By Bernie Miklasz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Thursday, Nov. 27 2008
As columnists go, I've never been one to write the predictable Thanksgiving Day
column. You know what I'm talking about.

Just write about 20 things I'm thankful for like Stan Musial, the music of
Alejandro Escovedo, political histories written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, sports
on high-def TV, Forest Park, Montecristo cigars, the BLT at Crown Candy, Rick
Hummel's new blog on STLtoday.com, the love of a great woman, etc.

It's a pretty easy column.

Not that I'm opposed to breezy columns, mind you.

So I'll go astray and do a predictable Thanksgiving column, but with a little
twist.

I'm thankful for many things, but will defer and cite the 10 area sports
figures/groups who have much to be thankful for.



1. Gary Pinkel
He succeeded where so many other coaches failed by resurrecting Missouri
football. The Tigers are 21-4 over the last two seasons and were ranked No. 1
in the nation for a week in 2007. They've won two consecutive Big 12 North
titles. The recruiting pipelines are flowing with talent. Mizzou home games are
an event. And the university just approved a new package that will pay Pinkel
$2.5 million in annual compensation and he isn't even required to beat
Oklahoma or Texas in a big game. Life is fantastic for Pinkel in Columbia, Mo.



2. Albert Pujols
He now has two MVPs on the trophy shelf and commands universal praise and
respect from fellow players and competitors. And after three more seasons,
he'll cash in on a remarkably bountiful contract.









3. Bill DeWitt Jr.
Baseball in St. Louis is a sacred, shared experience, and the Cardinals'
chairman still has the hottest ticket in town. Even if DeWitt lowers payroll,
fans will continue to flock to Busch Stadium in huge numbers.









4. Chris Long & Erik Johnson
I know this will seem odd to include them, but hear me out. Yes, Long is on a
sad 2-9 football team, but the Rams' rookie defensive end is a building block
for the franchise. As Long goes to work each day, he should know that one day
the Rams will be winners, and he will be an important piece of that future. The
same applies to Johnson, even though he's bummed right now after season-ending
knee surgery. Johnson and all of the good young Blues players Patrik
Berglund, T.J. Oshie, David Perron and others have a lot to look forward to.



5. Jerry Clinton
The retired Anheuser-Busch beer distributor is bravely battling cancer, and we
hope and pray for his improved health. I was hard on Jerry near the end of the
NFL expansion debacle, but I hope he realizes how much he's appreciated by all
for his tireless efforts to enhance the St. Louis community. A long list of
good deeds includes Clinton's munificent efforts on behalf of local charities,
and his dedicated fundraising to benefit the families of fallen police officers
and firemen. Without Clinton, the Rams don't move to St. Louis, and there's no
Super Bowl championship. Clinton is one of those rare people who can rest at
night knowing that he's made his city a better place to live.



6. Brock Berlin
He's the Rams' third-string quarterback who rarely plays. Which means he
doesn't have to worry about sacks, interceptions, concussions, broken ribs, a
ruined reputation, and trips to the emergency room.










7. Ryan Ludwick

After being sidetracked by a terrible sequence of injuries, he had a big-time
breakout season for the 2008 Cardinals, hitting 37 homers with 113 RBIs at age
30. Living proof that good things do happen for good people who refuse to give
up the dream.






8. Richie Incognito

He commits bonehead penalties. He rips the team's suffering fans. He flicks an
obscene gesture at a TV camera. He taunts the fans as he leaves the field after
his team's latest blowout loss. And no one at Rams Park will discipline him. If
it happened at any other workplace, Richie would be gone. But the Rams have
pretty much given him a free pass.





9. Billy Devaney

By all indications, Devaney will be empowered by Rams owner Chip Rosenbloom to
take charge of the football operation. If Devaney can rebuild this mess, it
would be his career achievement. And the best leaders thrive on difficult
challenges, so this is an exciting time for Devaney.






10. St. Louis fans

Agreed, we're going through a tough stretch. The Blues are rebuilding. The Rams
require a complete overhaul. The Cardinals have been out of the money for two
consecutive seasons. Local college hoops have been on the dull side. The NCAA
shunned us in the next rotation of hosting the men's basketball Final Four.

Hey, it could be worse. Look to the west; the Kansas City Chiefs are 1-19 in
their last 20 games. Or you could be a Seattle fan, with the 101-loss Mariners,
the 2-9 Seahawks, the defection of an NBA franchise to Oklahoma City, and a
collapsed college football program at the University of Washington.

And we have hope. Rosenbloom will make overdue changes in the Rams' front
office. The Cardinals finished 10 games over .500 last season and can narrow
the gap on the Cubs with a few smart offseason moves. The Blues' youth movement
has real kick. Rick Majerus (St. Louis U.) and Mike Anderson (Mizzou) have
recruited a bevy of promising freshmen. Their teams are more interesting now.

We're just around the corner from the light of day.

Have a nice Thanksgiving, everyone.