Time has passed (I don’t want to say how long) since I last dusted off my red-and-white crushed velvet suit with the big black belt and silver buckle. I’ve also cleaned my boots from the last trip with the reindeer; Rudolph had a rough night that Christmas Eve.
Since I’m in such a giving mood rather than a Grinch-y mood, let me pass out some gifts, (and maybe a lump of coal or two) to those so deserving on this 2014 holiday season.
To Sylmar quarterback Clarence Williams Jr.: Another chance with a good team to win a City Section football championship next year.
To the San Fernando Tigers football team: Good luck on that expected “promotion” to City’s Division I, which should be coming in January when its football divisions are realigned. Birmingham last won a City Division I title in 2007, ending a golden stretch of four titles in six years. Since then it’s been hard for a Valley team — including Birmingham — to get out of the quarterfinals. And some teams, like Reseda, haven’t recovered from having to face the bigger, stronger teams in the playoffs from over the hill.
To Chaminade Coach Ed Croson: The impetus and ingenuity to bring the Eagles up to the level needed to compete in Southern Section’s Division I now that you and your players have seen up close how tough your (Mission) league and the division are. And that’s year-to-year, not a special occasion.
To Alemany Coach Dean Harrington: The one last player needed to finally get the Warriors into that Pac-5 championship game.
To Birmingham Baseball Coach Mat Mowry: The understanding that the Patriots will again fly under the radar because no one has yet figured out how your team won the City 2014 Division I title in the first place.
To Taft High Basketball: Stability at the head coach position so the Toreadors can get back into the conversation of being among the best programs in Southern California.
To Granada Hills Volleyball Coach Tom Harp: The energy to keep producing those championship boys and girls teams you’ve been developing year after year.
To Kennedy High Athletics: Some sunshine to come out in after having your teams stuck in the self-imposed shadows the past couple of years.
To the Los Angeles City Section: Enough stipend money to keep football coaching staffs together longer than a season.
For UCLA’s Brett Hundley: The freedom to go ahead and start your pro career. It’s time to see who Coach Jim Mora can recruit and develop for the game’s most important position to sustain the success he has brought to Bruins football.
For USC’s Leonard Williams: see Brett Hundley.
To the NCAA: More court losses that force it to give some of the money it’s made off athletes so they can buy something — like dinner.
To Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig: Speaking of understanding, the knowledge that you are now past your “phenom” period. Now you must start making the Dodgers “your” team. Fans now want you to produce over a whole season, not parts of one.
To former Dodgers outfielder Mat Kemp: A full season of health to show your detractors you are still capable of the awe you inspired in 2011, and the second half of 2013 — even if it’s in San Diego.
To Angels outfielder Mike Trout: Big enough shoulders to keep carrying the Angels offense until management gets you superstar help that’s not past its superstar prime.
To golfer Tiger Woods: The directions to the store where you can buy a public personality. Say what you want about Phil Michelson, he gets that part of being a star. And there are still people rooting for you to pass Jack Nicklaus for most PGA majors won.
To Lakers guard Kobe Bryant: You’ve already gotten your gift; passing Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. I have no other miracles in my bag for this group of Lakers.
To Lakers guard Nick Young: The memory to share some of your “Swaggy P” — or maybe just some swag — with your former high school team at Cleveland High.
For the Oakland Raiders: Sorry, I have no one-way tickets back to L.A. I’ll admit neither San Diego or St. Louis excite me about bringing back the NFL to the Southland. But even they would be preferable to your return — just barely.
To Richard Williams: Repeated mea culpas from the tennis world on how right you were about your daughters, Serena and Venus.
To Tennis: Finding the African American male equivalents to Serena and Venus.
To Landon Donovan: An autographed copy of Frank Sinatra’s LP with the song “My Way.”
To Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson: More recognition for being the first black female swimmer to win a world championship in the pool, which she recently did in Qatar.
To: Isaiah Hastings, Alexander Manu, Christopher Anthony Millan, Sean Blunt, Tony Gwynn, Bob Welch, Alice Coachman, Jim Fregosi, Eusébio, and other athletes who passed on this year: Rest In Peace.
And for the rest of you, a safe and sane holiday season.