screw this up and there will be a lightning bolt headed your way. Now excuse me while I go tell Ty Cobb what a horse’s behind he is. Selah.”)

I heard enough positive feedback about the column, and had no close calls with acts of God or Bish, that I’ve decided to do it again. Even John Coppolella didn’t yell at me when I expressed thanks that he didn’t steal my 18-pound Butterball and trade it for three highly touted turkey embryos with salary control, so I took that as a sign of approval from him. (Or maybe he has just given up on me. Yeah, that’s probably it.)

So with a tip of the hat to Furman, a few words of thanks:

To my family, the crown jewels that surround a grease spot, and will be seated around the Thanksgiving table — my wife, Jeanne, who has maintained an unexpected level of sanity during our marriage; son Josh, from whom I’ve learned more about life than anybody else; daughter Sierra, my daily dose of sunshine; and my new son-in-law Jake, who’s a great kid and has a job (yes!) and also happens to be a football coach, which means my daughter won’t become a stranger because while he’s watching game film 17 hours a day and probably throwing a few chairs, Sierra and I are will be taking serene walks with the dog, after which Jake will come by for dinner and, like any good football coach, will blame the media for something. Not me, of course. The other media.

I’m thankful for sunrises. Also that I sleep through them.

I’m thankful I live in a metropolitan area that takes care of its billionaires with $700 million in up-front public money to help build stadiums for the Braves and Falcons and renovate an arena for the Hawks. The amount will likely double over the next 30 years because interest, maintenance and the rising cost of blue cheese-stuffed olives for the stadium martini bars, but it’s a small price to pay to help out the world’s one percent — much better than wasting tax money on raises for police officers, firefighters, teachers, repairing dilapidated schools, paving roads, repairing bridges and generally making sure we can get through a day without the city spontaneously combusting.

When I said I was thankful, I was just kidding. I hope every politician who had a hand in these decisions falls face first in their stuffing.

I’m thankful I decided not to be a politician. Life is so much better with a conscience.

(How am I doing Furman?)

I’m thankful for people like Mark Richt and Mike Smith, who I no longer cover on a daily basis. It’s difficult to endorse somebody’s firing when I like and respect them personally. But Richt greeted me before the Georgia Tech-Miami game and we spoke briefly, then at length after the game. Smith flashed a big smile when I saw him after the Falcons-Tampa Bay game and he stopped for a lengthy discussion, some for publication, some just two guys catching up. Good people.

I’m thankful there will be no embrace with Bobby Petrino, either in this lifetime or years later in the underworld.

I’m thankful I live in Roswell because that means there’s a good chance I’ll never be run off the road by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who, as chronicled in a brilliant report on WSB, loves to turn on the cool blue emergency lights on top of his SUV. It’s just like the Tonka trucks he played with as a kid, except in real life he’s forcing nuns and Labrador puppies to leap into nearby hedge bushes so that Hizzoner can rush and make it to important city functions on time, like a ribbon cutting at the latest Golden Corral or a three-hour Macy’s sale.

I’m thankful for the 12 minutes Kasim Reed unblocked me on Twitter because that’s about to end.

I’m thankful every time Lilly the wonderdog greets me at home with a tennis ball in her mouth, at least until she drops it and belches. (Furman would’ve stopped the sentiment after the tennis ball. Then probably thrown in something about the sun reflecting off her wet nose. I gotta be me.)

I’m thankful the Braves have signed two 40-plus pitchers, Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey, because maybe this means Tommy John issues with the pitching staff are behind them, and the worst thing they have to worry about is losing a starter to incontinence or randomly shaking his fist at clouds.

I’m thankful Flomax and BenGay aren’t on baseball’s banned drug list.

I’m thankful for all those who work so hard to educate and destigmatize the worlds of addiction and recovery and the small role I’ve been able to play in that. I don’t view athletes like Johnny Manziel as easy punchlines any more. They’re sad cases of careers, marriages and lives lost. They’re struggling with mental illness and need help. But they have to want it.

I’m thankful for people like former Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell, who had the support of several members in the team’s front office, but bit his tongue publicly when the team fired him and he had reason to vent. McDowell was told he wasn’t fit to develop young pitchers. Notwithstanding his career resume. And then Coppolella signed Colon, 43, and Dickey, 42. Selah.

I’m thankful I was able to see the Cubs win a World Series in my lifetime. I know, lost material. But I’ve still got the Browns.

I’m thankful for being able to interact with so many readers on Facebook and Twitter. And the mute function. Especially the mute function.

Finally, I’m thankful for this job and for you, the readers, whose passion I would put up against any sports fans in the country. Thanks for sticking around, even if it’s just to stick it to me. I toast you with a turkey leg. Happy Thanksgiving.

For Thanksgiving edition of the “We Never Played The Game” podcast, click here

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