Former Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson was a life lost way too soon. (Kent D. Johnson/AJC)

New tradition: Giving thanks (to those who deserve it)

It’s that time of year again when two traditions intersect: Thanksgiving and Georgia fans asking, “Wait, what happened?”

This also is the time when the late great Furman Bisher, our window to sports history, the man who interviewed Ty Cobb and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, the man who watched Cy Young pitch and Joe Louis box and was there when car racing transitioned from bootlegging to NASCAR, the sports-writing legend who would phone me occasionally to muse over a column or the date on his birth certificate (“It’s like I’m one of those stone things, talking to you. A talking statue!”), would write his annual Thanksgiving column.

Bisher reminded us that we all have something to be thankful for, although I understand as an Atlanta sports fan that can be challenging. So, with a tip of the hat to “The Bish,” a few words of thanks:

To my family, without whom I would be lost, and the chance to have them all around the Thanksgiving table. I’m also particularly thankful that I’m not related to Braves general manager John Coppolella because he would grab the 18-pound Butterball when it came out of the oven and trade it to another team for three turkey embryos, a bag of feed and some low minor-league side dish like green Jello with indecipherable chunks of something. Oh, wait. That’s a relief pitcher. Never mind.

I’m thankful Tim Lee, the Cobb County chairman in charge of weasel business transactions concocted inside of a broom closet, also won’t be at my table. Then again, there could be a financial upside: Anybody who finds a way to jam $400 million in public money down taxpayers’ throats for a baseball stadium owned by a $26.6 billion corporation probably could figure out how to hide my grocery bill for our meal.

I’m thankful for my job, the story lines that sports provide and the professional, even if embattled, individuals such as Mark Richt, who politely answer questions, even to a columnist who called for his firing.

I’m thankful for the lying, backstabbing cowards, too. Because, well, that just makes writing a column that much easier.

Greg Hardy and Jerry Jones: You get nothing.

I’m thankful Georgia and Georgia Tech, who’ve experienced various levels of misery this season, continue the tradition of playing each other in the final game. Because even if it’s bad football, there’s a sense of intrigue knowing that one team’s misery is about to be elevated exponentially.

I’m not spiteful, but I’m thankful Bobby Petrino is having a miserable season. OK, I’m spiteful.

I’m thankful for wearing warm socks on cold hardwood floors, in part because I still like making the slide entrance into a room. (I thought about going with something more poetic and Bisher-esque like, “The morning sound of a crowing rooster.” But that wouldn’t be me. Also, I don’t own a rooster. Coppolella traded it.)

I’m certain Matt Ryan is thankful for having six weeks left to prove what we’re watching is an aberration because that’s not proper form for a quarterback whose contract averages $20 million annually. There are 18 starting quarterbacks with a better efficiency rating. There are only six who’ve thrown more interceptions.

I’m thankful I’m not sitting across from Arthur Blank at the Thanksgiving table because he just coughed up a turkey bone.

I’m thankful for the truly courageous people such as Devon Gales, who is on the road to recovery after a paralyzing collision against Georgia. The next time you think you’re having a bad day, think about Gales.

I’m thankful I had a chance to know Tommy Hanson and I pray for his family and friends. I’m also thankful for those who work hard to battle alcohol and drug addictions on a daily basis and commit to recovery because I’ve been to too many funerals and seen too many families destroyed. Find a program. It works if you work it.

I think Johnny Manziel, Aldon Smith and Steve Sarkisian are among those who need to read that paragraph again.

I’m thankful to those who can see past Steve Spurrier’s resume and realize what a worm he was for quitting after six games, or more accurately four losses, or more accurately a 0-4 start in the SEC, all while still getting the $900,000 balance on his contract.

I’m thankful for having a chance to watch the classy exit of Frank Beamer as a contrast to Spurrier.

I’m thankful for former college athletes who make something of their lives like Reuben Faloughi, the former Georgia walk-on who’s now pursuing a Ph.D in psychology at Missouri and has become a social activist and effected change on campus and in the state.

I’m thankful for every millennial who disagrees with me on an issue and the first thing they liken me to is an old man shaking his fist at a cloud. And I’m thankful I get the last word: Shut up and get off my lawn.

I’m thankful for a phone call I received in 1989 while living in San Francisco, asking if I was interested in a job opening in Atlanta. I said no. Then I said yes. Then my wife and I said, “We’ll go back to California in five years.” That was 26 years ago. Thank you for the opportunity to make this our new home.

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