It is traditional to write a mushy Thanksgiving column this time of the year. You know the kind of column I'm talking about — the one where the writer gets all sentimental as he or she recounts all the good things that have occurred over the past year and all that is right with the world. You can almost see the tears dripping off the words.

Far be it from me to mess around with tradition.

The sentiment with me is much more than a clich? It is very heartfelt, and if there are a few tear stains on the newsprint, they are very real.

A good friend of mine once gave me a piece of advice I have tried, sometimes with better success than others, to keep in mind. What he said was that there are too many good people in the world to waste your time on the bad ones, only he used a more descriptive term for bad ones.

It is true there are bad people — like the cowards who use anonymous e-mails and forums to bad-mouth coaches and others; like the deluded ones who think their kids are God's gift to athletics and every other kid only exists to hold the gifted one back; like the troubled ones who break into snack shacks, graffiti walls, tear up turf and make it difficult for others to play their chosen sports.

They are out there, but they are few and far between and eventually they dry up and blow away.

The bad people are far, far, far outnumbered by the good people and it is these people for whom I am thankful.

I am thankful for material things like decent playing fields, good weather and championships. I am thankful for the personal things like a job I love, a trip to Williamsport I will never forget, decent health and a new home.

But above all, I am thankful for all the good people I know in this town (in several towns really, but this is about Petaluma).

It is easy to be thankful for the spectacular ride that the Petaluma National Little League All-Star team took us on as they played to a third-place finish in the Little League World Series. I am especially thankful that it happened to kids who were so deserving and kids who, despite their youth, were able to handle the attention and celebrity.

You have to be thankful for manager Eric Smith and coaches Mike Slate and Trevor Tomei and the guidance they provided both on and off the diamond. Then there were the parents who sacrificed so much and were right there with the players all the way.

But it only starts with the team, coaches and parents. I'm not only thankful, but amazed, at the way this town came together to help and support the players and their families. In 40 years of covering youth sports, I have never seen anything like the happening (there's a '60's term for you) that was the Little League World Series and its aftermath.

In many ways, the National Little League All-Stars, their coaches, their families and their thousands of supporters represent what I am really thankful for.

They represent all the good kids in this town who play sports for the pure love of their game. They represent all the coaches who give unselfishly of their time and knowledge to teach not only sports, but life. They represent the parents who willingly sacrifice so much to give their kids a chance to play. They represent so many people who support the community's youth.

And, most importantly, they represent a community that shares in the successes and the tragedies of their neighbors. A community that throws a parade for Little Leaguers, helps find bone marrow donors for persons in need; and raises funds so that people who are too-soon gone will be remembered with scholarships and memorials.

I am thankful for all the good people and all their compassion and generosity. And I am thankful that most of the turkeys are on the table this Thanksgiving.

(Contact John Jackson at johnie.jackson@arguscourier.com)