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In lieu of Christmas cards, a few New Year's wishes

Special to Page 2

Unfortunately, I was so busy listening to Eminem's Christmas album over the past weeks that I once again failed to mail my cards on time. So please tolerate my use of this space to deliver my belated holiday greetings and New Year's wishes for 2001. . . .

Cathy Freeman
Cathy Freeman of Australia, in the blocks before the women's 400-meter final at the Sydney Olympics, served as a representative for the Aborigines.
  • Like Chris Weinke, even when you are balding may you always have the option to change careers, the wisdom to know when to do so, and the strength to see it through the pain of injury, the challenge of a new path and the wisecracks of teammates who keep asking whether they can borrow your eight-track tapes.

  • May you be able to run as swift and true as Australia's Cathy Freeman, no matter if the weight and pressure loaded upon your shoulders is akin to piggy-backing CJ Hunter around the track.

  • May Scott Boras represent you at your annual salary review.

  • Like Shaquille O'Neal, may you have the desire to further your education and still earn your college degree even after you have signed a contract for more than $100 million, won an NBA championship and been rewarded with an MVP award. May your perspective be so broad that you still strive to better yourself and talk about future careers even if you have already recorded two rap CDs and earned your SAG card. And may you also improve your shooting percentage from the foul line.

  • May your children avoid the coaching of Bobby Knight, the aim of Roger Clemens and the appetite of Mike Tyson.

  • May you handle adversity and triumph with the same amounts of grace and perspective, whether you are leading the St. Louis Rams to their first Super Bowl victory or are stocking Green Giant canned vegetables at the local grocery store.

  • May your car radio lose its reception when Allen Iverson comes on the air. Or the Baha Men, for that matter.

  • May both your talents and your goals be so high that even winning three gold medals may be considered a disappointment, though never a failure. And may you have a deejay career to fall back on should your endorsements fall through.

  • May all your at-bats be at Wrigley Field with the wind blowing out and Jose Lima on the mound.

  • May your drives always sail farther and straighter down the fairway than anyone else's, may you always feel as if you have a 12-stroke lead going into the final round and may the PGA give you a slice of its television revenues. And if not, may you have a special golf ball that no one else can use.

  • And finally, may you show the heart of the Olympic swimmers, and not just the champions such as Ian Thorpe and Lenny Krayzelburg, but those swimmers from third world countries, the ones who swam in the morning heats only, the ones who had no hopes for a medal but were there solely for the chance to compete. The ones such as Rawanda's Samson Nyayishimye, who was the flagbearer for a country that lost 20 to 40 percent of its population to slaughter or exile during its wars last decade. The one who may be my favorite athlete of the year.

    "I lost all my grandparents," Nyayishimye said in Sydney. "I lost all my uncles and aunties. I lost cousins. I lost many friends. But that's the way life goes. You can't live in the past. I hope they're in heaven.

    "When I was going out there to swim, I knew they were looking at me. I don't know how I can explain it, but I felt like they were all around me."

    Nyayishimye swam the first heat in the men's 50 free. He finished dead last, 13 seconds behind the next slowest swimmer.

    But for a country that didn't compete in the 1996 Olympics, just participating in the same pool as Australia and the U.S. and all the other nations was of supreme importance.

    "Now is the time to open our eyes and find the world in sports," Nyayishimye said. "I love my country. And things are going to get better there."

    May that be true. This year. And all the ones after.

    Happy New Year.

    Jim Caple, who writes a weekly "Off Base" column for's baseball page, is a regular contributor to Page 2.

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