I made the darn list and checked it more than twice, and can confirm times have never been tougher for our local sports teams, way more naughty than nice.
Not naughty in the sense of doing illegal things, but naughty in the sense of declining to stop pucks, or make tackles, or score runs, or prevent the opposition from dunking the ball.
We were told this was the plan, to rebuild, but we didn’t expect it to include this much ugliness, did we? I’m not here to remind fans during the festive holidays that the Red Wings, Lions, Tigers and Pistons are in the throes of massive struggles.
What’s the point in even mentioning the cumulative won-loss record from their current or most-recent seasons is 70-170-1, a sizzling winning percentage of 29.2? Hey, at least the 3-11-1 Lions gifted you a tie.
Once again, I’m here to lift spirits (on the rocks with a lime, please) and provide gifts of hope to those who need it. And my goodness, plenty need it. If you can believe in flying reindeer, “playoff contention” pledges and big bearded fellas sliding down chimneys to deliver No. 2 pencils to every boy and girl, then you can believe a new year will bring promising draft picks and an occasional three-game winning streak, right? Right.
As always, these gifts are non-returnable and non-transferable.
For Matt Patricia: A subscription to a razor club, for starters. Also, the best gift of all — the real Bill Belichick defensive playbook, not the paint-by-numbers booklet the Hoodie gave him on the way out of New England.
For Bob Quinn: The No. 2 pick in the draft, and the strength to resist the temptation to bypass Ohio State pass-rusher Chase Young for a slot receiver. Especially during the 12 Days of Christmas, it would be nice if the Lions had 11 defenders defending and a pass rush involving more than two turtle doves.
For Matthew Stafford: After suffering back-to-back back injuries, he’s due something special. The Lions finally gave him a fancy new running game, but it broke. Fortunately, the warranty on Kerryon Johnson didn’t expire, but I’ll put another running back under the tree just in case. Stafford deserves to play with a healthy back, in every way.
For Martha Ford: The competitive passion to warrant the “Marth Vader” moniker and the mystery shades, and to reverse the fortunes of a woeful franchise. I realize a pro football championship in Detroit has been on layaway for 63 years, but what about a division title? Or more than one playoff victory? Or a gift card redeemable for “playoff contention”?
For Chris Ilitch: The foresight to know when to switch from preaching patience to pumping payroll, before the last fan out of Comerica Park turns off the bathroom lights. Hint: That time is rapidly approaching. Signing boppers C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop from the Twins was a decent start in nudging the Tigers below their 114-loss limit.
For Al Avila: Three Wise Men aren’t available, but what about One Mize Man? Heralded Casey Mize should arrive and bring some pitching buddies with him. Avila’s list also ambitiously requested eight major-league position players. Ha. He’s more likely to get eight maids a-milking down on the farm.
For Ron Gardenhire: A starting rotation, an everyday lineup, a bullpen, a bench and a stocked fridge in his office with a mix of domestic and import lagers.
For Miguel Cabrera: His old bicep back, as well as his sweet swing, not his sweet tooth.
For Steve Yzerman: Five rangy defensemen, four rugged forwards, three French hens (no idea why), two promising goalies and a future superstar with the No. 1 pick.
For Dylan Larkin: The determination to earn the Red Wings’ C next season, and the relief he doesn’t have the pressure of wearing it now.
For Jeff Blashill: The hope that young players will start learning, and Yzerman won’t glance at the standings and notice the Wings are on pace for historic ineptitude.
For Tom Gores: The realization that collecting aging stars like Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose might be fun, but isn’t conducive to long-term success. Gotta pick a direction, Pistons. Either get busy at the trade deadline or I’m sending you Vince Carter, Joe Johnson and a Dirk Nowitzki bobblehead.
For Griffin: A fully functioning knee, or two.
For Andre Drummond: A signature low-post move of any kind, and his signature on a max contract — with another team.
For Dwane Casey: An unlimited supply of throat lozenges and Tums.
For Jim Harbaugh: One thing he deeply loves, one thing he desperately needs, one thing he’ll likely re-gift — a tall glass of milk, a bowlful of crushed buckeye nuts and an autographed photo of Urban Meyer.
For Mark Dantonio: Fresh, new assistant coaches and an offensive game plan that doesn’t include third-and-9 jet sweeps crudely drawn on parchment paper. And for the tree, some of those sparkly three- and four-star ornaments all the neighbors have.
For Tom Izzo: Healthy shooters and improved fortune to land a ninth Final Four and that elusive second national title, so fans can start wondering when he’ll land a 10th Final Four and a third national title. Also, a trademark for the phrase, “This should make us better in March.”
For Juwan Howard: The stamina and spirit to keep Cabbage Patch dancing his way through a successful first season as Michigan coach.
For AD Warde Manuel: The willpower to resist dropping too many “I told you so’s” for his bold hiring of Howard.
For AD Bill Beekman: A stack of “Hello, my name is ___” stickers to wear around the Michigan State campus.
For Little Caesars Arena: More fan fannies in the seats.
For Detroit sports fans: A year full of shrewd trades, breakout stars and fiiiiive gold rings. Haha, just kidding. How about gifts more feasible and practical — lower ticket prices, cheaper beer and the elimination of cheatin’ referees who fabricate ridiculous penalties at critical times to help the stupid Packers.
Stay strong, people, and sleep well with visions of free-agent sugar plums and shiny draft picks dancing in your heads!