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Jesus, as in Christ, will never be confused with Jesus, as in Alou, any more than Satan, as in Miroslav, should be mixed up with Satan, as in, well, you know. Sports’ ups and downs aren’t always about talent and desire. Sometimes, the difference between heaven and hell in athletics comes down to simple phonetics.

Baseball’s history books are littered with dozens of players named Jesus. Alou batted .280 and had 32 homers over 15 seasons in the big leagues before he retired in 1979. His biggest distinction, other than being Felipe’s brother and Moises’ uncle, was playing the most games (1,380) of anyone named Jesus.

Satan, who had 363 goals and 735 points in 1,050 NHL games, will likely forever hold all records of players with that surname. Then again, he’s the only player in sports named Satan, thank God. He considered inserting an “H” into his name, as in Shatan, which would have eliminated confusion and scorn after he arrived from Slovakia.

In truth, Satan was closer to saint than sinner, a good guy and a former 40-goal scorer with the Sabres before his career ended in 2010. God Shammgod, on the other hand, was closer to a sham than a god. The former Providence College star averaged only 3.1 points per game with the Wizards in his only season in the NBA.

His career was much like that of Christmas, as in Steve, who played 24 games over three years in the big leagues and had one career homer. (He spent 1985 as a Buffalo Bison.) Priest Holmes had four 1,000-yard rushing seasons and twice led the NFL in touchdowns, but he couldn’t hold a candle to the Minister of Defense – late, great sack artist Reggie White.

In the holiday spirit, a search of databases of the four major team sports Tuesday revealed only seven NBA players and 12 NHL players in history were born on Christmas Day along with 67 big-leaguers and 64 NFLers. With all apologies to Stu Barnes, here are my top five athletes will celebrate their birthdays today:

5. Ken Stabler, QB: 59.8 completion percentage, 27,938 yards, 194 touchdowns, 222 interceptions, one ring.

4. Demaryius Thomas, WR: 3,585 yards receiving and 28 touchdowns over four seasons. Top 10 the past two years in catches, yards and touchdowns.

3. Nellie Fox, 2B: .288 batting average, 1959 MVP, 12 all-star games over 15 seasons. Hall of Fame.

2. Larry Csonka, RB: 8,081 yards rushing, 54 TDs, five Pro Bowls, two Super Bowls, member of 1972 Dolphins that were undefeated. Hall of Fame.

1. Rickey Henderson, OF: .279 batting average, 10 all-star games, 1990 AL MVP, over 25 seasons. All-time leader in stolen bases and runs scored. Hall of Fame.

East is least

Indiana and Miami aside, the Eastern Conference is a mess this season. The two NBA superpowers were 23-5 and 21-6, respectively, joining Atlanta (15-13) as the only teams in the East with winning records. The Hawks were above water because they had a 9-7 record against bad teams in the conference.

It gets worse.

The teams currently taking up the final five playoff spots (Toronto, Charlotte, Washington, Detroit and Boston) are a combined 13-35 against Western Conference teams this season. None has a winning record against the other conference.

Meanwhile, five teams that currently are out of the playoffs in the West (Denver, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota, New Orleans and Memphis) are 28-15 against the Eastern Conference. All five had winning records in interconference play.

The Grizzlies had a 12-15 record, putting them in 13th in the West. The same record would be good for eighth in the East.

Where are thou, Romo?

The Cowboys were hoping Tony Romo would play through back problems in a season finale against Philadelphia for the division title. The joke, of course, is that Dallas has a better chance of beating the Eagles without him.

Romo built a reputation as a choker after a series of late-game meltdowns and a fumbled snap on an extra-point attempt. However, he actually has played much better in Dallas’ losses this season than its victories and is considerably better in the fourth quarter.

In the Cowboys’ seven defeats, Romo has thrown 17 touchdown passes and just three interceptions with a 104.5 passer rating. In their eight wins, he has 14 TDs and seven INTs with a passer rating of 90.5. The fourth quarter has been his best, with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Retweet

“Mike Smith: Kick save and a booty. #RumpABumBum” – @Buccigross (ESPN anchor John Buccigross) after Sabres’ Mark Pysyk was credited for an overtime goal after a fluttering puck landed in Smith’s pants before he backed behind the goal line.

Stats Inc.

23-73 – Combined record overall of the eight teams UB beat this season en route to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

6 – Average selection overall in Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football’s standard draft of C.J. Spiller, who rushed for 822 yards and two touchdowns and had 28 catches for 128 yards and no TDs through 15 games.

123 - Average selection overall in Yahoo! of Fred Jackson, who has rushed for 836 yards and eight touchdowns and had 44 catches for 334 yards and two more scores.

Quick Hits

• Tom Brady’s teammates have banned together and refused to give him a high-five in what has become a running prank. It started when Julien Edelman innocently ignored his star QB earlier this season after Brady put up his hand. If he’s snubbed again this week, it’s bad news for the Bills.

• Alex Ovechkin scored his 30th goal in his 34th game this season for the Capitals, putting him on pace for a career-high 72 goals this season. In 2007-08, when he had a career-high 65 tallies, he didn’t hit the 30-goal mark until his 42nd game.

• Four times in the past six years, the NFL’s passing leader threw for more than 5,000 yards. For 16 straight seasons, at least one quarterback has thrown for 4,000 yards. In his Hall of Fame career, Jim Kelly threw for 3,500 yards or more only twice, in 1986 and 1991, and never reached the 4,000-yard mark.

email: bgleason@buffnews.com