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Tribune Staff

It's the holiday season. Perhaps you tried your luck with Cyber Monday deals earlier this week. Maybe you acted like Punxsutawney Phil and poked your head out on Black Friday just long enough to see a crowd before retreating back inside your den for six more weeks of watching football.

But more than likely, if you're reading this column, you've been too busy with college football, the NFL and the start of the NHL, NBA and college basketball seasons to really have noticed. You're just now recognizing the calendar has flipped to December. You find yourself frantically staring at a countdown to Christmas and desperately in need of gift ideas to jump-start your holiday shopping.

Or maybe you're staring at this page because the sports fans in your life have been too busy watching their fifth basketball game of the week on ESPN to read the newspaper. That means they've probably been too busy to fill out holiday shopping lists telling you what they want.

Fret not, faithful reader. The Sports Guy is here and he's got your back covered.

Yours truly scoured the Internet in search of gift ideas for sports fans of all sizes and ages. Here's a smattering of the more peculiar recommendations:

•‘The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything' — Even couch potatoes need reading material during commercial breaks and between kitchen runs for more chips and salsa. This book purportedly takes the Mother Lode of all sporting events —the NCAA basketball tournament — and applies the same concept to various cultural questions. See how a bracket of the top 64 movies of all time fared in head-to-head competition and argue about the Final Four. Pick the right topic and you might even find conversation steered away from sports for a few minutes.

Incidentally, people who liked this book also apparently like the title “101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die.” Apparently there were too many to fit on a 64-slot bracket?

• We all know golfers who are a tad, shall we say, overzealous when it comes to the game. Share your addiction fears by writing them a “parscription.” For a modest fee, your golfaholic will receive an orange-brown oversized medicine bottle filled with six golf balls and a personalized prescription label for whatever ails them — chronic bogeys, perhaps? — signed by Dr. Myrtle Beach.

• Customized M&Ms —Those delicious candy coated chocolates that you've gone crazy over since childhood? They apparently now come customized with the logo of your favorite sports team on them. I'm not quite clear if the idea here is to order your favorite team or if you're supposed to order ones bearing the logo of your hated rival so that you can, as cheerleaders have urged for decades, “eat ‘em up, eat ‘em up, rah, rah, rah!”

• The Lebron James Transformer — Kids love action figures. Kids love robots. Kids love things you can change. Presumably, this toy does all three. Then again, it might just have a button that changes the jersey from Cleveland to Miami.

• The Soccer Guys set —Advertised with a price of $25, this one appears to be a bargain. For your money you get “two soccer teams, referee, field, soccer ball and goals.” Where was this a year ago when Northwest College was trying to add a sports program on the cheap?

Then again, you could always just fall back on the tried and true sports apparel, a larger television set for us to watch the game on, or a nice comfy recliner to view the action from.

The No. 1 passer in the NFL is named Drew Brees. The two lowest-rated passers are Alex Smith and Derek Anderson.

You might think the disparity lies in natural ability or work ethic, but I insist it's all in the name. Drew “Cool” Brees was destined for greatness; the commonality of Smith and Anderson, mediocrity. Like any theory though, it can't be proven.

I recently opined about car names — my assertion being that a car named with passion and pride, like Dodge “Stealth” or Mustang “Cobra” will always be more in demand than something named Plymouth “Reliant.” Girls like bad boys and powerful — not reliable — cars.

The same holds true for athletes, and much of my wagering success over the past 30 years has been contingent on cool, descriptive player names. I won a lot of moola on the Mississippi Rebels in 2000 when they had a one-two running punch of Joe Gunn and “Deuce” McCallister.

A few years ago, I was successful betting against the South Carolina “Gamecocks” led by quarterback “Chris Smelly.” That's no field general! Deuce became a top NFL running back for the Saints, while Smelly of course, never went pro. Who would want to draft Smelly? If his first game was predictably bad, every sports headline in the country would read, “Smelly stinks it up in NFL debut.”

Earlier this season, I noticed an article “Jets sign Clowney, cut Woodhead.” I thought, “You get rid of a Woodhead, yet sign a Clowney? Why bother?” What a debacle it would have been if they'd all ended up on the same team — a Smelly quarterback handing off to Woodhead and passing to Clowney. The only way I'd ever bet them is if the opposition had a QB named Ben Barfbag passing to Moses Snailsby.

Not surprisingly, Clowney now has a total of one catch for the Jets. I must admit though, Woodhead — a former Chadron State player — has shocked me by averaging 5.4 yards a carry for the Patriots. I contend that's an aberration though. Normally, any last name with the suffix “-head” won't be landing on top. It's always gonna sound like a juvenile putdown, thus I'd never bet on a team led by a QB named Ron Rubbberhead or Pete Poopyhead.

Nicknames are a different animal altogether. When Craig “Ironhead” Heyward ran for the Pitt Panthers, I was all over it. A good “head” nickname while growing up nearly always denotes coolness. In school, we feared an upper-class bully named “Pearhead” Sample, and no one's girlfriend was safe from smooth-talking “Jughead” Marone.

My old Cody Legion teammate was nicknamed “Bullethead” after he intentionally broke the windshield of a parked car with his head at an out-of-town game. I withhold his last name in case there's still a price on his head.

The aforementioned Alex Smith wouldn't have necessarily been cursed had his parents given him a more awe-inspiring first name.

Currently, the Memphis Tigers have a freshman QB named “Cannon” Smith.” Give it a few years, and he'll be guiding an NFL team to the big game. Northwestern's running back “Adonis” Smith is gaining nearly 5 yards a run.

West Virginia put a smackdown on rival Pitt last week, led by QB Geno Smith, but then again, he's passing to a receiver named “Jock” Sanders with running back Noel “Devine” tearing up the turf. No Clowneys or Dunderheads on that team.

I loved the Oakland Raiders of old when they had running backs with names like Napoleon Kaufman and Zach Crockett and wide receivers Willie Gault and James Jett. Jett was fast, my friends.

And now it's time to start winning some Raider money again, all because of a little-known running back with the perfect name, “Rock Cartwright.” With a combined Flintstones/Bonanza handle, it's a can't-miss career on the horizon.

“Willie” will always be more successful than “Bill.” Bill Mays would never have made that famous over-the-head catch for the Giants, and Bill Stargell would have been a career .250 hitter with few home runs. Bill Joe Namath wouldn't have dared guarantee a Jets Super Bowl victory. Pro sports smiles on its Willies.

Looking for a dark horse to bet on next college football season? Might I suggest the obscure Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders? They have a QB named Dwight Dasher who will finally have his record-breaking season. Bet on it!

My name is Blough. As one might have predicted, I am a roofer.

Dalan Wambeke, age 18 months, and mom Angie Wambeke of Deaver joined many area kids to welcome Santa Claus to Powell Friday morning. Santa was escorted to Plaza Diane in the old fire engine by the Powell Volunteer Fire Department and then joined kids at The Commons to hear their wish lists.

After being turned down by the State Loan and Investment Board, city of Powell officials are continuing to seek funding for a garbage transfer station.

A transfer station would collect trash when the Powell landfill closes to household waste in the fall of 2012 and then be hauled to Cody, where Park County's regional landfill is located.

Brucellosis has been found in cattle from a second Park County herd.

Jim Logan, Wyoming state veterinarian, announced last week that the bacterial disease was detected after 12 heifers were tested before being sold.

A fire severely damaged an unoccupied North Day Street home Sunday night.

“I think the house was a total loss,” said Powell Fire Chief Joey Darrah.

Darrah said the fire apparently started behind a wall unit heater, then spread up the wall and into the home's attic.

{gallery}11_30_10/quake{/gallery}

Referee Dustin Thompson speaks with Quake assistant captain Evan Dixon (left) while team captain Mathew Peddie listens in. Thompson was exceptionally busy on Friday night, whistling 267 minutes in infractions and ejecting eight players as Yellowstone battled league-leader Helena. Tribune photo by Randal Horobik

Third period outbursts bury local side

The Yellowstone Quake slid into fifth place in the NORPAC America West Division standings after being swept by Helena 7-2 and 8-3 over the weekend at Riley Arena. The losses to the defending NORPAC champs leave the Quake four points out of playoff position.

“Helena is a tough team, and they're capable of scoring goals in a hurry,” said Yellowstone Quake head coach Craig Furstenau.

Men roll in weekend action

The Northwest College men's basketball team served up its own Thanksgiving feast by dining on a pair of non-conference opponents at the Lions Club Tournament in Sheridan over the weekend. The Trappers dropped the Rocky Mountain JV squad by a 111-63 count Friday before dispatching Little Big Horn College 117-68 on Saturday.

Team falls in Salt Lake tournament

Northwest College's women's basketball team suffered a pair of losses at the Salt Lake Community College tournament over the weekend. The Trappers lost a 74-60 contest to Eastern Utah on Friday night before falling to the tournament host by an 85-48 final count.

The losses slide Northwest's record to 3-5 for the season.

“Friday night just came down to us not playing hard,” said NWC head coach Janis Beal. “We just came out with no energy and no intensity and that's about all it comes down to. We were not ready to play.”

Despite the flat start to the contest, Northwest trailed by just one point at intermission, 26-25. The Trappers benefited greatly from Eastern Utah's shooting struggles. Despite tossing up 42 shots in the first half, Eastern Utah managed to connect on just 24 percent of the opportunities to keep Northwest close.

Unfortunately, those struggles did not continue after intermission. Eastern Utah emerged from the locker room to hit 47 percent of its second-half shots to pull away. The Trappers were also hindered by a 22-11 turnover disparity in the game.

Megan Goodman finished with 16 points for Northwest. Valerie Lesu added 11 points and Meagen Butler dropped in 10 points. Meagan Smith narrowly missed a double-double, finishing with nine points and a team-best 13 rebounds.

“Val did a great job coming off the bench,” Beal said. “She was one of the few players that brought an energy to the floor with her.”

On Saturday, the Trappers were hurt by a slow start against nationally ranked Salt Lake. Northwest hit just five of its 34 attempts from the floor prior to the halftime break. The result was a 38-11 deficit.

“It sounds strange to say, but I thought we played a lot better on Saturday,” said Beal. “Our effort was much better. We played hard. It was just one of those nights where we could not hit a shot.”

The Trappers improved to 12-for-34 shooting in the second half, but were unable to mount a threat to the substantial SLCC lead.

Northwest's comeback effort was hindered by a 57-32 shortcoming in the rebounding department. The Trappers also shot just 18 free throws to Salt Lake's 36.

“We need to do a better job of finishing opportunities and finding ways to score,” Beal said. “When you're on the road, you're not always going to have calls going your way, and we have to be able to find other ways to score when we're not getting to the foul line.”

Northwest hosts the Eastern Idaho All-Stars to open the Big Horn Federal Shootout on Friday. The Trapper women face Snow College on Saturday. Both games tip off at 5:30 p.m.

Salt Lake 85, Northwest 48

Duran 11, Fisher 10, Goodman 2, Smith 10, Lesu 2, Butler 4, Ryan 5, Garrett 4.

Eastern Utah 74, Northwest 60

Butler 10, Fisher 2, Goodman 16, Ryan 4, Smith 9, Duran 3, Santos 2, Garrett 3, Lesu 11.

Mariah Duran finished with 11 points to lead Northwest College. Jessica Fisher and Smith each added 10 points in support.

Within three days last week, we learned about two families with local ties who lost loved ones through death. A 6-year-old girl lost her mother in a bus crash in Chile, and a young couple in Powell lost their 4-year-old daughter when she didn't wake up on Thanksgiving morning.

Those are sobering reminders that the holidays aren't merry for everyone.

Some grieve the loss of loved ones; others worry and pray daily for the safety of sons or daughters, husbands or wives, fathers or mothers serving overseas in the military.

Some, in lean financial circumstances, worry constantly about how they will make ends meet and still find a way to provide Christmas for their families; others sit alone in their homes or in nursing homes, wishing there was someone special who could brighten days that blend together in monotony.

For people enduring any of those circumstances, life during the holidays can be an extreme test of emotional strength and fortitude. Instead of feeling the proverbial holiday joy, it's often all they can do to put one foot in front of the other from the time they get out of bed in the morning until they go back to bed at night.

So, as we begin this holiday season, let us remember those in our community and elsewhere who are in need. We can make a difference with a loving word, a kind deed, a helping hand, a word of encouragement — or just willing to listen.

For those who need an idea of how to help, a good place to start is by donating time or money to the Christmas Basket program and the Powell Council for Community Services. For more information, contact Dave Blevins at 754-9541 or Sally Montoya at 202-1663.

Another way to help is to donate money or items to Powell Troop Support, which sends monthly care packages to active-duty military members. For more information, contact Bonny Rouse at 272-4272 or Anne Ruward at 202-0035.

People who volunteer with those programs have the helping thing all figured out.

Another option is simply stop by the Powell Valley Care Center or the Powell Senior Center and find out what you can do to help brighten someone's day. You just might find it's something you want to continue doing throughout the year.

Through efforts large or small, we can make a difference in someone else's life, and in doing so, improve our own outlooks as well.

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