For Christmas my requests included quality socks, a new belt, blue jeans and a dozen golf balls. Santa delivered the entire lot.
Sports wishes, however, are a lot tougher to fulfill. You may really hope to see the Carolina Panthers take on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, but there are a lot of Tom Bradys and Seattle Seahawks lined up to scrooge your desires.
But what would sports be without hope and a clean calendar without dreaming about filling it out the way you’d like to see it unfold.
Here’s my wish list of stories for 2014 in chronological order:
JAN. 3: Clemson defeats Ohio State to join Georgia and South Carolina in sweeping Big Ten teams in bowl games. After the entertaining seasons all three programs provided regional fans this year, they all deserve to end on a high note.
JAN. 6: Florida State mercifully ends both the Southeastern Conference’s (7) and state of Alabama’s (4) title streaks in the final BCS game. We all know the SEC is still the best conference in football, but the Seminoles are the best team this year. Auburn frankly has no business being in this game, but luck has conspired to give them a chance to be insufferable.
JAN. 8: Fingers crossed that pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine both join manager Bobby Cox in the Braves-iest Hall of Fame induction class ever. The only thing that could be better is if Dale Murphy was still on the ballot to join them in Cooperstown. A year after no player was enshrined, Maddux is a lock. Frankly, he should be a unanimous selection, but we know at least one idiot voter out there will exclude him just to keep it from ever happening. Glavine obviously has Hall credentials, but a crowded ballot might force him to wait another year and go in with John Smoltz instead.
FEB. 1: In finally correcting a gross omission, Thomson native Ray Guy gets his just reward as the first true punter selected as a Pro Football Hall of Famer. Guy should already be in from one of his prior seven shots as a finalist, but all will be forgiven if the voters rubber-stamp his inclusion by the senior committee (along with former Falcons defensive end Claude Humphrey). He still has to get 80 percent of the vote from the same dunces who have denied him so far, but this entry point is the closest to a sure thing that Guy can get.
MARCH 31: Whether by winning an early-season PGA Tour event or inclusion in the top 50 on this deadline date, locals Charles Howell and Scott Brown make it on the list of Masters Tournament invitees. It’s always more fun with some local flavor.
APRIL 13: Adam Scott slips a green jacket onto the shoulders of Tiger Woods. Love him or hate him, golf needs Woods to get back on the trail of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. The five-year drought stuck on 14 has derailed one of the great stories in sports. Whether you want to root for or against him catching Jack, there needs to be tension created by closing the gap. Now 38, Woods desperately needs a win at Augusta to jump-start his confidence. Another near-miss could be devastating.
JUNE 15: If there is any justice in the universe, Phil Mickelson will finally get to lift the U.S. Open trophy and complete the career slam on the very 18th green at Pinehurst where his heartbreaks started 15 years ago. Six times he’s been runner-up in his national championship, including the latest disappointing blow last year at Merion when he led through 66 holes only to stumble again. At age 44, his chances are dwindling. Cue the Father’s Day tears when his oldest daughter, Amanda, runs out to hug him on the green where Payne Stewart took his cheeks in hand in 1999 and sent Mickelson home to become a dad the next day.
AUG. 6: On the eve of the PGA Championship, officials announce the bold move to take the major championship overseas once every four years. The first road trip will come in 2020 at Royal Melbourne in Australia, with the February encounter making it the first major of the season instead of the last.
AUG. 28: The 2014 season opens with a Thursday night treat between South Carolina and Texas A&M, while Georgia and Clemson spar again two days later in Athens. Bless these teams for getting another season started with a meaningful bang.
SEPT. 13: Assuming the Bulldogs learn how to play defense this offseason, they will pull off a narrow win at Williams-Brice over the Gamecocks in this critical toss-up game. Whichever team wins, however, will claim the SEC East and eventually gain a berth in the first college football playoff.
DEC. 7: The inaugural four-team college football playoff bracket is revealed, and the howling begins when the Big Ten and Pac 12 champs get left out and two SEC teams are invited. But college powers quickly see how much money and excitement the playoff generates and start discussing expansion to eight teams ASAP.
DEC. 12: Aquinas completes second consecutive undefeated season with another Class A private school championship. People start discussing James Leonard (28-0 as head coach) as a candidate for a spot on the soon-to-be-vacant Georgia Tech coaching staff.
It could happen.