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Original Issue

It's The Thought That Counts

Seeing as how this will be the 25th Christmas since the gangly
teenage sportswriter first kissed the prettiest cheerleader, a
guy starts to run out of good gift ideas. Did the matching oven
mitts thing. The Christmas-scene Tupperware. The Hairagami. How
romantic can one husband get?

I really want this one to be special, but I'm choking. What gift
is good enough for a woman who raised three wonderful kids while
I phoned in for periodic updates from South Bend and Wimbledon
and the swimsuit shoot? There must have been 100 times when she
wanted to say, "Any chance you could see your family a little
more and Scotland a little less?" but she never has.

How do you thank your best catcher, goalie, cornerback, ump,
trainer, chef, business manager, p.r. agent, buddy and masseuse?
What's the right gift for someone who never begs out of the
action like so many can't-muss-my-Revlon wives? Someone who has
never, not once, yelled, "No ball in the house!"

What's appropriate for a person who has cheerfully plotted so
many family vacations around the Carquest Bowl or the Buick Open
or the crucial Midwest subregional. Hey, kids! Who wants to go to
a Clippers shootaround?

What sort of gift says, Thanks for not putting your fist through
the souffle when I call from the press box and tell you I can't
make the gourmet dinner party for 12 you've cooked because Chuck
Knoblauch suddenly forgot how to throw a baseball to first base?
This is a person who has never said a peep about Mother's Day
always coming on a Tuesday, Thanksgiving on Dec. 2 and Easter
right around Yom Kippur. This is a woman who has never challenged
the concept of the Sports Minute, as when dinner's on and I
holler, "There's only a minute left in the game!" Then she knows
she still has time to finish her quilt, do the taxes and reattach
the back gutter.

What sort of Christmas present makes up for all the thank-yous I
forgot over 25 years? For instance, I don't think I ever thanked
her for coming to my high school baseball games and sitting there
in the freezing cold as I sat on the bench. Or for never
complaining when all the other college girls got to go out to the
clubs with their boyfriends after the basketball game while she
drove my 1966 Nova as I typed madly on my portable typewriter in
the passenger seat, 12 minutes to deadline.

I'm thinking it's not easy putting up with me. Popes have
beatified women for less. How would you like to be married to a
man who continues to harbor a belief that he'll be discovered by
a major league scout, even at 42? Who else would pretend she saw
my double off the fence but not the dribbler that went through my
legs? Who else would act as if the forehead scrape I got in the
alley basketball game is thisclose to requiring a trip to the
emergency room when a Buzz Lightyear Band-Aid would've more than
covered it?

She doesn't roll her eyes when the guys and I make plans for the
annual touch football classic. She even keeps from rolling them
again when I come back with a groin pull every year. And what
other buddy of mine will sit and listen to the hole-by-hole recap
of my round without charging caddie fees or saying, "I'll wait
for the miniseries, thanks."

I mean, who else gets to sleep with his best editor? With someone
who knows how to spell Poughkeepsie, can always come up with a
better word for blowout and finds hundreds of gentle ways to say
a column stinks? Maybe you should save this one for a special
week, sweetheart, is a goody.

I don't know where I'd be without her, but I'm guessing it would
probably be in Hubcap, Iowa, selling discount parachutes. I know
I wouldn't be sitting here. So what gift is good enough for a
woman who lets you have a lifelong affair with sports and never
gets jealous? I never loved any of them as much as I do her, up
to and including the playoffs.

We had a little scare last month, but the MRI turned out to be
fine. Still, it gets you thinking. There have been times lately
when she was asleep that I opened the blinds a little and let
the moonlight in and just watched her breathe. For 25 years I've
called her Lucky. Turns out it should have been the other way
around. So tell me, what do you give the most beautiful woman
you've ever seen? And the best-looking, to boot? It just hit me.



So what gift is good enough for a woman who lets you have a
lifelong affair with sports and never gets jealous?