What is your holiday sports wish?
By Mechelle Voepel
My sports wish is the upcoming conference season will be a lot more exciting than nonconference play has been thus far in Division I women's basketball. Or even a little more exciting. Actually, how about exciting at all?
Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky, but it sure seems like this has been one of the least compelling openings to a season in memory. We've seen mostly duds in the nationally televised games.
The most exciting contest -- Stanford's victory over Baylor on Nov. 16 in Hawaii -- wasn't televised. It was on a live-stream Internet feed that was so jumpy that, to a lot of people, it resembled a stop-motion re-enactment more than an actual game.
We can hope that No. 1 Stanford's upcoming matchup with No. 2 Connecticut on Dec. 29 (4 p.m. ET, ESPNU) will be a welcome tonic for the doldrums. There's also another huge nonconference matchup to look forward to Feb. 18, when Baylor visits UConn (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
Will league play provide more drama than what we've had so far? It wouldn't take much. The top four ranked teams -- Stanford, UConn, Baylor and Duke -- are all expected to win their respective leagues. But will they run the table in conference play or face some challenges?
Perhaps the biggest suspense in the major conferences will be in the SEC, where Kentucky and Georgia -- both currently ranked in the top 10 -- go in as favorites, but Tennessee can't be ignored. And teams like Arkansas, Vanderbilt and SEC newcomer Texas A&M could shake things up, too.
By Kate Fagan
I have more than one holiday sports wish.
1. I'd like the NHL lockout to end. Not because I'm a big hockey fan -- I'm not -- but because I'm tired of all of these lockouts and strikes. Last year's NBA lockout was more personal to me (because I was covering the Sixers at the time), which means I can empathize with the pain currently felt by hockey fans. More to the point, this is just another example of how out of touch owners and players have become across the four major sports leagues. So bring back hockey -- for the fans and for the workers who make a living off the NHL's existence.
2. I'd like the government to take a good, long look at how much it subsidizes these big-money owners and teams. If we're looking to save money in the federal budget, this is the place. And if you haven't read this fantastic article on the subject, by Patrick Hruby, you should.
3. Figure out a way, as a country, to make sure our favorite teams, players and leagues don't have to honor young victims of a gun crime ever again, or at least not as frequently as they do now. These senseless tragedies need to end.
Oh, and on a much, much lighter note, I really want the New York Giants to make the playoffs.
By Melissa Isaacson
It's the holiday wish of a journalist, which is to say cynical and, in this case, maybe a little selfish and definitely unrealistic.
I wish I could walk into a Chicago Bears locker room and find someone other than the punter (not that Adam Podlesh isn't a nice guy). I wish we had more access to athletes and coaches than a few spare minutes a day at best, to ask questions and get answers and maybe even get to know more of them as real people with real stories we might find fascinating and inspiring if they were inclined to share them.
I wish the chasm between players and the media and fans wasn't so vast, so that athletes wouldn't be compelled to admit, as Brian Urlacher did recently, they don't really care about us.
I wish the 24-hour news cycle, which is so much a part of who we are as a technologically driven society, was not so demanding that it creates a climate in which everything is news. Even when it isn't. Like I said, unrealistic.
By Sarah Spain
We Chicago sports fans had a tough year, so this holiday season I'm feeling a little selfish. In 2012 the Bulls had the NBA's best record only to lose Derrick Rose to a torn ACL. The Blackhawks dealt with major injuries all season, lost in the playoffs and now hockey isn't even being played. The Cubs lost 101 games, the White Sox choked down the stretch to miss out on the postseason and the Sky blew a great start to once again sit out the playoffs. And finally, Chicago's beloved Bears started out 7-1 and are now likely to miss the postseason. It's been a rough year, to say the least.
So my holiday wish is for a championship to come to Chicago in 2013. Of course I'd also love peace on (sports) Earth and good will to (sports) men, but I'll take the championship first.
By Michelle Smith
My holiday sports wish is the college women's basketball season moves forward with no more ACL injuries. Too many players felled, too many teams' fortunes altered by an injury that does not discriminate. May the young women who play the sport play hard, rise to the big moments, knock each other down, pick each other up and all walk off the court at the sound of the final buzzer.