I’m still sad from the weekend. I’m not delirious with rage, or throwing darts at a picture of John Swofford or lamenting a broken system with stunning poetry. I’m just sad. Oh well, at least my Boston College Eagles will get to relax in sunny Orlando over the holidays. I need to take whatever I can get.
Anyway, I’m not here to write about this. I don’t want anyone here to see me cry at my desk. Instead, I want to talk about Christmas.
We all still believe in magic, especially around this time of year. Even the most steadfastly secular and reasonable among us can still be overwhelmed by heart-quickening memories of holidays past. We can recall the excitement of seeing presents that appeared (out of nowhere!) under the tree, and that feeling we got when we were certain we heard reindeer on our roof. We have that specific moment when we were first told that Santa wasn’t real inked in our mind, right alongside the memory of us absolutely insisting that he was to the foolish non-believer.
Sure we’re grown-ups now. And we know there isn’t a toy factory on the North Pole or Rudolph with his nose so bright. But one thing I learned as a grown-up is that Santa is real. I’m serious. He exists in the harried expression of a parent trying to figure out what video game to get. He exists in a doting grandma’s car as she circles the mall looking for parking. He exists when dad gets up in the middle of the night to eat the carrots his daughter left out so she thinks that Dasher and Dancer did. So yes. Santa exists. But what doesn’t exist is free magic. Grown-ups know this. In fact, I think that’s the big difference between children and grown-ups. The adults among us know that miracles cost money. That video game wasn’t cobbled by elves, it was bought by your mom. That your stocking wasn’t stuffed by St. Nick in your living room, it was stuffed at Walgreen’s. And that no one is going to magically jump down your chimney and give your team Johan Santana for free. It’s going to cost you.
As a Yankee fan and Massachusetts resident, I’ve been able to overhear a lot of conversations regarding what the Bombers or Red Sox would have to pony up to land the most dominant lefty in the game. And it’s not cheap. Minnesota, though cold, is not the North Pole. And no one there is going to giftwrap Santana and hand him to your team for free. That’s just not going to happen. Not at all. Your team is going to have to give away valuable prospects that you don’t want to see go. Phil (his buddies don’t call him Phillip) Hughes and Melky Cabrera* would vanish from pinstripes or Jacoby Ellsbury and good young prospects would ship out of Fenway. The concept of spending talent to get talent is, for most fans I’ve eavesdropped on, absolutely terrifying. It makes me think there’s still a child in every fan that wants Santa to show up and give them something for nothing. The term “mortgaging the future for the present” is a popular one in baseball, and the Santana deal reminds us why. And conveniently enough, the holiday season is often about being reminded of sage old truths.
Hammerin’ (Chain-Smoking, Jennifer Love Hewitt-Admiring) Hank Steinbrenner and Theo Epstein are in something of a bidding war right now. The same kind of bidding war that you might see at a surburban camera store between two parents that want to get their shutterbug kids the same (and last) Sony Digital on the shelf. Hank laid down the law and said it was either today or bust. Theo gave the Twins the option of Ellsbury or warrior Jon Lester. Hefty bounties for a toy at Christmas, to be sure.
Personally, I hope the Sox get him for the same reason I hoped they got Daisuke: I’ll get to see a phenomenon have an impact on the city I love without having to see my team bleed cash and young talent to make it happen. Sure, there’s no childlike wonder in such a request. But I was the kid that asked for new boxers as stocking stuffers.
*The Milky Cabrera
2 ounces Kahlua
1 ounce heavy cream
Pour into sugar-rimmed glass and serve with a cinnamon stick.