With Thanksgiving less than a week away, let us take time to thank all those who have made a difference in the sports fan’s life. One should also not to forget to give thanks to those who have provided fodder for criticism.

I am thankful for the current construction of air-conditioning units in Yates Field House during Thanksgiving Break. Anyone who’s gone to Yates knows how stifling the air can get in there, and air-conditioning is something that should’ve been installed a long time ago.

I am thankful for Shaquille O’Neal’s return from injury today. No longer will I have to shield my eyes from his plaid suits. And no longer will I have to hear all those critics who have written off the three-time defending champion Lakers already, forgetting how dominant the team has been. The appearance of the lovable Shaq should return the league to normalcy and return Kobe Bryant to his rightful place as second banana.

Speaking of basketball, I am thankful for Jason Kidd, Tim Duncan, Tracy McGrady and Ray Allen. Those four players announced their commitment to the 2004 Olympic Dream Team, hopefully indicating that more star players will play for the U.S. In light of America’s embarrassingly disappointing sixth-place finish at this fall’s World Basketball Championships, these players can tolerate no more and will bring order back to the basketball hierarchy.

I am thankful for the tight playoff races that are developing right now in the NFL. In the AFC East, the Dolphins lead the rest of the division by only one game. In the AFC West, four solid squads – the Raiders, the Broncos, the Chargers and the Chiefs – seem to bring out the best in each other. The NFC South also features three impressive teams led by the Buccaneers, the Saints and the Falcons.

Speaking of the Falcons, I am thankful for Michael Vick, whom I think will develop into the best player in the game’s history. A guy who runs 50 yards in 4.3 seconds and has an arm that rivals John Elway’s makes football so much fun to watch.

I am not thankful for the sad state of affairs found in the NFC East. When Donovan McNabb went down with an ankle injury for the season, it made a sorry division into a laughingstock. This Sunday, the quarterbacks lining up for the Giants, the Eagles, the Redskins and the Cowboys will respectively be Kerry Collins, Koy Detmer, Danny Wuerrfel and Chad Hutchinson. To think that Collins is the best the NFC East has to offer is just plain sad.

I am not thankful for Steve Spurrier, who has turned the Redskin quarterback situation into a joke. While his quarterback mind games may have worked at Florida, he is not integrating the rest of the Washington players into his system. Compared to the success that former Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer is now having with the Chargers, Spurrier has fallen way short of the high preseason expectations.

While Washington’s football team might not be doing so well, I am thankful for the high-quality professional basketball on display right now at MCI Center. Though their point guard situation is shaky and their depth is questionable, the Wizards are much better than the sorry squad they had a year ago.

Most of all, I am thankful for the beginning of the Georgetown basketball season today. The women’s team will look to rebound from an injury-plagued, disappointing 12-16 record last year, starting with today’s game against Colgate. All-Big East First Teamer and double-double machine Becky Brunson and sophomore shooting guard Mary Lisicky should provide the inside-outside game that will be instrumental for a successful year.

The men’s team will have the chance to exorcise last season’s demons as it takes on Grambling at MCI Center. Without the weight of last year’s expectations, Coach Craig Esherick, Mike Sweetney and the rest of the Hoyas will have the chance to prove that their appearance in the Sweet Sixteen two years ago can happen again. And they can provide the class of 2005 with sweet, lasting memories of Georgetown basketball.

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