Readers might recall the first few paragraphs from the past two years. I liked the way they turned out and figured I wouldn’t be able to top them, so I’ll start and end every Christmas column with them.
Call it a holiday tradition. Or call it being lazy. But it works for me.
Many, many years ago and many, many miles from Pahrump, the editor-in-chief of a daily college newspaper decided she wanted to decorate the office for the holidays. The very hard-working sports editor, who somehow managed to find time to run the sports department while being on time for all of his classes, spending hours on end in the library and never parking illegally, respectfully suggested the sports department did not need seasonal adornment.
Yet, upon returning to the office after going to class and certainly not blowing it off to go to the student center snack bar, he found a string of multicolored lights around the sports department’s bulletin board. But the perpetrator was gone, off to her two-hour-plus night class, leaving plenty of time to remedy the situation.
Down came the lights, and some tape was found. If you’ve ever tried to use tape on a cinder-block wall, you know it takes some dedication to make it stick. But eventually, and after a couple hundred pieces of tape and at least that many words that do not fit the holiday spirit, those happy, cheerful lights designed to make the season merry and bright spelled out, in script, “die.”
One of the paper’s photographers came over to record this for posterity, taking a picture of our hero in front of his masterpiece, sitting in his chair, feet up on the desk, giving the photographer a signal that he was No. 1. Well, sort of.
Years later, that photograph found its way into my then-place of employment and more recently has been used to wish Facebook friends a Merry Christmas. (It’s OK. They get me.)
So some of us have a different approach to the holidays. We love the Grinch until he goes all soft in the end, partly because of that whiny pest Cindy Lou Who. We think Mother Nature should have stayed out of it when Heat Miser and Snow Miser refused to help show Mrs. Claus the world loved Santa. And that idiot elf should stop this dentist nonsense and get back to making toys.
Ho, ho, ho.
But that does not mean gift-giving is beyond our range of talents. There’s something magical about waiting until the last minute, then going to a mall (this was before the internet took over shopping) at 10:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve and finding the perfect gift for everyone in your family of five and still getting to Mom’s house in time to cook Wigilia dinner. (Google it. I’m busy.)
So, even the grumpiest among us enjoys playing Santa Claus, and he usually has a nice, big bag of hypothetical presents to give.
Not this year. The global situation has made a mess of everything, and that includes the Christmas spirit. But before I go into detail on what that means, a reminder of something from last year’s bag of gifts.
For the Clark County School District: New turf fields for every high school. It is pretty hard to believe that little ol’ Pahrump has a better field to play on than most high schools in that enormous district. Ever see the football field at Liberty? And that’s a terrific program. How about Western? The soccer field there looks like the Western Front after the Germans pulled back. Then there’s the moat at Mojave’s soccer field. And before you say a turf field is a luxury item, it’s not. It’s a safety issue. Line it for football and soccer (and, if you’re planning ahead, lacrosse and field hockey, because they’ll be here someday) and ensure a safe field.
And guess what? The Clark County School District announced in July that 29 “grass” fields would be replaced with new turf fields.
Coincidence? I think not.
Anyway, I’m just not feeling it this year. So, rather than spend hours trying to come up with ideas for people that want nothing more than a return to normal life, I figured I’d go right to the source of all things Christmas and get some help. Santa was not available to meet in person, of course, so we met via a Zoom call. Hey, we all know how to use it now, right?
“Santa, some guy from the Pahrump Valley Times is on the line.”
“The what? From where?”
“Just talk to him. I think he needs help.”
I heard Santa grumbling, obviously not aware the Zoom call was put through as quickly as it was. Something about deducting gambling losses on his tax return.
“You’ve got five minutes. What do you want?”
“Well, Santa, I usually try to come up with good ideas for Christmas presents for people involved in sports, but I’m just not feeling it this year.”
“You think you aren’t feeling it? Try walking in my oversized elf shoes for a while. I’m not feeling it this year, either, and in fact I’m not going anywhere. I’m under quarantine.”
“How did COVID get up there?”
“I blame Trump. Or Sisolak. Depends on my mood.”
“Guess they’re getting coal in their stockings?”
“Don’t you listen? I’m not going anywhere. Besides, we don’t do coal these days. Anyone with half a brain knows that coal is on the way out. So I switched to something with an unlimited supply.”
“Yep. Reindeer poop.”
“Yes. In fact so many people deserve it this year I might venture out after the quarantine just to make sure they get it. There are a lot more people on the naughty list this year.”
“Like the old buzzard in the convenience store who cursed out the clerk when he was told he had to wear a mask? It took a lot of self-control for me not to make a scene over that.”
“Reindeer poop is better. Revenge is a dish best served steaming hot.”
“Can we get back to sports, Santa?”
“Sports? Well, let’s see. Baseball made a mess of its schedule because of COVID outbreaks. The Ravens seemed to get special treatment from the NFL while the Steelers seemed to get punished and the Broncos had to play without a quarterback — not entirely a new thing for them, actually — because of COVID. The NHL, NBA and WNBA seemed to do it right, but they basically hid from their fans to get it done. And don’t get me started on college football.”
“You’re a college football fan?”
“I like cheerleaders. But I root for Connecticut, Washington and Northern Illinois.”
“They’re all Huskies, you moron.”
“Oh, that makes sense.”
“Nothing else does. Think about it: They canceled 16 bowl games, 22 teams — including one that played in a conference championship game and another that should have played in one — opted out of playing in bowls altogether, and yet still we get such must-see matchups as Louisiana Tech vs. Georgia Southern and Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State.”
“Hey, if ESPN can sell ads for beer or tires …”
“Reindeer poop. A lot of reindeer poop headed toward Bristol, Connecticut.”
“Especially the ‘Monday Night Football’ crew, although it’s not quite as bad as last year.”
“A pretty low bar. And then there’s this college playoff monstrosity. Get a clue: eight teams, all five major conference champs, the best Group of 5 team and two at-larges. Not that it isn’t fun to hear Jimbo Fisher whine, but Texas A&M is legit.”
“And Dabo Swinney at Clemson …”
“Moving on … So what about the kids? Can you give me an idea for the kids, at least? A lot of them are pretty good young people.”
“You mean they know how to act in front of the guy from the newspaper. They could be puppy-kicking, mailbox-torching meth heads for all you know.”
“And I thought I was cynical.”
“You don’t have my problems. Since Blitzen tested positive and ruined Christmas for everybody, all of the reindeer have been kept in their pens and they’re getting cranky, and no Reindeer Games this year. I’ve had three days of protests by people demanding to know why I don’t have any left-handed Jewish lesbians working in the toy shop, and last night the elves went on a wildcat strike.”
“So? You said you’re not delivering toys this year anyway.”
“Not the toy shop, you bonehead. The studio.”
“Elf porn. You don’t think I make any money with the free toys thing, do you? Idiot. No wonder people think so poorly of the media.”
“Well, most of those people are basically ignorant simpletons, Santa.”
“I get that, but elf porn?”
“We have three livestreaming channels. You wouldn’t believe what some of you people are into down there.”
“Sounds delightful. I’ll have to tell our copy editor about it. Anyway, about the kids?”
“There’s only one thing that’s appropriate. And you know what it is. Now leave me alone. I’ve got to find Mrs. Claus and get her in the studio.”
Rather than signing off, Santa simply threw his red coat over the screen. Guess the big guy isn’t too tech-savvy.
But he was right about one thing. There is only one appropriate gift:
For young athletes everywhere: It doesn’t matter to Santa, or me, if we’re talking about Little League, youth football, high school teams, middle school teams, high-powered club teams or any other arena in which young people can play sports, the gift is the same, and it’s a simple one: a schedule. Nothing would bring more joy to more people than a normal schedule. Home and away games to play with people in the bleachers and snacks at the concession stands.
Some states have played some sports, with mixed results. Football season back home featured some schools not playing at all, other schools having to put a “pause” in place here and there and others stopping play in the middle of the season. In other words, a mess. Nevada, for better or worse (and probably both) has not done that. And there are multiple layers of decision-makers involved, so it could be complicated to get back out there.
But we will, and while we’ll never be able to make up for lost time, it will feel normal again, and probably pretty quickly.
Merry Christmas, Pahrump Valley Times readers. And be careful out there.
Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 775-727-5102 ext. 1012. On Twitter:@PVTimesSports