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It was a very good year ... always

Here's what some sports figures have to say in their holiday cards

Posted: Wednesday December 22, 2004 1:28PM; Updated: Thursday December 23, 2004 11:45PM
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Christmas Cards
Randall Grant/SI.com

The annual deluge of cards to our house has finally started to abate. My, there is such variety. Some say "Merry Christmas." Some say "Feliz Navidad." But since the party in power is mad at France, I don't seem to get any cards that say "Joyeaux Noel" anymore. More and more cards say "Peace on Earth." I like that. Then there are still cards that say "Season's Greetings." I find "Season's Greetings" so insipid. It's barely one step up from "Dear Sir," isn't it? Have you ever in your life heard anyone say "Season's Greetings?" I didn't think so. If you don't say something, please don't write it on a card.

Some cards come with religious pictures, others with Currier-and-Ives-type stuff. Then there's Christmas trees, menorahs, Santas, stockings and candy canes. The most organized people assemble their family in August for a photograph they'll send out in December. The cagiest people are waiting till next week, after they know who's already sent them cards, and then they'll send out Happy New Year's notes.

But, of course, my favorites are the cards -- well, they're really not cards ... they're more like annual reports on the family, all typed out, usually complete with happy faces. These newsletters summarize the year, and no matter how awful things have gone, the letter-writer always finds a way to put a bright shine on it. Every year has been a great year for everyone in the family. I'd like to read to you some excerpts from some of these year-end letters in sport that I've received.

This one, for example, from Marion Jones:

"Dear Friends: The year ends with the wonderful news that Tim and I will be able to cut down on our medications in the months ahead ... "

And this just arrived from the Notre Dame athletic department:

"Dear Irish Rooters: How blessed we are to be able to meet new friends, especially during the Christmas season, as our football team's performance has allowed us the joy of welcoming a new coach to South Bend two years before we thought we would have this opportunity again...."

This from a wife in Los Angeles:

"Dear Kobe's Fans: It has been a year just chockfull of nice surprises for us. Kobe's business trips to Colorado have ended, although Kobe had thoughtfully given me a beautiful diamond thingie because he had to be away in Colorado so often. We were so sorry that Coach Jackson and Shaq and Karl and Gary and Rick are no longer with Kobe's team...."

And this from Rick Carlisle, the coach of the Indiana Pacers:

"Dear Pacer Pals: It's been a terrific year for the Pacers -- both on and off the court. Ron Artest has produced a new rap album, and he will be spending some of his free time publicizing it. Ron and a few of his teammates have exhibited a special brand of fellowship by going into the stands and mingling with the fans...."

And this from the National Hockey League commissioner, Gary Bettman:

"Dear Hockey Fans: It's always so painful for hockey players to be away from their families during the holiday season, so this year we at the NHL have made it possible for our players to enjoy these precious days with their loved ones. We say Merry Christmas and Joyeaux Noel to all our players."

And Season's Greetings to all of you.

Sports Illustrated senior contributing writer Frank Deford is a regular contributor to SI.com and appears each Wednesday on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. He is a longtime correspondent for HBO's Real Sports and his new novel, An American Summer (Sourcebooks Trade), is available at bookstores everywhere.