On the fifth day of Gheorghe-mas, Big Gheorghe gave to me...
Five Awesome Gifts
Four Smokin' Rock Chicks
Three Blogging Concepts (Sports, Drinking, Elitism)
Two Footie Stories
And a Doofus on a Pony
A popular moniker for this time of year is 'the season of giving'. And that, to a certain extent is true. But, we all know that Christmas (or in in this case Gheorghe-mas) is often about getting as well, especially for kids. With that in mind, I thought I'd run down my Top 5 favorite Christmas gifts of all time.
5. Limited Edition Michael Jordan Silver Basketball - I was not a huge Michael Jordan fan as a child. I tended to lean more towards players with whom I could identify in some way. Smaller guards, white guys, etc. It wasn't that I didn't respect Jordan. I did. He was the finest basketball player of the era and eventually became universally acknowledge as the greatest basketball player in NBA history. That wasn't the only thing he was the greatest at though. Jordan was also the greatest celebrity endorser of all time. How else do we explain a man who hasn't played professional sports in nearly a decade still selling shoes, underwear and numerous other products? Not surprisingly, Jordan also endorsed a line of basketballs. My love for basketball truly blossomed in junior high and it was during this time that I asked for (and received) a limited edition silver basketball from Spalding, or Wilson or whatever company Jordan was endorsing at the time. The brand isn't important. Frankly, neither is the fact that Jordan signature was screen printed on it. This was a really nice basketball, and it looked cool as hell.
In terms of hours used, this was probably the #1 present I ever received. Did I mention how cool it looked? (Unfortunately I couldn't find a picture of it).
4. As anybody who follows this blog, or my twitter feed (@BadNewsHughes), knows, I am a lifelong St. Louis Cardinal fan. My entire immediate family other than myself was born in St. Louis and the large majority of my extended family still reside in the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. So, it should come as no surprise that I was an enormous Ozzie Smith fan as a kid. He's still probably my favorite athlete of all time (and possibly a large reason why I have worn a beard for much of my adult life, possibly). It was a perfect match really. He was a short, fast, slick fielding shortstop who struggled at the plate. I was all these things as well. Though, I certainly hit worse and fielded the position of shortstop a little less slickly. Nevertheless, I craved all things Ozzie as a kid. Baseball cards, posters, jerseys, anything. Now, if you can remember back to the mid-1980s you'll recall a short-lived craze of player specific wristbands that featured the ubiquitous slogan of the day, 'Say No to Drugs' (A quick aside: Darryl Strawberry wore two of these wristbands, nice.). These were all the rage for a season or two and seemingly every marquee player (and some average players too) had their own which featured a stitched likeness of themselves along with a stitched in signature. These wrist bands were large, very hard to find and (in the mind of a 10 year old kid) really, really fucking cool. So you can imagine my excitement when one these showed up on the Christmas tree on Christmas morning in 1987:
3. Liquor: Seriously, who doesn't like liquor. If you're ever in the market for a Christmas gift for me, you can't go wrong with liquor. Or a bag of papal ballots.
2. I was a late comer to the game of basketball. My father played soccer in college and I was a Cardinal and baseball card fanatic as a child. So, soccer and baseball were the chosen sports of my early youth. Somewhere around the 8th grade I fell completely in love with basketball. I had played a little bit of city rec league basketball up to this point, but really only to keep myself busy (and because I loved, and still do love, athletic competition). Yet, for whatever reason, that all changed in 8th grade. I stopped playing every other sport and focused solely on basketball. It consumed me. So much so, that my parents later had to make up a basketball curfew for me. 10 pm on the weekdays and 11:30 on the weekends, lest our neighbors call the police to put a stop to the constant rhythm of a bouncing basketball that was keeping them awake. Other than the curfew though, my parents couldn't have been more supportive. Though I'm sure it broke my old man's heart a little to see his son give up soccer, a game he was more naturally talented at than basketball, he never once uttered a word of complaint or protest. In fact, he went the other way. Attaching floodlights to the house to give me better lighting for shooting, and even going behind my Mom's back to help me spray paint a bright red 3-point line on our otherwise spotless driveway. To put it simply they supported me endlessly without being overbearing. And nothing embodied this support more than when, during Christmas morning of that 8th grade year, I opened an envelope to discover that my parents were sending me to the Carolina Basketball School. They could've easily sent me to the camp put on by the local D-2 school, or even to some other smaller Florida schools like Stetson or UCF. But they didn't. They knew my heart was set on Chapel Hill. So they ponied up the money. Even offered to drive one leg of the trip (with Greg's Mom driving the other…while she made us listen to SAT vocabulary tapes), and did so happily. I guess you could say I rewarded them by never falling out of love with basketball and working my ass off to improve as the years passed, but that never really mattered to them. They just loved seeing their son love something so fully and purely. My week in Chapel Hill at the Carolina Basketball School still ranks as one of the greatest weeks of my life. (plus, I got two of the awesome Carolina Basketball School shirts that Mike D is rocking in this video)
1. Each Christmas since I've become an adult, I have made a habit of buying myself a Christmas gift. There are two reasons for this practice. A: I like me, and B: I know what I want. And since I know what I want for Christmas, I always ensure myself of getting at least one thing that I want for Christmas. In fact, I've already gone ahead and purchased a gift for myself this year. Some people have said to me that this practice is anti-Christmas and that by buying myself a gift, I am missing the point. These people can blow me where the pampers is. I will buy myself whatever I damn well please. It's Christmas and it's my fucking money. Anywho, since I know what I want for Christmas, it should come as no surprise that my all-time favorite Christmas gift came from me. This gift was none other than my eldest dog, Tinsley. Tinsley's parents were owned by two of my closest friends and he was born on November 28, 2001. I didn't actually see (or name) Tinsley until mid-December when I returned home from Gainesville after completing exams. I spent much of that Christmas break helping take care of Tinsley and his 9 siblings and then, at the end of Christmas break, brought this 6 week old puppy back to Gainesville with me. Tinsley was not my first dog, but he was the first dog that I had purchased, owned and solely taken care of. Tinsely's recently turned 10. He's far less active (Ask Geoff about Tinsley as a puppy. I'm pretty sure he still has nightmares.) and far more grey than he once was, but he's still the best dog and the best Christmas present I've ever received.