Great Holiday Matchups You Can’t Miss But Will Miss Because It’s the Holidays

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A plethora of holidays are coming down the pipeline to the point it can get a little confusing, and downright concerning, to understand where sports will fit in. Thus, we’re delving into the best things any human can do for sports entertainment during the forthcoming festive week (or weeks, depending on which holidays we celebrate), the goal being to maintain one’s overall sanity when surrounded by an overabundance of various forms of Yule Tide: Boisterous friends, smothering family, conference room-assembled coworkers wearing tinseled garlands coupled and Santa hats at jaunty angles harboring various levels of enthusiasm and sobriety, etc.

(Originally we were going to avoid promoting a specific religion, holiday, higher power, custom, quest for spiritual improvement, or other non-money related nonsense that seems to make people both happy and fulfilled; but we landed on Christmas, because that’s our jam. However, we’re fairly certain the following diatribe applies to any metaphysical/spiritual celebration set to transpire within the next three months. So pay heed.

Unlike sports broadcast on Thanksgiving, Christmas-related NBA and NFL games sort of get in the way. Imagine shoving Ma In Her Kerchief and any pesky, grubby handed, freaking-out-because-its-Christmas kids out of the way to watch the Hawks battle the Knicks at 9 a.m. December 25th. Not gonna happen. Sure, maybe the Warriors/Suns matchup at 2 p.m. offers a break from taking out mountains of gift wrapping, impossible-to-break-down toy packaging, and other holiday commercial byproducts, but other than that it just seems impractical.

Same deal with the Browns/Packers (1:30 p.m.) and Colts/Cardinals (5:15 p.m.) matchups. Who’s going to carve the Christmas goose? Who’s going to tell Uncle Henry he’s had too many vodka gimlets and take his keys? Who’s going to talk to the out-of-town guests and feign interest in what it’s like to live in Vermont? You, that’s who. No football watchy watchy today, no way.

The student athlete angle won’t work either, even if an offspring is the starting quarterback for Ball State in their forthcoming, epic Christmas battle with Georgia State, a.k.a  the TaxAct Camellia Bowl (sigh, bowl games have such lame, awkward names now that corporations own them), played at the…letsee where did that press release go…”historic Cramton Bowl” in Montgomery, Alabama. Are these made-up words? Oh wait, there’s some fine print at the bottom here…“Camellias are the queens of winter flowers, evergreen shrubs with exquisite blooms, which in turn are prized for their compact shapely habits.” Hmmm, that sounds pretty nice. Meanwhile the Cramton Bowl is a 25,000-seat stadium named after an ancient local businessman (who apparently had no knowledge of marketing/branding) that’s previously hosted MLB spring training, and in the early- to-mid 20th Century several Alabama Crimson Tide home games. Huh, it says Nick Saban’s also smarmy, smug, slick, and cocky grandfather Otis coached several of those Alabama teams to an enviable 17-3 record at this venue, which similarly annoyed football-watchers nation-wide. Who knew?

Anyway, this bowl game pits the Sun Belt against the Mid-American conference, but it doesn’t matter because it’s unavailable since spouses will be telling other spouses they can’t watch it and instead have to help with the kids/start writing thank-you’s or (the absolute worst) “make a video for aunt Eileen, then call our cousins in Tallahassee,” etc. Oh my God that part is the worst please noooooooooooo.

Although, heavens willing, it could be worse. There could be the annual Dreaded Family Tournament as Organized by Hyper-Competitive and Extremely Fit Cousin Cheryl or Second Cousin Dave the Trainer. The ones who list “fitness enthusiast” or “rugged” on their LinkedIn profile…and Instagram profile…and Facebook page…and resume, mailbox, t-shirts…

Indeed, these athletic-minded relatives’ insatiable desire for either (a.) physical movement or (b.) winning – at anything, ala Jordan in The Last Dancewhere he admits he has:

“…a competition problem. I want (in reference to wagers) your money in my pocket…”

can really flip winter celebrations on their head. The key word being winter. Suddenly, despite inclement weather, we’re out there in a half-hearted fashion to play five-on-five touch football (statistically the most popular option, yet coming in a distant second behind “doing nothing” for normal people), half-court basketball, hockey if located in the wilds of Minnesota or Maine or Spokane, or some other team sport –  doesn’t matter which – softball, pickleball, obstacle course, driving range, disc golf; anything that lets the athletic minded yet again demonstrate their prowess and have a reason to change into their weird workout clothes.

Then something surprising happens. We’re not really wanting to play, instead thinking about the really good Mosaic IPA we have in the fridge…

mmmmmmmmmmm, if everyone would just shut up or go home we could sit in the recliner and drink that beer and watch the Warriors/Suns which suddenly has a lot more appeal

…yet slowly finding Cheryl and Dave’s endless enthusiasm and overall springy-ness somewhat contagious, then down-right annoying, especially when we realize how bad they want to win. Who do they think they are? We used to be good at (insert formerly-played sport here)…do they think they’re better than we are now just because they eat kale and constantly do HIIT workouts? And why did Dave just change into a sleeveless t-shirt? It’s 39 degrees out.

So we’re kind of suddenly really wanting to smack these fools around. And we start to do so, maybe a little hip check to Cheryl here, elbow in Dave’s ribs there – doesn’t matter if we’re playing touch football, golf, or tennis, we’ll find a reason – lots of fake smiles and banter back-and-forth…then less chatter and more concentration as we do whatever it takes to win…wait, we forgot the kids are playing too. Crap, half our team is composed of third graders, many of whom are now crying thanks to our intensity. Well, it’s really Cheryl and Dave’s fault. And their stupid clothes. Okay, okay, maybe we better go back inside and get some hot chocolate.

However, playing a competitive sport with extended family over the holidays – and possibly injuring our ankle – is a great alternative to arts and crafts-type nightmarish bonding activities; like making tree ornaments or cookies together. Or, sweet mercy, a caroling event or other boisterous sing-along. Especially if our recently divorced cousin’s new boyfriend is around this year – poor bastard, we can’t even bear to watch that rube do a terrible job pretending he likes to sing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in front of all of us. Get out while you can man, get out while you can. Plus, she’s a hot mess.

Well, in summation, we’re screwed. There’s not a lot of great options for sports entertainment during the forthcoming holiday week(s). It’s a time for family and food and actual conversations and making other people feel good, which means our sports needs should be shelved, even if just for a few days. Don’t worry, once the major holidays are over there’s obviously a ton of games to watch and attend (and play, if one is so inclined after the Cheryl and Dave debacle). In the meantime, if it’s just too much to bear, just get really good at stealing a glance or two at your phone and follow the box scores. It’s better than nothing. Just don’t get caught.

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