NEW ORLEANS — Ho-Ho-Ho!
Like it or not, it’s that time of year again for my annual Christmas presence — and presents.
I am Santa BAW, a year older, not necessarily wiser, definitely poorer with less hair, squeezing down the chimney of WHNO TV 20 and this fine website, bearing priceless gifts, keen insights, sage advice and warm holiday wishes for my friends, antagonists, colleagues and the metro/regional sports scene.
Without further adieu:
** To Saints owner Tom Benson:
— Above all else, I wish you, Mrs. B (Gayle) and your family good health. That said, the wishes I extended to you last year still hold true this year:
— An NFL team that returns to relevancy. You invest a lot of money to get nothing more than season after season of diminishing returns.
— An NBA team that becomes relevant and makes a serious run at the playoffs. At the very least, a team that remains in contention through the Christmas holidays.
— Finally Mr. B, make sure you are listening to the right people in and around your billion dollar sports empire, the people who have your best interests at heart and not their best interests.
** To Saints coach Sean Payton:
— Dust is collecting on the 2009 Lombardi Trophy. Time for a newer model, wouldn’t you say? At the very least a trip to the playoffs. Just saying. It seems like I’m getting more and more cards and letters from discouraged and disheartened fans in Who Dat Nation this year. Still doing OK on my Naughty/Nice meter but you are slipping.
— This wish comes from Mrs. Claus, Sean. Would you please pick a kicker and stick with him for more than a season. Mrs. C wanted me to pass that along. She’s beside herself. If momma ain’t happy, Santa ain’t happy.
— And SP, keep tweaking that defense. It’s getting better but still needs work. Give Dennis Allen my best, too. Most of all get him some qualified help.
** To Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen:
— Keep the faith, brother. If I thought Rudolph could help, I’d send him your way. But he’s getting up in years and you already have too many red-nosed reindeer playing on your defensive unit as it is. Just kidding, D.A
** To Saints GM/Pelicans head of basketball operations Mickey Loomis:
— Santa doesn’t know where to begin this year. You either need more stockings or a bigger chimney. Or both.
— The time has come to draft/acquire a REAL successor to Drew Brees. Please! I’m losing my patience.
— Speaking of patience, how many times do I have to tell you — Anthony Davis needs help. You, Dell and Alvin are wearing AD out. His Uni-brow is beginning to turn gray, plus those carefully coiffed eyepieces appear to be thinning. He’s not even 24.
— With the cap money you saved re-doing Brees’ contract in July, please spend wisely and make good personnel decisions on the football side. Your job depends on it.
— And remember, the NFL may stand for Not For Long. But the NBA in New Orleans doesn’t stand for Not Bad Again.
** To Saints/Pelicans Senior Vice-President of Communications Greg Bensel:
— As the official mouthpiece for GMB Racing Stables, let’s drum up another Triple Crown entry or two this spring. And don’t forget to pass along some winning tips in 2017. Santa likes to play the ponies, too!
** To Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux:
— An injury-free season in 2017 so you can you can reach your full potential.
** To Pelicans GM Dell Demps:
— When I said “Let’s Make a Deal,” I meant get AD some legitimate running mates, bonafide complementary players, not over-priced players who stand around watching the face-of-the-franchise. I’m watching you Double-D — 24-7-365 — and so are my reindeer.
** To Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry:
— A healthy roster, better players and the patience of several Jobes. Oh by the way, I’d update my resume’ if I were you.
** To the face of the Pelicans franchise, F/C Anthony Davis:
— AD, can you play quarterback? Drew isn’t getting any younger. At least the Saints will surround you with some decent offensive players. And you won’t have to play defense. They don’t either. That’s a joke.
** To former LSU football coach Les Miles:
— No “offense,” Lester, but stay off the college sidelines and get in a TV studio/booth. You’re a natural talking head. And Mrs. Claus loves the way you look when you get mad. She thinks you’re hot!
** To new LSU football coach Ed Orgeron:
— Santa is scratching his head about your decision to hire University of Pittsburgh OC Matt Canada in a similar capacity in TigerTown after your first choice, Lane Kiffin, became head coach at Florida Atlantic. Canada seemingly likes to spread the ball around with a versatile, misdirection scheme but that isn’t exactly the same thing as running a spread offense Oeaux well! As long as Canada produces points.
** To LSU athletic director Joe Alleva:
— A long, successful run by Coach Oeaux. And a quality short list of men’s basketball coaching candidates in case Johnny Jones bottoms out this season.
** To LSU running back Leonard Fournette who has announced he will forego his final year of college eligibility and enter the NFL draft and not play against Louisville in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl (10 a.m., Dec. 31, Orlando):
— Two healthy ankles, a top-notch agent and the good fortune of being drafted by a contending NFL team that won’t run you in the ground early on in your career. The key word here is “contending,” which autuomatically eliminates sorry franchises like Cleveland, San Francisco and Jacksonville.
** To LSU men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones:
— Stop and smell the roses in what perhaps is your final season in TigerTown. Prove ’em wrong, J.J.! Santa is pulling for you.
** To Tulane athletic director Troy Dannen:
— The ability to weather the storm and stay the course, and the courage to make tough decisions. Same as last year.
** To Tulane football coach Willie Fritz:
— Now that you got the legit FBS-quality dual-threat quarterback in JC-transfer Jonathan Banks (compliments of Santa), let’s throw in a talent-rich, academically qualified draft class and several more American Athletic Conference victories in Year 2.
** To Tulane men’s basketball Mike Dunleavy Sr.:
— Good luck on Willow Street, Mike. That said, hang tight, there may be a coaching opening soon at the local NBA address in case you’re interested in returning to the pros.
** To UNO men’s basketball coach Mark Slessinger:
— Santa has a soft spot heart in his heart for this Indiana native. My advice to you is keep on keepin’ on.
** To Tulane baseball coach Travis Jewett, LSU baseball coach Paul Maineri and UNO baseball coach Blake Dean:
— Continue to make college baseball relevant in Louisiana, along with the numerous other solid baseball programs in the Bayou State.
** To Delgado AD/baseball coach Joe Scheuermann:
— Another trip to the National Junior College World Series in Grand Junction, Colo. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
** To LSU softball coach Beth Torina and Tulane women’s basketball coach Lisa Stockton:
— Continued success in sustaining your excellent programs and outstanding coaching tenures.
** To CEO Paul Hoolahan and officials at Allstate Sugar Bowl, and the teams from Auburn (8-4) and Oklahoma (10-2) and their many fans:
— A great game on Jan. 2 (7:30 p.m., ESPN, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome) and a safe and festive stay in the Big Easy.
** To CEO Steve Worthy and all the good folks at the Fore!Kids Foundation who produce the annual Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana:
— Here’s hoping the new two-man team format April 27-30 will attract a marquee field and rekindle widespread interest in the local stop on the PGA Tour. The new format will feature 80 teams (160 players) that play Foursomes (alternate shot) during the first and third rounds and Four-ball (best ball) during the second and fourth rounds.
** To officials of the Bayou District Foundation and City Park:
— Santa wishes best of luck to all involved and hopes he’ll get an invitation this spring to the grand opening of the new $13 million Rees Jones-designed championship golf course.
** To New Orleans sports/business leaders Doug Thornton (Mercedes-Benz Superdome) and Jay Cicero (Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation) and Billy Ferrante (GNOSF):
— Keep on keeping on putting our city’s best foot forward in bringing national sports venues to the Big Easy and this region. Your tireless work is invaluable and greatly appreciated.
** To LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine:
— The wherewithal to get your membership on the same page when it comes to resolving the fundamental differences that pertain to select and non-select state championships.
** To the great people in and around New Orleans, its political and civic leaders and anyone who calls southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast Region home:
— Let’s try to get along with one another and work hand in hand in making our communities a better place to live for our children and our children’s children.
** To my friends and associates at SportsNOLA TV, namely Ken Trahan, Rickey Jackson, WHNO TV 20 general manager Dean Powery and all the good folks behind the scenes, a blessed and joyous holiday season.
And finally, to all of our loyal visitors to SportsNOLA.com and viewers of SportsNOLA TV on WHNO TV, Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
Until next year, all the best …
Who Dat! on three…
PPF — In memory of Peter Paul Finney (1927-2016).