Hey ’Cats. It’s been a hell of a long semester, hasn’t it? These past three months have droned on for what seems like 30 years, but before we all head for two glorious weeks of food, fun and family, I’ve got one more soapbox speech in the tank. I hope your brains aren’t too fried by finals to enjoy it, although with two finals coming later in the day as I write this very column, I can understand if they are.
It goes without saying that the holiday season is a time to be spent with family and friends. Even with the American media’s borderline grotesque obsession with commercializing Christmas and Thanksgiving, family and togetherness is still emphasized, and it’s generally accepted that going home for the holidays is the norm. I’m no exception to this rule; even as a child of divorcees, I still manage to make it to both my mother’s home in Gresham, where I spent my adolescent years, and my father’s home in San Jose, Calif.
Since this is a sports column, you’ve probably already gathered that I don’t want to spend the remaining 2,100 words I’m allotted swapping sappy holiday stories over a mug of hot cocoa — not that it doesn’t sound appealing, mind you.
Throughout the course of this semester, as I’ve crafted this column on a weekly basis, I have made several discoveries about the nature of my sports mania and, more importantly, what it means on a larger scale to the sports community in the U.S. as a whole.
On Thanksgiving, I made one such discovery, when I realized that I was spending every spare moment I had out of the kitchen watching New England paste the Lions all over Detroit in the day’s first of three marquee NFL games.
While the holiday meant that I could watch quality football the entire day and make some great sports memories with my grandfather, it also meant that the players on those six teams were denied the right to do the same. A total of 135 men had to leave their families to suit up for the sake of my entertainment. That’s a sobering number, isn’t it?
Including those three games, there were 16 sports games that took place on Thanksgiving this year, and not all of them were professional athletics. Texas and Texas A&M’s football programs played in the Lone Star Shootout that night and close to two dozen college basketball teams had to hit the court that day, too.
It’s one thing if a professional player has to do this for his career, but it is another matter entirely for a student. What would you say if I told you that you couldn’t go home for Thanksgiving or see your family because you had to play a sport? For students who attend college far from home, this might be the difference between seeing their families once or not at all for an entire year.
Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, enormously over-inflated and pompous though he may be, hit on a rare nugget of truth last year when he said that if he were the commissioner of the NBA, he would ban playing games on holidays.
There are another six contests on Christmas daythis year, by the by, although this time the NCAA got it right by not allowing any games. That’s still 12 NBA and NFL teams that aren’t able to wake up with their kinds on Christmas morning. Not to get completely sappy, but think about the children of these players for a second. These are valuable childhood memories being flushed down the drain — or the basket, as it were.
I’m not suggesting a boycott or protest of holiday sports games, by the way.
As long as you’re aware of what the players you’re watching gave up to be on national TV for you on Christmas, watch to your heart’s content. Some of my best memories came from watching holiday games with my family, and I’m not about to say that others shouldn’t be able to make the same memories. All I’m advocating is awareness.
Be aware, watch some sports and have a great break, ’Cats. See you in February.
Chris Forrer/For the Review
Chris Forrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.