From Jordan, Sweetness to Derrick Rose, plenty to be thankful for

SHARE From Jordan, Sweetness to Derrick Rose, plenty to be thankful for

Sometimes I think sportswriters are born to complain.

Grumpiness is our default mode. We are as comfortable with crabbiness as crabs are with fish heads.

But even Scrooge broke down at the end, and at this time of year, I realize how much I am thankful for.

◆ I am thankful for Walter Payton, for the memories that feisty man left, for the way he combined ferocity with frailty and incessant worry about things all men worry about.

◆ I am thankful for Michael Jordan, for having been allowed to sit up close and watch him play hundreds of NBA games, not one of which did I ever feel he was playing less than at 100 percent, his pride waving from him like a pennant in the castle breeze.

◆ I am thankful for the Blackhawks achieving full relevance and respect in my working lifetime. Which also means I am thankful for the grit and leadership of Jonathan Toews and the sleight-of-hand and ice-dancing skills of Patrick Kane, a man whom I could envision, if life had turned out just a little differently, hustling rubes out of cash at three-card-monte schemes on the streets of New York.

◆ I am thankful for Lake Michigan, a beautiful, humbling part of the Great Lakes, which contain 20 percent of the attainable fresh water in the world, one of the least appreciated natural wonders of our globe.

◆ I am thankful for living in a city with two major-league baseball teams. The fact that for half of every year either the Cubs or White Sox are usually playing a game at home, within the city limits, is a blessing even Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, etc. will never know.

◆ I am thankful for the view from the press box at Wrigley Field, on those days when the rooftops are alive and the lake is blue and dotted with the white triangles of sailboats manned by sailors looking back at the city.

◆ I am thankful for having seen the inspired middle linebacker play of Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher, each with a different body type, each playing the position in a unique Hall of Fame way.

◆ I am thankful for having watched Phil Jackson rise from oddball assistant coach to legendary Big Chief Triangle, a pioneer who was much needed in our macho, often pigheaded, sports world, wherein the nastiest guys such as Vince Lombardi and Woody Hayes and Bob Knight seemed to hold sway. Jackson showed that mindfulness and a warrior’s respect were as important as rage and fear of defeat.

◆ Yes, I am thankful for Derrick Rose. His ongoing battle against the unwelcome and unexpected ravages of the physical world only make the splendor of his early promise and 2011 MVP success that much more poignant. Rose is the orchid that a careless party guest poisoned with a dumped booze glass, the genius who fell and now must rise again to be remembered as anything but a coulda-been.

◆ I am thankful I got to know and work with Chicago originals Bill Gleason, Ben Bentley and Joe Mooshil.

◆ I am thankful I got to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game’’ with fellow sports scribe Bill Jauss as he lay on his hospice bed.

◆ I am thankful I got to hear the wistful, operatic tones of the late Lacy Banks singing Motown tunes and church scores at weddings and press tables.

◆ I am thankful for Bears center Roberto Garza, one of the steady but unsung athletes in our city who does his job with excellence and is respectful, dignified and courteous with the press. A huge athlete who treats everyone the way he or she should be treated — and knows your first name — is an athlete to be treasured.

◆ I am thankful for Chicago, with its bubbling cauldron of high school, college and professional sports, a place where hard work is respected, people know what winter is and the East Coast and West Coast can kiss our vest pockets with the cigars inside.

◆ I am thankful for my dear friends in this city, male and female, especially all the hundreds — maybe thousands — of guys I have played pickup basketball with, from McGuane Park to Pottawattomie Park, through the decades.

◆ I am thankful for my family and all my relatives in the city, from little Nick and Finley to late uncle Jack and his Telander Construction Co.

◆ I am thankful to be a Chicago sportswriter.

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