On one hand, it's quite a year, in terms of what's under the tree.
On the other hand, it's a tough year for pondering who's not in the room.
The holidays always mix joy and pain, but consider the extremes of both in the sports world as we've known it in 2009.
Let's save the joy for a moment, because we'll need it.
One can only imagine how, family, friends and so many who admired former Alexandria High School coaching legend Larry Ginn must feel. It's their first Christmas after he died in July from cancer.
Same goes for all who are missing former Lincoln High football coach Keith Howard, who died of a heart attack the night of the Golden Bears' season-opener.
This time last year, Ashley Willis was playing basketball during her senior season at Cleburne County High School. On Nov. 3, she died from leukemia.
The running community got new members this past spring when James Beecham and his three sons began training for the Anniston Runners Club's signature event, the Woodstock 5K. James died in a logging truck accident before the August race.
His sons ran in the Woodstock, and going the distance without their dad continues today with the first Christmas.
There might have been other such stories that didn't receive publicity. Even if not, this year has been unusually tough that way.
Since Christmas is about something bigger than toys under the tree, maybe it's worth taking a moment for all who miss loved ones today and all the loved ones we miss. I miss my father-in-law, who died unexpectedly on Christmas Eve a year ago.
Avid sports fan as Eddie Knighton was, he's no doubt smiling in Heaven over Alabama's SEC football title and national-title shot. I bet he likes the Braves' signing Troy Glaus, as well.
Here's hoping that the great beyond afforded Eddie a comfy couch, cable TV and an end table for his tobacco cup.
Such happy thoughts conjure toys under the tree, and sports fans around here are having quite a year for that, too.
Alabama fans must have been good. Not only did they get the Crimson Tide's berth in the BCS title game, but that odd-shaped gift in the corner?
The heavy one that didn't rattle when shook?
It was Alabama's first Heisman Trophy winner, running back Mark Ingram.
As for Auburn fans, they got a better-than-expected season under first-year coach Gene Chizik. The Tigers are 7-5 and headed to the Outback Bowl, about the best anyone could have expected in a lean cycle for the blue-and-orange set.
JSU fans enjoyed a noteworthy football season despite a postseason ban over academic issues. The Gamecocks finished 8-3, 8-1 against teams on their level. They couldn't win the OVC title this year but had the best league record.
JSU fans let others share in one early gift. The Gamecocks gave us an exciting Saturday in September, when they came within 35 seconds of beating Florida State.
That was the day when JSU captured the attention of the college football universe for all of the right reasons.
Fans of area high schools also came out well. Piedmont and Cherokee County fans got blue AHSAA trophies after their teams won football state titles.
Piedmont became the first team from Calhoun County to win at the Super 6 in 12 years, and the Bulldogs' trophy will case nicely with the one they got in wrestling this year.
Anniston fans have state-championship and runner-up trophies in boys' and girls' basketball, respectively. Having both teams in title games made for quite a thrill.
Fans at Oxford (baseball), Clay County (football), Jacksonville (soccer, volleyball), Wellborn (wrestling) and Lincoln (track) also found runner-up trophies in their stockings.
In other sports of note, area running enthusiasts have another championship to play with.
The Woodstock had its turn as the Road Runners Club of America's national 5K championship this year, and it will be the Southern Region championship for the second time in three years in 2010.
For cycling enthusiasts, it's another year for the Sunny King Criterium on USA Cycling's National Racing Calendar. It's like a new tie or sweater, because it comes every year these days.
Adding a road race in conjunction with the Cheaha Challenge? Now that was the box in a box in a box.