A visitor from the north

By Roger Grossman
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — December and January are my busiest two months of the year.

So last week, in a rare moment when I was sitting at home watching the Blackhawks and finishing the final few sentences of last week’s column, you may remember that I heard noises outside and then heard my doorbell ring.

I speculated that it might have been my “friend from the North,” and that’s exactly who it was.

Nick was back on my street looking for some last-minute advice on who has been naughty and who has been nice in the world of sports.

It’s become a regular thing, and I am happy to help the big guy out in any way he needs.
As always, he started with the “nice” list.

I told him that he needs to start with the administrators, coaches and athletes at Grace College.

Lots of colleges and universities talk about striving for excellence, but most don’t have half a clue what that really means or how to go about it.

That is not true in Winona Lake.

When you stack up the national championship trophies, the individual on-the-field honors and academic achievements, there is only one word to describe Grace College athletics —excellent.

Good people doing good things—that should always be celebrated.

I encouraged Santa to look kindly on Notre Dame Football coach Marcus Freeman.

He survived a first season that would have put most coaches on the hot seat before their first recruiting season to lead the Irish to a bowl game and chance to get better.

No, it’s not the bowl game the Irish want, or fans look forward to, but it’s a chance to for the players of the future to get some live fire playing time which will benefit them moving forward.

Also, I told Santa that Rick Carlisle and the Pacers need to be among the “good” this year.
With little fanfare, they have put together a roster that is in the top three in NBA scoring this season and made it to the championship game of the NBA’s hokey in-season tournament.

For the Pacers, though, it was a moment to announce that they are someone who is serious about winning and has intentions of making the playoffs and winning when they get there.
I also told him to add Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets to his list.

Jokic doesn’t have to beat his chest and scream out loud for us to know he’s the most skilled player in the NBA.

I’d also suggested he add Northwestern football for overcoming the mess that was their off-season to make it to a bowl game, NorthWood’s football team for getting it right this season and making it to the state finals and baseball commissioner Rob Manfred for stepping out and implementing new rules to make baseball a better sport despite the angst of traditionalists like me.

Then I made sure that he included all athletic secretaries and athletic office assistants up at the top of the “good” list.

They do so many things that are essential to the function of athletics—things 95-percent of fans take for granted.

And then my buddy Nick said “this is great, but we have to deal with the others, too.”
He was right.

I offered to him that the College Football Playoff Committee should get a lump of coal for not letting Georgia into its final four ahead a Texas team that has only had to be good on one side of the ball to win games because they play in a league with very little resistance offered by its alleged “defensive” units.

Also, Ryan Day is on the naughty list after roughing up former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz after the Buckeyes beat the Irish because Holtz didn’t think they were tough enough to be elite.

They barely beat the Irish, who ended up losing three games this season and making the Sun Bowl, and then got run over by Michigan.

I suggested Santa send him a note every week this offseason to remind him that they lost to Michigan again because Coach Holtz was right.

Santa asked about Brian Kelly, and I suggested that he consider renaming the naught list The Brian Kelly List of Shame. He said he’d think about it.

He also said to me “I am thinking that Bill Belichick should be on here too, right?”

“Yep,” I said, “and put him on there next to Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh. But understand that they already know which list they are on because they have been stealing information through staffers dressed like elves embedded at your workshop since September.”

Nick was … mad.

Santa also got negative feedback from me on ESPN for how far they have fallen in the world of sports overage, LIV golfers for being so weak-minded that they would rather get paid appearance fees than based on their performances, and the whole sports betting industry for choking sports and fans with the gambling.

Nick made a final swipe with his pen, then hopped aboard his sleigh asked about what I need this year.

I told him I was good, but thanked him for asking.

And I heard him exclaim as he rode out of view, “Merry Christmas to all, and All Hail Old Purdue!”