A belated Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Naborhood everyone! Its a great time of year to be with each other and to reflect on what is really important in life. Also–a great time to let those who know and many who don’t—how much they mean to you. I know this time of year can be stressful as well but here’s hoping we can all exhale and enjoy a few days with family and friends and appreciate all the things we have to be thankful for—which are many.

NOT BOWLED OVER: I’m a huge football fan but the bowl platter this season has been as appetizing as that chocolate water fall at Golden Corral?! Maybe I’ve been too busy with my kiddos but I haven’t watched a second, not a second of bowl action so far—first time that’s ever happened. I am looking forward to the National Title game between Bama and Notre Dame and think Texas A&M vs Oklahoma in the Cotton will be intriguing but besides that just not excited folks. The college playoff can’t come soon enough—its amazing its taken this long.

TINY TIM: Boy has the image of Tim Tebow been down sized in the past year. A year ago I liked to say every time you spelled Tebow you would finish with well…a W. A year later he has been used by the Jets as a PR ploy and received less snaps than Charlie Batch for crying out loud. Remember the time when everybody projected it would only be a matter of weeks when Tebow would replace Mark Sanchez—boy were they off the mark? I still will not say Tebow will never be a success until I see him get a consistent chance. I get it—he doesn’t look good in practice and doesn’t have your classic form but that hasn’t convinced me he can’t make it and no I’m not one of those gator homers. He did help get the Broncos to the playoffs (no he didn’t do it by himself) but he did it and I think that merits him a second chance. Jacksonville presents his best third chance—if he can’t win a job there—it may be time for him to hang it up—but I’m not saying its over yet.

BYE BYE BOUNTY GATE: I am in no way saying two wrongs make a right but for those who label the New Orleans Saints as some anomaly in the annals of pro football have clearly missed the boat. Recently NFL legend and former Cowboy Drew Pearson called for the Cowboys to put a hurtin on RG3 and Lomas Brown admitted he “intentionally” missed a block which was intended to get “his” QB taken out. Both examples of the mentality of some pro football players for years and more proof from those two old timers than ALL the evidence we have seen from the NFL concerning Saints players who for months were facing suspensions from the NFL.

I am finishing up my seventh season covering the New Orleans Saints and number seven was hardly lucky for those involved in the organization.. Sure the franchise hasn’t been perfect but looking back the whole Bounty Gate scandal was certainly overhyped and severely mishandled. While the Saints should have been more upfront with the NFL, the players should have never paid the consequences. Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s recent vacating of every p suspension was a statement that Roger Goodell was overzealous in his original mandates. Every NFL locker room has wagers on big hits and plenty of talk—yes trash talk that could be taken out of context which to me was the crux of the problem. Many of the players statements were assumed to be factual and that’s no way to dish out punishments.

I know Anthony Hargrove personally and he is one of the most genuine athletes I have ever covered—ask AMIkids, a national non profit organization which has seen him behind the scenes and with the absence of any cameras— spend endless hours with its kids. Scott Fujita, Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith are all smart, thoughtful leaders and should have never faced any suspensions this fall. Credit all of the above for fighting the NFL when they could have easily caved for lesser suspensions. Their persistence paid off but not in time to ruin a Saints season that we will never know how good it could have been. I will say this— in my seven years of covering this franchise–I haven’t covered one single off the field incident—how many teams can say that?

BONUS BABIES: When will they learn? I’m amazed with the success of Moneyball and with the formula of success the Tampa Bay Rays have enjoyed over the past few years that baseball owners continue to shell out big salaries for players. No, I repeat no player not one player—not Mickey Mantle, not Willie Mays and no not Josh Hamilton is worth over 25 million for one season. I have no problem with spending money but let’s be smart about it and know when to finally put an end to these ridiculous salaries. Anybody want that A-Rod contract hanging over their head for years while watching team’s like the Rays make smart moves in getting rid of aging stars (James Shields) for up and comers (Wil Meyers). You can have your superstar—I will take a quaility pitching staff and roll the dice with some hungry free agents and up and comers—its a proven formula for success..The Red Sox have seemed to wise up—when will the rest of the baseball world or the rest of the sporting world for that matter?

A WONDERFUL LIFE: Lots of classic TV options this time of year from Its A Wonderful Life to A Christmas Story,to even my man Buddy the Elf.If you are looking for some great TV over the Holidays though, you gotta check out the NFL Network’s great series of documentaries, “A Football Life.” I have loved all of them from Tom Coughlin to Eddy DeBartolo to John Riggins and Barry Sanders—all of them are fantastic portrayals of the lives of these coaches, owners and players away from football and the family dynamics that made them better men along the way. Even if you’re not a football fan, all are an interesting character studies of what shapes people and how they can change—I can’t wait to see the next one

GOOD READ: I like to pass on good books in and out of the sports world–time we go outside the lines. Whether you are a Republican or Democrat–Bob Woodward’s latest offering “The Price of Politics,” is a great bipartisan education on the battle between President Obama and Congress. Clearly both sides are to blame and this book is a detailed behind the scenes account which truly educates you on the process. Forget Fox News or MSNBC—you will get a lot more facts and insight reading this.

NOBODY ASKED ME BUT: I was raised in a home where we went out and purchased a Christmas Tree every year and there was nothing wrong with that. Its seems most of my friends families were split–some had fake trees while others were the real deal? Well fast forward to my adult years and I have officially joined the dark side and its been a beautiful thing. After buying a tree for years—we now have had a picturesque fake one for three years and its reduced the stress and been a model of consistency that has made the holidays a much more enjoyable experience! To each his own—i’m not judging. Some families like to know the sex of their baby before the kid arrives and some like fake trees over the real thing—-its a free country but I look forward to having the same tree in my house for many Christmas’ to come.

EXTRA POINT: What happens 1st—we solve the fiscal cliff or the NHL cliff?????????


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