What gift can you possibly buy for a sports fan base that has it all?

Jolly old Saint Nick hasn’t failed Maine and New England since I loaded up my own sleigh and followed through with plans to escape three winters ago. You’re still winning World Series, going to Super Bowls and conference finals, making Cinderella runs in national playoffs and hanging state championship banners every few months as if it’s normal.

Still, in order to stay on top and make a good life even greater, we all could use a special delivery now and then. Being a charitable columnist of good cheer, it’s my job to discern that and dole out the delights accordingly.

With that in mind, here’s my Christmas list for a few athletic entities within caroling distance of the Sun Journal sports coverage area:

  •  To Joe Harasymiak: A career path that gets him to a major university in my part of the world within the next decade.

I’d wish the guy a long, meritorious career as football coach at the University of Maine, but even Santa has to be realistic. Harasymiak is the prototype millennial leader of a program who can find that balance between headbutts/hugs and slaps on the butt without being all “bro-ski,” Lincoln Riley-at-Oklahoma style.

He is the right age with the right temperament to have a resounding run at a Power Five school. I don’t think the average fan who watches one or two college football games a year and complains about red artificial turf realizes what a miracle it is for Maine to win the Colonial Athletic Association title outright and reach the FCS final four.

The Black Bears did it, and their young boss — easily confused with a player on injured reserve, if you’re scanning the sideline — deserves to be paid. Unfortunately for y’all, that will happen somewhere else, and soon.

  •  To the Patriots: At worst, a No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs, because I think that’s enough to put them in a third consecutive Super Bowl and ninth in this incomparable era.

It would furnish a home game against the Texans, which based on history is almost a lock. Also, it ensures that the Chiefs and Chargers beat the daylights out of one another in the other semifinal.

Either prospective AFC West champion is flawed enough to lose at home to the runner-up in the playoffs. Both also are wholly capable of soiling themselves at home in a conference championship, even against the weakest Patriots team since 2006 and one that plays like hot garbage on the road.

  •  To the Red Sox: An inclination to at least try Nathan Eovaldi as the closer in 2019.

Let Craig Kimbrel dangle those arms for someone else, spend the cash on another serviceable starter, and have the sacrificial lamb who clinched the World Series with an 18-inning loss throw 101 mph seeds in the ninth inning every other day.

  •  To Lewiston High School: A football coach who will put that program back on the map.

Much as I admire and respect Bruce Nicholas from years of watching him wear the hats and carry the clipboards of countless schools in the Sun Journal coverage area, I get what why administration chose to embark on a different course. LHS has a splashy, new facility and seeks a splashy, new coach to match.

The suggestion that Lewiston is a “soccer school” is absurd to me, as is the idea that only 40-ish boys in a school of 1,300 can be inspired to put on the pads. South Portland’s football tradition has been dormant since the 1990s, too, but the Red Riots shot for the moon (Cape Elizabeth’s Aaron Filieo) and will rapidly reap the benefits.

Lewiston must do the same thing. There’s a guy at the other end of Sabattus Street with three state titles on his resume. Just saying.

  •  To the University of Maine women’s basketball team: An America East championship season that’s convincing enough to earn the Black Bears a No. 11 or No. 12 seed and a neutral site for its opening-round playoff game.

One would hope that a road win over North Carolina and a narrow home loss to Duke would be enough. The committee that actually hands out such gifts always seems to forget or overlook those November flirtations with the big time, however, when March rolls around. The Bears need to stay fresh in everyone’s mind by stomping the teams on their own level over the next two months.

  •  To the Celtics: A couple more 10-game samples like this last one, during which Boston went 8-2 and reminded everyone it’s still likely no worse than the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the East.

They need to prove it by getting ahead of the Bucks, Sixers and Pacers before the all-star break. Unlike the Warriors, Thunder and Rockets, all of whom have the luxury of flicking the switch in the West whenever they feel like it, the C’s are on the side of the Mississippi that has turned an obvious corner the past two years. I don’t feel comfortable if they’re playing Game 1 and/or 7 on the road in the second round.

  •  To all my faithful readers: Sincere thanks and wishes for health and happiness in 2019 and beyond. It’s humbling to know that you still indulge an expatriate’s occasional rants about these non-life-and-death details we hold so dear.

Kalle Oakes spent 27 holiday seasons in the Sun Journal sports department. He now wears a big, blue Santa hat as sports editor of the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic. Stay in touch with him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @oaksie72.


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