Ho, ho, ho, everyone. And let me be the first to tell you, dahlings, you look mah-velous, simply mah-velous.
Some of you out there are going to be receiving my personal best wishes for a happy holiday season -- and you know who you are, don't you? But before we get to that, dahlings, let me ask you a question: How about Joe Theismann? Doesn't he look absolutely mah-velous?
What a season for Joe. First he goes Harpo on us, doesn't say a word for months. That's Incredible, if you know what I mean -- and I think you do. Oh yes, we know Joe talked about each game after it was over, but it's only these last few weeks that he has taken his vocal cords off injured reserve and started putting his game tongue on. And none too soon, my dahlings, because it's been far too long since we've heard Joe talk about the really important things in life: the Holiday Spa, how to get a good fit from your warm-up suit, what kind of moisturizer to use after a game. We look to Joe for these beauty tips because Joe looks mah-velous. And you know I always say, better to look good than to feel good.
Joey, this silence thing, it really took off for you, didn't it? But just between you and me, I really missed your snappy little patter -- the way you would inhale, fill up a 45-minute side of tape, then exhale. I liked that, Joey. This guy Gibbs, the one who started talking more when you became a monk, he's nice, but he's not you -- and you know what I'm talking about, don't you?
Merry Christmas, Joey.
Sshhh, don't speak. Don't spoil this magical moment.
I want to remember you just like this.
And now to my personal list. Holiday cheer to all these:
To Julius Erving, Billy Paultz, Steve Garvey, Nolan Ryan, John Lowenstein, Reggie Jackson, Curtis Jordan, JoAnne Russell, Chris Evert Lloyd, Rod Langway, Tom Seaver and Howie Long -- some players who've made this job easier, because they've always been fun and easy to talk with.
To Bobby Ross, for staying; to Craig James, for going.
To Henry Tillman, the Olympic gold medalist fighter, for the best quote of the year. When they asked him how far his house was from the L.A. Sports Arena, Tillman said, "Three or four miles -- depending on traffic."
To Howard Cosell, whom I missed on Monday Night Football; to the Washington Federals, whom I missed completely.
To the San Diego Padres starting pitchers and their role model, Venus de Milo.
To Sugar Ray Leonard for knowing when and how to quit.
To Dick Schaap and Dan Jenkins for their sports books. Schaap's "The 1984 Olympic Games" is beautiful, and Jenkins' "Life Its Ownself" is hilarious; to Mary Lou Retton, of whom Jenkins said, "I like her because she can do everything my cat can do."
To Billy Crystal, a swell shortstop, a Long Island boy, and the creator of the "Fernando's Hideaway" bit I stole for the top of this column; to Theismann himself, who, gabby or not, is a Pro Bowl quarterback. Tell the truth, doesn't he look mah-velous?
To Jim Valvano, Terry Holland, Lou Carnesecca, Larry Brown and Digger Phelps -- excellent college basketball coaches who don't automatically look at a reporter and see the enemy.
To Jack Kent Cooke for trying to bring baseball back.
To Abe Pollin for finally admitting that thunder and lightning is more fun than dull and plodding.
To Bobby Beathard, Bob Ferry and David Poile for giving Washington first-class pro teams.
To Tom Monaghan, Detroit Tigers owner, for airlifting pizza inside Tiger Stadium to a press corps that was understandably reticent to venture outside into a riot.
To graduates of Hewlett High and Harpur College.
To Mr. Big Shot Miami Hotel Man Woody Weiser.
To Bob Uecker. Thanks for the tickets. He made the tag.
To Marty Liquori for saying on the air what so many of us felt in our hearts: Get that woman off the track before she drops dead.
To the juggernaut that is the Bialystock & Bloom softball team.
To New York's Mike Lupica and George Vecsey, Long Island's Steve Jacobson and Joe Gergen, Philadelphia's John Schulian, Atlanta's Dave Kindred, Chicago's Bob Verdi and Boston's Leigh Montville -- terrific sports columnists; to Dan Lauck and David Israel, great sportswriters who have left print for TV.
To neighbor Jeff, the block's No. 1 Redskins fan.
To the Miami Hurricanes for three of the great college football games in recent memory: vs. Nebraska, vs. Maryland, vs. Boston College.
To Moondog Spot.
To everyone at Shady Springs and President Valet.
To Marshall Criser, president of the University of Florida, for firing Charley Pell, who cheats.
To each and every one of you who saved up enough vacation time to drive out to Capital Centre.
To Ed Tapscott for not getting discouraged.
To Walter Mondale. Seriously, how many people are sending him cards?
To the legendary Junior Feinstein.
To the Dips. Come home, all is forgiven.
To Keith Jackson. Merry Christmas, you big, stud hoss.
To Ray Jauch, wherever you are.
And to all of you who didn't get on my list this year, cheer up, it could be worse -- right now you could be stuck on a luge in Sarajevo waiting for a herd of triple salchows to pass by.