With Christmas in just a few days time, most people are preparing for big family dinners, buying last minute presents, and looking forward to seeing their family and friends, sometimes for the first time since last Christmas. Most people that is, but not me.
I’m getting ready to take advantage of something that I think North American pro sport does well – Sport at Christmas time. While I wont be able to attend the events myself, a veritable feast awaits for my TV viewing pleasure. Now I know a lot of you may baulk at this, but I think sport and holidays go together perfectly.
Sport at holidays isn’t that unusual. Growing up in Australia, every boxing day was spent watching the Boxing Day Test, even if you’re at a Christmas party – and even if the person hosting the party had no interest in cricket, it became part of the Christmas/Boxing Day tradition to have the tube on watching Australia sledge there way through another Boxing Day victory. And when does anyone in Australia care at all about Yacht racing, except for the Sydney to Hobart which also starts on Boxing Day. It’s just like the diving at the Olympics, everyone becomes an expert.
The reason sport at the holidays works, is that the event becomes bigger than the sport itself. People associate all the good feelings they have about the day with the match (whatever it is) and that becomes part of their family tradition.
There’s no better example in Australia than the Anzac Day clash in the AFL. The same two teams, Essendon and Collingwood, play each year, largely because they’re the two teams with the biggest following traditionally. The game has been played every Anzac Day since 1995, and while the two teams aren’t always in the upper echelon talent wise, the game always attracts the best crowd for the season – often 100,000 people, aside from the AFL Grand Final. It’s become an event in itself. The AFL embraced Anzac Day and its importance, and created an event that is now as much an Anzac Day tradition as the march to the Shrine of Remembrance.
Some sports codes are hesitant to adopt holiday dates as part of their fixtures, as they fear lack of support as fans have their own traditions, however I believe that league administrations should be more prepared to take the risk, as all traditions have to start with a first time. Other examples of sport on Holidays are cricket on Australia Day, AFL on Easter Sunday, and of course, NFL football on Thanksgiving in the US. How many of these events were considered risky when first contemplated?
This year, with nothing but time, I’m looking forward to watching the Cleveland Cavaliers in LA against the Lakers on Christmas day, with the two biggest names in the game – LeBron and Kobe – going at it. While I would love to have my friends and family around me at the time, I’m looking forward to something different.
Now, if only I could find a channel covering the Boxing Day Test….