BRONX, NY – Today is December 2nd. Only 23 more days until Christmas. Those numbers fluctuate a bit if you celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Boxing Day but, you catch my drift, the holidays are a runaway Lionel Train at this point. If you’re still employed and have a roof over your head—both big “ifs”—there has never been a better year to go all-in on Christmas. Spend with reckless abandon. Lavish those you love with gifts aplenty. It’s not like you’ve been blowing your dough going out to shows and dinners.
This all gets me to thinking about things that made it under my Christmas tree as a kid, especially some sports-related items. Here are just a few.
Boxing Gloves. The first sports Christmas gift I remember getting, but never asking for, was a pair of boxing gloves. My Dad, who boxed in the Navy circa WWII and a fight fan if ever there was one, was fed up with me and my brother mixing it up like a couple of dorky kids and instead encouraged us to
whale wail on each other properly—gloves on. I remember being pretty keen on the idea, much more so than my bro. Those gloves ended up getting a lot of use. Can remember my friends and I taking turns fighting each other in the laundry room of my building.
Sears Minnesota Vikings Jersey. Many of you are far too young to remember, but once upon a time almost all kids got their first football jerseys from Sears. Real pro jerseys never had the team nickname plastered on the front of the jersey above the number, but these Sears-Roebuck jobs did, and we thought it was cool. Anyway, my first jersey was a Chuck Foreman #44. It was way too big for me but I wore it over a sweatshirt and loved it.
Daisy Air Rifle. It seems almost cliché now, especially since we see it yearly and around-the-clock in A Christmas Story, but one year the only gift I really wanted was a Daisy Air Rifle. To be clear, this wasn’t a BB gun like the Red Ryder one Ralphie covets, it was just a toy rifle that shot air out with pretty decent force. So it was naturally fun to stuff the barrel down into dirt or snow and pepper anyone you saw with either. Good times. I was so psyched to get this gift that I didn’t want to let it out of my sight. So, when they confiscated it from me at the airport, coming back from Christmas at my Grandmother’s, it was a white-knuckled flight for me back to NYC.
Mattel Electronic Basketball. Before there was PlayStation or Xbox, kids got their sports ya-yas out playing Mattel and Coleco handheld electronic games. Football was easily the most popular, but one Christmas I got Mattel Basketball, and loved it. All you needed was one 9-volt battery, a working set of thumbs, and the ability to maneuver though a field of red blip defenders. Luckily I had all of those things, AND I still have this game… and it still works.
Hockey Puck. One year my neighborhood went street hockey crazy. We built our own goal, made goalie pads out of these novelty Chef Boyardee and beer can pillows we gave away at one of my birthdays (they worked great in that capacity), and went wrister and slap shot bonkers… the poor parked cars. I wish we took pictures or had movies. Anyway, Santa got a little mixed up that Christmas and put an ice hockey puck in my stocking instead of a hard plastic one for street play. I liked it anyway. It was cool. And it’s the thought that counts.
Bambino Knock-Em Out Boxing. Yet another electronic game that I HAD to have. Bambino Knock-Em Out Boxing promised “True-to-Life Boxing Action!” I think I coveted this more than the air rifle. I also remember my Dad kept claiming that there were “none to be found,” which drove me nuts. The euphoria upon opening that gift was beyond measure. As with so many Christmas gifts, the initial excitement subsided over a fairly short period of time. In this case I got good at it pretty fast, realized the graphics (if you can call them that) were fairly crappy, and it was only “true-to-life boxing action” if that boxing action were taking place in a nursing home. I still own this one as well; a reminder of the weird things we covet when we’re kids.
Got any memories of sports – or any other kinds of gifts you received that made your holidays? I’d love to hear about them.
Come back tomorrow for Buddy Diaz, an Eagles fan who hopefully didn’t participate in the booing and pelting of Santa with snowballs back in the day.