For close to 50 years, my predecessor Ron Green Sr. wrote a Thanksgiving Day column, listing some of the things he was thankful for in his elegant prose.
Every year I looked forward to reading that column, as did thousands of other readers. It was an Observer tradition, and Ron wrote it long after his official retirement, ending it with his final Thanksgiving Day column in 2019.
But this year I asked Ron — who is alive, well and 92 years old, living with his wife Beth in south Charlotte — if I could revive that tradition in his honor. Ron said to go for it, and so I will. Let me thank him first today, for loaning me his idea. Just think of me as a cover band, playing one of Ron’s greatest hits but substituting my own lyrics.
I’m thankful for:
▪ The feel of a high school basketball gym on a freezing Friday night when you first walk inside, with the teams warming up and the people rolling in, shucking their coats, excited for the possibilities.
▪ The sounds of sports: The squeak of sneakers on a hardwood floor. The powerful whack of a drive off the first tee. The percussive crack when bat meets baseball. The whoosh of a new can of tennis balls being opened.
▪ The way a football crowd shakes the stadium on fourth-and-1, just before the snap, when it feels like the whole place is about to lift off.
▪ Rescue dogs. We’ve got two. They still bark at the Amazon truck every time no matter what, and we still love them.
▪ Cam Newton’s return. It’s an encore performance I never thought we’d see, and I’m grateful for it. He’s a little different this time around — more contemplative, more about the “we.” But Newton remains an electric personality and a sportswriter’s dream.
▪ Charlotte’s skyline at night.
▪ The smell of an old baseball glove. I’ve still got mine from Little League around somewhere.
▪ The jerk of a fish on the end of the line, when there’s something on there but you don’t know what.
▪ Dawn Staley. Coach K. Roy Williams.
▪ A beach at sunset. You have your favorite and I have mine, but there’s really no such thing as a bad beach in the Carolinas.
▪ Rereading Pat Conroy, just for the language. Do you know there’s a small, gorgeous museum and literary center dedicated to the late Conroy, my all-time favorite novelist? You should go. It’s in Beaufort, S.C.
▪ LaMelo Ball’s alley-oops, especially when the business end of them gets handled by Miles Bridges. The Hornets have become quite a show this season. The playoffs await.
▪ Bob McKillop’s wisdom and quotability. If you’ve never been to a Davidson basketball game, head that way.
▪ Fantasy football leagues, giving grown men everywhere a decent excuse to keep up with their friends.
▪ The moment the lights go down at a concert, just before the performers walk out on stage.
▪ Finding yourself with buddies at a Charlotte Knights game in the summer or a Charlotte Checkers game in the winter.
▪ Big family meals. They always remind me of when my son Salem was seven years old, hungry and in a hurry to get to the table to eat.
Did you wash your hands, we asked?
“I washed one of them,” he said.
▪ The Presidents Cup, bringing more big-time golf to Charlotte at Quail Hollow Club in September 2022.
▪ Observer colleagues, both here and gone. Journalism, at its best, is a team sport. I’ve had so many superb teammates at this place over the past 27 years, and still do.
▪ Billie Jean King, a pioneer for female athletes. Her new autobiography “All In” is terrific.
▪ Charlotte FC, playing its first Major League Soccer game in the Queen City on March 5, 2022. They’re trying to get 74,000 people in Bank of America Stadium to break a record. With $15 upper-deck seats, I believe they will.
▪ Stories about things that happened years ago, told over the Thanksgiving dinner table and reminding us all of the family members no longer here with us but who we still love deeply.
▪ Faith, family and letting go of the things in life you can’t control.
▪ Charlotte 49ers football coach Will Healy, showing us all that college football is supposed to be fun.
▪ A fresh cup of coffee. It makes everything better.
▪ Those who serve those in need on Thanksgiving. And those in health care who have had such a difficult last 20 months and pushed through.
▪ Saundra and Chancellor Lee Adams, two of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met. Chancellor Lee, who never would have been born had his father Rae Carruth had his way, turned 22 earlier this month.
▪ Steph Curry, who turned the NBA on its head but also never forgot that he’s from around these parts.
▪ Netflix. What did we ever do without it?
▪ Charlotte Motor Speedway, one of NASCAR’s gorgeous cathedrals of speed. And the Christmas light show is something else.
▪ Jamie Seitz, a coaching friend of mine who also taught all my kids and died of COVID-19 about 11 months ago, before the vaccine was available. Seitz is one of 773,000 Americans who have died from COVID. Please, get vaccinated. Or if you already have, get the booster.
▪ The Castanea recreational youth soccer league in Stanley, N.C., where I’ve been a volunteer soccer coach for more than a dozen years. And the thousands of youth leagues in every sport that are just like it — all of them run by volunteers trying to make kids understand how much fun sports can be.
▪ My wife Elise, who I met between the second and third floors of the Observer escalator, 25 years ago exactly this Thanksgiving Day. That Charlotte Observer building has long since been torn down in the name of progress. So we outlasted the escalator.
▪ Our four spectacular kids, who are now ages 14, 17, 20 and 23. We play a touch football game every Thanksgiving afternoon with other relatives, many of them also young and athletic. My role in the game has correctly evolved over the years to: “Dad, on this play, why don’t you snap the ball and then block?”
▪ High school coaches. They don’t get paid nearly enough, and sometimes not at all. But what an impact.
▪ Sweet potato casserole with pecans. Collard greens. Turkey. The fact that both my Mom and my mother-in-law make a killer pumpkin pie.
▪ Duke-UNC. Any sport, any time. The men’s college basketball rivalry is the best rivalry in America.
▪ David Thompson, the N.C. State great, who still lives in the Charlotte area and remains one of the nicest people you will ever meet.
▪ The Green family, which always got a lovely mention in this column when Ron wrote it and now gets this one today. (How am I doing, Ron?)
▪ Your own family. Treasure each other while you have each other. Forget the small grudges. Have that second piece of pumpkin pie. Put down your phone. Look up. There’s a whole world out there.
▪ Thanks for reading The Observer, today and all days. And happy Thanksgiving!