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Sipping coffee and chipping golf shots

Today, on Thanksgiving Day, I'm thankful for:

Every Saturday I ever spent in a football stadium. And every Friday night, when we were young and flirty and knew the cheers and went for burgers after.

Place kickers, goaltenders, long snappers, short relievers, the dynamite carriers of sports.

The mute button on the television remote.

The way Michael Jordan is going about ownership, like he means it. And Larry Brown. If they made a movie about a pro basketball coach, it should be about him.

Stock car drivers. They drive like madmen and then come in and fuss with each other like hens clucking at a weasel. Proving that they are human.

Our "happy hour," when Beth and I share books, wine, music and conversation. If I start to complain about my golf game that day she'll say something like, "Did you enjoy being out in the sunshine, playing a game with your friends?" and that'll be that. I hush and go back to my book.

The feel of good cloth. Low cholesterol. Restaurants that take reservations. Hot biscuits. The fourth grade teacher who read Robinson Crusoe to me and taught me to love books. Lady Antebellum. James Lee Burke books. Chinese takeout.

Our offspring, some spread from North Carolina to Massachusetts to New York to South Carolina to Colorado but separated only by the miles, all of them always right here with us.

The freedom to skip over another story about doping in bicycle racing.

People who can fix things. People who can cut down trees without breaking anything. People who drive big, heavy trucks better than we drive cars. People who can tell you where everything is in a super store. People who can wait several tables and never let your coffee get cold. People who deliver your paper while you're still sleeping.

The Panthers. My late aunt Eloise would've looked at them and said, "Bless their hearts." Which is far more on-the-money commentary than most. But there will be another season, sometime, and with it will come new hope.

People who can sing.

College basketball season is upon us, soon to push aside the frustrations of the mediocre football season that is as traditional in most of these parts as turkey on Thanksgiving.

Those days when the world slows down, when there's no traffic to fight, no errands to run, no work to be done, just coffee to be sipped, family to enjoy, soft music to be heard, food to be eaten, maybe a game to be seen on TV, maybe a nap to be taken, days like today, Thanksgiving Day.

Coffee shops, fresh markets, book stores, little restaurants, places that slow the heartbeat and make you feel like you're away from something.

Steve Spurrier and Marcus Lattimore finally got the Gamecocks on glory road.

Flyovers at sports events. Is there anything more glamorous than flying a fighter plane?

Old Clint Eastwood westerns. I saw one recently in which nobody spoke for the first 11 minutes but there was a lot of glaring and cigarillo chewing and one or two dead guys.

The Head Shop. A talk show with clippers.

People who are diehard passionate about their baseball teams. They're lucky, even if their team loses.

My golf buddies at Cedarwood, in the absence of better company.

The color purple. As I've said before, sunsets that make you want to applaud. Autumn mornings. Diners where the menus are sticky. Great looking neckties like the TV announcers wear.

John Kasay, the eternal Panther. If they all were as good as John, they'd win the Super Bowl every year. On top of that, he's a world class human being.

Laughter. I laugh too loud, I know that, but I figure if you're going to laugh, laugh. It's good for you.

Pinehurst. I've said it before but I'll say it again, there is a presence there that can be felt but not seen, a gathering maybe of the spirits of those who have loved golf, gone on and come back to heaven on earth.

The Augusta Masters, a celebration of golf and beauty, where yesterday lingers and touches what happens today.

Joe Gibbs, a man who has been a huge success in two sports, and has done it right.

Friends and neighbors with whom to share in conversation the uneventful events of the day.

Memories of a thousand nights walking out of arenas, long after the lights had gone out on the scoreboard and the crowd had gone home and the writing had been done and the only sounds were leftover echoes.

Christmas is coming.