My wish list for 2011:
• I want the Seahawks to finish 7-9 by beating the Rams today, just to see how many guys on the Seattle sideline will have the courage to put a “2010 NFC West Champions” cap on their head.
• I want football officials, from the high school ranks to the NFL, to stop penalizing excessive celebrations that aren’t excessive. Come to think of it, I want officials to stop penalizing celebrations of any kind.
Taunting? That’s another matter.
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But officials who flag players for saluting fans (thinking here of the tone-deaf call that pretty much killed Kansas State’s chance for a game-tying two-point conversion in the Pinstripe Bowl) or for taking a knee while pointing to the sky (the lowlight of the 2010 state high school playoffs) need a reminder: It’s a game. Games should be fun.
• I want No. 3 TCU to proclaim itself 2010 co-national champion. Hey, if Washington could hang a 1960 national championship banner in Husky Stadium decades after the fact, the Horned Frogs should be able to tout their 13-0 record, punctuated with a Rose Bowl victory over No. 4 Wisconsin, as the stuff of “Best Team in the Land.”
• I want Bert Blyleven elected to the baseball Hall of Fame after last year’s photo finish – the fifth-most prolific strikeout pitcher of all-time received 400 votes, and needed 405 – so the argument finally can turn from Blyleven’s worthiness for enshrinement to Barry Larkin’s worthiness for enshrinement.
(I checked both names on my ballot. I also voted for Roberto Alomar, Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell and John Olerud.)
• I want the Seahawks to invest their first-round draft choice in Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, a 6-foot-5 junior who is pondering the pros and cons of skipping his senior season.
Gabbert tossed up a stunningly ill-advised pass that was returned for a game-winning Iowa touchdown in the Insight Bowl. He also threw 41 other passes that were completed with uncanny accuracy.
• I want to believe that when ESPN is scheduled to televise a bowl game at 7 p.m., we will see the game in its entirety. Take, for instance, Thursday.
By the time the Worldwide Leader joined a Holiday Bowl already in progress, the Huskies had set the tone for their upset of Nebraska with an early touchdown off a fumble recovery.
Coverage was interrupted later for a breaking-news bulletin on the Stanford women snapping Connecticut’s 90-game winning streak. If I had been interested in the Stanford-UConn women’s game, I would’ve made it a point to watch it on one of ESPN’s 50 or so affiliated stations.
(At least Jake Locker’s career ended the way it began. During the quarterback’s highly anticipated 2007 debut at Syracuse, ESPN broke away to provide coverage of the perfect game bid of Minnesota Twins pitcher Scott Baker. That’s right, Scott Baker, whose quest for immortality was broken up with a walk, then a hit by the Royals’ Mike Sweeney with one out in the ninth.)
• I want Ken Griffey, Jr. to throw the ceremonial first pitch for the 2011 Mariners’ home opener. Last year was strained and awkward and ultimately exasperating, but last year was last year. It’s time to move on.
• I want Griffey’s ceremonial pitch thrown to Sweeney, whose everlasting contribution to Seattle sports was to break up the Scott Baker no-hitter that pre-empted ESPN’s coverage of Locker’s first game.
• I want Osama bin Laden captured and committed to a prison cell equipped with a TV monitor replaying Jim Gray’s painful, cringe-inducing interview with LeBron James on ESPN.
Gray: “Everybody is on pins and needles across the country, particularly those teams who are in the running for LeBron James. Are you ready to go LeBron? Where is the powder?”
James: “Left it at home.”
Gray: “What’s new? What’s been going on with you this summer?”
James: “Man, this whole free agent experience, looking forward to it.”
• I want Jim Gray’s advice. He might be a twit who follows dumb questions with more dumb questions, but in exchange for conducting an interview that made my skin crawl, he was paid $500,000.
• I want my once-favorite NFL coach, the Jets’ Rex Ryan, to just sort of disappear for a few months. There’s a fine line between wanting to know a bit about a high-profile coach and, well, knowing way too much.
• I want Lorenzo Romar’s basketball team to advance to the Final Four. Not to put undue pressure on the Huskies, but they’ve got everything required for a sustained run in the NCAA tournament: veteran guards (Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton), competent role players (Abdul Gaddy, Darnell Gant), an all-around senior floor leader (Justin Holiday), hot-handed shooters (C.J. Wilcox, Terrence Ross, Scott Suggs) and big men fit to impose themselves under the basket (Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Aziz N’Diaye).
If Washington goes two rounds and out in March, it will be a disappointment.
• I want to watch a thoroughbred emerge as a Triple Crown contender and a golfer compete for the Grand Slam. Those possibilities are extreme, so I’ll settle for the Mariners scoring two runs in one inning.
• I want an Ohio State gold-pants trinket, just in case I’m desperate for a tattoo.
• I want the threat of snow before a Sunday afternoon Seahawks game at Qwest Field: Seattle’s contribution to turning Tuesday Night Football into a tradition like no other.
• I want Jay Buhner in the booth for Mariners broadcasts. I’m not sure if he’s interested in a six-month gig that’ll necessitate three months on the road – I’m not sure if the Mariners are interested, either – but Buhner is to Seattle what the late Ron Santo was to the Chicago Cubs. Santo was far from a polished broadcaster, but his unashamed passion for the Cubs made him relevant to a generation of fans unable to appreciate the passion he brought to the field.
• I want Penn State’s Joe Paterno to put an end to college football’s longest unresolved mystery: How has he managed to work as a head coach for 45 years without losing any hair?
• I want to remember 2010 as, all in all, a good year. It had its bumps – and lots of lousy baseball at Safeco Field – but at least Brett Favre never sat down for an interview with Jim Gray.