Kirkaldy Sports Column: A few requests for Santa from the sports world

If anyone out there doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, please check out the kid’s picture on our Dec. 6 front page smiling at St. Nick in wide-eyed wonder. Case closed.
Now that it has been once again re-established that Santa is real, I have a few sports-world requests for the Sage of the North Pole.
Many people deserve the gift of their dreams: Santa should give them what they want, which herein will be defined as “Visions of Sugar Plums.”
A few others, not so much: Santa should award them the traditional “Lump of Coal.”
First of all, Visions of Sugar Plums to the Middlebury College athletes who have been the victims of a ridiculous and unfortunate rash of injuries.
Few things are more frustrating for athletes than injuries. In chronological order, key senior field hockey defender Margaret Souther broke her hand during a NESCAC semifinal. Never mind the impact on the nation’s best team, Souther was denied the chance to help the Panthers win the league title, which they did, and the NCAA Division III title, which they probably would have with her. Fortunately, Souther also plays lacrosse, and maybe Santa can arrange a reward there.
Next, sophomore men’s basketball forward (and baseball pitcher) Dylan Sinnickson fell and broke his forearm in a practice. He was expected to be a key member of Coach Jeff Brown’s rotation this winter; maybe Santa can heal him quickly and let him fulfill those expectations.
Then senior Lauren Greer, the NCAA D-III field hockey player of the year, broke her ankle in an ice hockey practice after scoring three goals in five ice hockey games. After taking two days off following the end of her field hockey season. Word is she could return in January; maybe Santa can ensure it will happen.
And possibly most frustrating of all, promising women’s basketball point guard Nora Kelly tore a knee ligament during a recent game for a second time after a year of rehab. Whatever Kelly decides about her athletic future, we can all hope Santa takes care of her this Christmas.
And maybe, Santa, you could spare a little magic and protect the rest of the Panthers. Enough is enough.
On the bigger stage, three sports commissioners deserve Lumps of Coal:
•  The National Hockey League’s Gary Bettman, now overseeing his third player lockout — they ain’t strikes, folks — in 19 years. This lockout is due to the fact the NHL isn’t happy with the terms it accepted to end its last league-imposed lockout. Well, duh, too bad. Start negotiating in good faith.
•  The National Basketball Association’s David Stern, for fining the San Antonio Spurs $250,000 for resting four of their best players for a game at Miami — at the end of a ridiculous six-game, nine-day East Coast road trip the league itself scheduled for the Spurs.
•  The National Football League’s Roger Goodell, for his hypocrisy. Goodell talks about protecting players from injury and concussions, but pushed (unsuccessfully, thankfully) for an 18-game schedule and also for the league’s TV contract that calls for games on Thursday nights. For example, the Baltimore Ravens played three games in 11 days thanks to those Thursday contests. Think Goodell really cares about athletes’ safety?
Santa, on second thought, maybe with global warming they shouldn’t get Lumps of Coal. How about early retirement?
Finally, Visions of Sugar Plums for the many new area high school coaches this winter:
•  At Middlebury four former athletes returned to lead programs: Mary Nienow, girls’ basketball; Ethan Raymond, wrestling; Leslie Perrin, dance; and Terri Phelps, gymnastics. (Phelps has coached the program before, in the 1990s, so maybe Santa should just welcome her back.)
•  At Mount Abe, Mike Estey, who steps up from co-coaching boys’ hoop with Bill Leggett to taking over solo, with volunteer help from son Chad.
•  At Otter Valley, Steve Keith, girls’ basketball (doing double duty — he’s the AD, of course); Greg Hughes, boys’ basketball; Steve Mitchell, wrestling (maybe in his case Santa can find him a few more wrestlers like his son George); and Brian Jerome, Nordic skiing.
Santa, please see what you can do to arrange for hard-working and cooperative athletes, team chemistry, patient and understanding parents, and long and productive tenures. 

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