This space is usually reserved for sports personalities, but, hey, it's Christmas morning. Sports columnist Dave Hackenberg figured if there's anyone who deserves the "10 Questions" stage on Christmas it should be Santa Claus. So he collected a few questions from young friends Rebecca and Corrie, mixed in a few of his own, and hooked up with the jolly, old elf by satellite phone during a reindeer refueling stop 10,000 feet over Labrador late last night.
Some call you Santa, to others you are Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, and the list goes on and on. What do your friends call you?
Mrs. Claus calls me Kris and the elves call me Old Man. Blitzen, Prancer, and the rest of the herd would tell you I don't care what I'm called, as long as it isn't late for dinner. Ho-ho-ho. They get tired hauling this big, old boy around.
Now that you mention it, you are, uh, plump. Is it all those cookies the kids leave out for you on Christmas Eve or is Mrs. Claus that good of a cook?
Both. You know, it's cold up there at the North Pole and with the cost of heating oil these days, well, it doesn't hurt to have some layers of insulation. So, yeah, I carry a few extra pounds. Mrs. Claus is a great cook. I like everything and lots of it. Of course, I'm not allowed to eat venison. It might hurt some feelings.
No venison? Oh, deer meat. I get it. Speaking of that, is Rudolph your favorite reindeer?
Well, he does save my bacon when we run into fog. But the other eight have been with me far longer, from the start, in fact. They're as fast and strong as ever, which is a good thing, because flying reindeer don't come along everyday, you know.
What's your favorite Christmas cookie?
Snickerdoodles, hands down. But, you know, the cookies and milk tradition is an American thing. In England, they leave sherry and mince pies out. There's often a pint of Guinness waiting for me at homes in Ireland. I think I like visiting Ireland best. So does Rudolph. I know the real reason his nose is red. Ho-ho-ho!
I think I know the answer to this one based on your wardrobe choices, but do you cheer for Ohio State or Michigan?
I do have a sentimental attachment with scarlet, so I've always liked the Buckeyes. But I have to admit I'm wavering a bit since UM hired Brady Hoke. He has some Santa potential. It's why I always followed the UT Rockets when Toledo Tom was the coach.
How do you make it all the way around the world in one night? And how do you fit down the chimney? And what if there's a fire in the hearth?
Ah, I bet those questions came from Corrie and Rebecca. Little kids always wonder about those things. Well, there's a certain amount of magic involved. Like when the elves fit all the presents into one big bag. And magicians never tell their tricks. But I'll tell you this. Those reindeer haul … um, I mean, they fly really fast. Ho-ho-ho!
Do you really have a list of naughty kids and nice kids?
Nah, that's just folklore. There are no bad little children. But Vixen keeps a list of who leaves carrots out for the reindeer and who doesn't. Trust me, kids don't want to be on Vixen's naughty list. Neither do their parents.
What's your favorite Christmas movie?
Any not starring Tim Allen. Ho-ho-ho. I love the classics -- A Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Life, Babes in Toyland, The Nutcracker, and, of course, Santa Claus: The Movie, only because my name is in the title. But my all-time favorite is Miracle on 34th Street. Has there ever been a kinder, more handsome, more whimsical Santa actor than Edmund Gwenn?
You seem to live a life of whimsy, do you not?
Well, I have a beard growing down to my belly button, which I haven't seen in 400-some years. My home is surrounded by icebergs. My employees are little elves with pointy ears and none of them are as funny as Will Ferrell. My best friends, other than Mrs. Claus, are nine reindeer who don't bathe very often. Whimsy helps.
I know you've got to get going. Are you about done for the night? Do you have many more stops?
We're more than halfway home. We have something like 700 million more homes to get to yet. I'd better get the herd started so we'll be finished before sunrise. "Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen. Yeah, you too, Rudolph. Get the lead out."