I hope everybody had an enjoyable Christmas holiday. I certainly did. It’s not often that I get Christmas day entirely off from work, but I did. In fact, since the holiday was on Friday, I got three days off, which resulted in quality time with the pups.  

Two summers ago, I persuaded Wes Stafford, pastor at Lighthouse Baptist, to umpire an American Legion baseball game. Finding willing souls to umpire a baseball game that involves high school players is a challenge in Kodiak. Knowing Stafford was a Little League coach, I asked him. He obliged to field ump, but on one condition — that I attend one of his church services. 

In desperate need of an umpire, I agreed. 

He reminded me a few times since the agreement, and on Christmas Eve, I finally held up to my end of the deal. I’m glad I did as it was a highlight of the three-day weekend.

I went to church a lot as a kid and always enjoyed vacation Bible school at my grandparent’s church. After leaving the nest, I stopped going to church. I’ve been back a few times, mostly when visiting Momma Clarkston in Washington. 

My dad was not much of a church-goer until about the last decade of his life. He was a devoted member of the Elma Assembly of God for those 10 years. Before Christmas Eve, the last time I was in a church was for his funeral in 2018. I thought about my pops as I sat next to Lady Human in the back of Lighthouse Baptist. The church was lit up by candles held by the people scattered in the pews.  

We sang from the Book of Hymns and listened to Stafford talk about walking his dog — his sermon wasn’t about dogs, but that was the part I picked out. I also learned that Stafford stopped licking door handles when the pandemic started and that his kids were not only great athletes but also talented musicians. 

Christmas day was pretty chill. Presents were opened at the Clarkston Zoo — Lady Human got golf clubs, but she already knew that because she was at the office when they were delivered — and food was consumed. The pets made out like bandits. As if Cody James needed any more toys. I called Grandma Clarkston in Wasilla and learned about the time, when she was 15 and in Ohio, that she got popped in the nose when she and her brother were cutting down a Christmas tree. Her brother had climbed up the tree and dropped an object that landed on my grandma’s nose. When blood appeared, they bee-lined home, leaving the tree behind. Her uncle saved the day by bringing the family a tree. 

As a new year rings in, my resolution is to learn more about Grandma Clarkston’s childhood and attend more than one church service. I would also like to thank readers for spending another year reading this column, even though they really are about nothing. 

NFL PICKS

The final week of the regular season is here. With seven teams from each conference making the playoffs, there are more teams that have something to play for in Week 17 than in past seasons. 

MIAMI (10-5) at 

BUFFALO (12-3)

There are five 10-win teams in the AFC fighting for four playoff spots this week. The Dolphins are one of the five. Baltimore, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Tennessee are the others. Without confusing you with a complete breakdown of the scenarios, Miami, Cleveland and Baltimore and Tennessee can all clinch with wins. Miami has the toughest draw this week, but the Bills don’t have a lot to play for since Kansas City already sealed up the No. 1 seed … Dolphins 21, Bills 19

GREEN BAY (12-3) at CHICAGO (8-7)

Chicago’s offense is the hottest in the NFL right now. I repeat. Chicago’s offense is the hottest in the NFL right now. Hard to believe, I know. Mitchell Trubisky, David Montgomery, Allen Robinson, and, yes, Jimmy Graham, have the Bears on the cusp of the playoffs. It’s simple for the Bears: Win and get in. However, Green Bay hasn’t clinched the No. 1 seed, so Aaron Rodgers will be on the field … Packers 27, Bears 21

ARIZONA (8-7) at L.A. RAMS (9-6)

The Rams are in a tough spot for what could be a must-win game if the Bears upset the Packers. L.A. will be down quarterback Jared Goff, and possibly two running backs (Darrell Henderson and Cam Akers) and wide receiver Cooper Kupp. I’m sure Rams fans will be rooting the Packers on Sunday morning because there is no way they are beating the Cardinals with a quarterback who has never appeared in an NFL game … Cardinals 29, Rams 10

SEATTLE (11-4) at SAN FRANCISCO (6-9)

Seattle clinched its first NFC West title since 2016. The Hawks still have a chance at claiming the NFC’s top seed but would need to beat San Francisco then get help. More than likely, the Seahawks will be the No. 3 seed behind Green Bay and New Orleans. Seattle’s defense is turning things around just at the right time … Seahawks 28, 49ers 14

WASHINGTON (6-9) at PHILADELPHIA 

(4-10-1)

The NFC East title comes down to Sunday night. If Washington wins, they are in. If Washington loses, the winner of the Dallas-N.Y. Giants game gets in. Regardless, a sub-.500 team will be one of the seven NFC teams advancing to the playoffs. If Washington has Alex Smith back at quarterback, I like the football team’s chances at getting in. I’m banking that Smith returns … Football Team 24, Eagles 17

Other games:

Bucs 34, Falcons 21

Ravens 42, Bengals 14

Browns 28, Steelers 21

Vikings 32, Lions 17

Patriots 27, Jets 16

Raiders 24, Broncos 13

Titans 44, Texans 40

Colts 35, Jaguars 10

Chiefs 27, Chargers 24

Saints 38, Panthers 23

Cowboys 33, Giants 28

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