Where to begin after bountiful December?

Editor's note: Longtime local sports writer and columnist Ron Kantowski begins writing columns for the Las Vegas Review-Journal today. Kantowski's columns will be published twice each week, on Sunday and Tuesday.

In cold December fragrant chaplets blow. And heavy harvests nod beneath the snow.

-- Alexander Pope

That must be it. It must have been about a month ago when the fragrant chaplets began to blow.

When it comes to sports, I cannot remember a heavier harvest than the one witnessed over the past month. It was a December to remember, both locally and nationally. It was, in the words of the singer Andy Williams, the most wonderful time of the year, at least if you are a sports writer who gets paid to render opinions.

Unfortunately, I had to sit out December.

When all H-E-Double Hockey Sticks broke loose, I was cleaning out a desk and then filling out paperwork and talking to the nice folks at the Review-Journal about a job, because this is what occasionally happens to people who spend a lot of time in two-newspaper towns (remember those?) or guys who play baseball in New York or Chicago. I now can relate to Robin Ventura, traded from the Mets to the crosstown Yankees in 2001, with the caveat I never charged the mound when Nolan Ryan was standing upon it.

Goodbye, daily insert. Hello, Section C. How do I look in pinstripes?

The more significant news of the past 31 days was that UNLV finally hired an athletic director before the candidates died of natural causes.

Five days later, it also hired a football coach.

Dominoes tumbled.

'Twas the week before Christmas before the boxing promoters stopped pulling our collective leg. Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather, this year's Fight of the Century, would be held in a Las Vegas casino instead of a Dallas football stadium. After all, what's a fight fan in the Metroplex to do after the Grassy Knoll closes?

'Twas the night before Christmas when the boxing promoters started pulling our other collective leg. They said the fight was off because Floyd suspects Manny is on steroids and Manny suspects Floyd is insane for suggesting Manny submit to about 38 blood tests between now and their proposed fight in March. Apparently, Manny is much more afraid of needles than he is of Miguel Cotto's right hand. Cotto, in case you missed it, was the guy Manny drew blood from during last year's Fight of the Century.

As for the new UNLV athletic director and new UNLV football coach, I plead ambivalence. Unlike recruiting gurus who rank 17-year-old offensive lineman on the basis of height, weight and how many times they made all-district, I can't forecast with any certainty how Jim Livengood will do as UNLV athletic director or how Bobby Hauck will do as UNLV football coach judging from their past performances. Any predictions would be only guesses of the wild variety.

However, observations can be made. On one hand, UNLV spent more energy than usual defending its selections, and neither job search will earn a passing grade from the minority watchdog groups. On the other hand, the decision made by (or for) Livengood to limit Hauck's contract to three years with a bunch of performance-based incentives makes sense even when the economy isn't tanking like a tennis star with a bad weave.

It is March that supposedly comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. This year, December came in like a Tiger and went out/down like a Tiger. When Tiger Woods drove his SUV into a neighbor's tree, exposing his little black book, on Thanksgiving night, the names contained therein started coming forward in a procession that made the March of the Penguins seem like a stroll down the fairway at an executive course.

Just like that, Andre Agassi's crystal meth habit and contempt for tennis (and hair weave) seemed trite.

During the final weekend of the final month of the final year of the decade, the best college football coach in the land quit because he was too stressed out. The next day, Urban Meyer flip-flopped like Jimmy Buffett. Then came the football coach from Texas Tech who is fascinated by pirates and apparently the kind of disciplinary tactics espoused by The Great Santini.

That's the thing about fragrant chaplets in December. Once they begin to blow, there's really no stopping them.

Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352.


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