Surely it will not shock anybody who has digested my work in this space for a substantial length of time that my cynicism developed far ahead of my years.

Take Santa Claus, for example. By the time I reached kindergarten, I was a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic. How was a fat dude at the North Pole getting news about my behavior at 45 degrees latitude on July 23, 1978? It all sounded like an elaborate scheme to keep little people in line.

But now, having relocated south and no longer having many of the people I know best within arm’s length, I get it. While it takes some finagling, I think that I’ve achieved a pretty good handle on who’s being naughty and nice back where I was born and raised.

Still not quite sure how Ol’ Saint Nick pulled that off without the benefit of Facebook, Twitter or an Elf on the Shelf all those years ago, but nevertheless. It’s my final guest column of 2016, which means it’s time to reward those New Englanders who have minded their Ps and Qs this past year.

My Bluegrass Christmas list reads as follows …

To Maine high school football: A full-on, championship-awarding developmental league to help appease and grow the new/weak teams, and enough money in schools’ athletic budgets necessary to fund the travel involved.

To the University of Maine: A new baseball coach who is independently wealthy and plans to build a dome over Mahaney Diamond.

To Westbrook’s Trevor Bates: A text message from Bill Belichick to tell him he’s active for the New England Patriots in Week 17.

To Chris Sale: The ability to pitch effectively in those slow-pitch softball uniforms the Red Sox wear on Friday nights at Fenway Park, and selective hearing to help him drown out the ridiculous expectations that immediately turned David Price into a mere mortal.

To Tom Brady: About eight more years without taking a hit to the knee or shoulder, because I’m not ready to go back to the mediocrity that reigned over the Patriots before he showed up.

To Bim Gibson: No Lewiston-Edward Little hoop anthologies left on his bookshelf by New Year’s. When somebody cares about a community so much and invests such a staggering amount of time in preserving its history, it deserves to be fully appreciated.

To people who have never lived outside the Northeast and are suddenly Dallas Cowboys or Oakland Raiders fans: The same level of enthusiasm for the Chicago Cubs or Golden State Warriors after “your” football team is eliminated from the playoffs.

To any of Maine’s artificial turf stadiums: An FBS bowl game. I mean, heck, Idaho has one.

To David Ortiz: Boredom. Agonizing, utter, intolerable boredom, preferably reaching its peak by the second week of February.

To Portland: A new professional hockey team. Or a new arena. Or a more favorable political climate. Whatever you think it’ll take to recapture the spirit of the Mariners in the 1970s and the Pirates in the 1990s.

To Brad Stevens: The job at Duke or North Carolina when it opens in a few years. He’s too good a basketball coach and teacher of the game to deal with the rigged economy that is the NBA.

To Oxford Plains Speedway: A way to get the next generation interested in cars again.

To Bates College: Another 10 (OK, why not 20?) consecutive CBB football championships.

To Central Maine Community College: Another national championship in basketball. Maybe the women this time.

To Auburn: A one-stop high school sports complex to match the one Lewiston is building.

To the best Maine high school athletes: Parents who will continue taking out second mortgages and giving up weekends to drive you to out-of-state and summer showcases so your talents can get noticed.

To dormant UMaine hockey and men’s basketball fans: The gumption to get out and support those teams, even while they stink. This stuff is a vicious cycle. It’s hard to recruit good players when they experience empty, lifeless arenas on their official visits.

To Maine communities large and small: Wisdom to see the value of sports in an era when jobs are becoming scarce and more families are becoming fractured. Add, don’t cut.

To the Sun Journal sports department: Full appreciation from readers for all their efforts. Yes, the faces have changed in the past 18 months for a variety of reasons, but those gentleman still engineer a Little Engine That Could.

To everyone who made it this far: Peace, love, joy, health, contentment and a perception of the beauty in all things throughout 2017.

Kalle Oakes was a 27-year veteran of the Sun Journal sports department. He is now sports editor of the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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