Ughhh, look at that return line. Must be a thousand feet long. Happens every year. The day after Christmas, and everybody wants to return something. Oh, well, let’s just get this started.
All right, listen up everybody. Refunds and exchanges only. Have your receipt ready and when you reach the counter, state your name, position and reason for return or refund. Got it? OK, who’s first?
“Rick Sund, Atlanta Hawks general manager. I wanna return this.”
What is it? It must weigh three tons.
“It’s Joe Johnson’s contract. It’s got six good years left on it.”
Why are you returning it?
“Just wasn’t what we had in mind. I mean, he’s a great shooter and all. But ”
“But now we can’t afford any more players to try to win an NBA title.”
Too bad. You should have thought about that before you signed him to that seven-year contract for 68 gazillion dollars. Sorry. I can’t take it back. There’s no resale market for it. Now, please. Step aside.
“Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves manager.”
What ya got there, Fredi?
September? Like, the whole month.
“Yes. I want to exchange it.”
We can’t take back a whole month.”
“Fine. How about just one game?”
Any game in particular?
“Yeah, that extra-inning loss to the Cardinals. Just give us that game, which would give the Cardinals another loss, and WE’RE in the playoffs, not St. Louis, and I’M sitting on top of the sunroof of a Caddy rolling down Peachtree Street and celebrating a World Series victory, not Tony LaRussa.”
Sorry, can’t help you. If I gave returns on September collapses, it would change all of baseball history. The Cubs and their black cat jinks, the great Phillies fall of ’64. Besides, your season didn’t just fall apart. Your abuse of your bullpen contributed. Maybe your bullpen wouldn’t have blown that two-run lead if it had been more rested. Then there was your decision to sit Jose Constanza when he was hot because you didn’t want to offend Jason Hayward and your decision to keep running Derek Lowe out there every fifth day. Sorry, the warranty does not cover user misuse.
“Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons coach. I uh this is a little embarrassing. I need to whisper.”
Sure, go ahead.
“I want to take back that decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 in overtime against New Orleans. That might have cost us the game.”
Oh, you mean the one you adamantly defended as the right decision. Nice to see you finally admit it. You have your receipt?
“Yeah, right here.”
The NFC South standings?
“Yeah. It cost us a share of first place.”
I see. Well, a refund is out of the question. But tell you what. Beat the Saints tonight in New Orleans, then run the table in the NFC playoffs and you’re in the Super Bowl. Green Bay did it last year. Pittsburgh and New England have done it. That first-round bye is way overrated anyway. Go to the Super Bowl and nobody will remember fourth-and-dumb. Sorry. It’s the best I can offer.
“Nick Saban, Alabama football coach.”
Nick, you’ve already been given a straight exchange on that LSU game. What now?
“Yeah, I just stopped by to say thanks.”
Oh, yeah? Could the fact that our holiday helper in the stock room is 6-foot-5 and can bench press Bryant-Denny Stadium -- and can almost lift the NCAA Manual -- have anything to do with you stopping by?
“No. It’s the recruiting dead period. We can’t talk to recruits. But you know (voice raising) ALABAMA IS A GREAT PLACE TO PLAY FOOTBALL, ESPECIALLY IF YOU WANT TO PLAY IN THE NFL. AND WE NEED ANOTHER OFFENSIVE LINEMAN. I HAVE SIX SCHOLARSHIPS LEFT, SO I CAN SIGN 17 MORE PLAYERS.”
“Mark Richt, Georgia football coach.”
What do you have there?
“My 2012 season schedule. I’m told I have to add Missouri, so I want to return Alabama.”
Actually, we’re working on that. But I can’t guarantee that you won’t have to play Bama in the SEC Championship Game.
“Do you have anything else that’s not crimson? I kinda like maroon. Navy and red look nice.”
As in Mississippi State or Ole Miss? Bet you would like that. Sorry, not happening. We do have this nice purple and gold
“NOOOO! (sigh) I’m still having purple nightmares. Fine, I’ll take the crimson. At least they don’t have a Honey Badger.”
“Gene Chizik, Auburn football coach. Is this Lost and Found?”
No, it’s the return and exchange line. Why, what did you lose?
“What DIDN’T I lose? I’ve lost my offense, my offensive coordinator, my defensive coordinator, my Top 25 ranking. Now Nick Saban has taken my place in the BCS Championship Game.”
Didn’t you take HIS place last year? He said that rightfully belonged to him.
“That’s what 70 percent of Alabamians think.”
Neeeeeeeext! Folks, I just have enough space to help this one last gentleman.
“That’s OK, we’re all together.”
Together? There must be a thousand people left in line. You’re all here for the same thing.
“Yeah. We’re skeptics, and we’re returning our doubt.”
Doubt about whom?
You know he threw four picks Saturday, don’t you? Hey, where’s everybody going?
“We changed our minds.”
-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org