Happy Holidays, sports style
Sports have become an integral part of many of holidays: the Indianapolis 500 goes green on Memorial Day weekend; fireworks light up the sky over baseball stadiums on the 4th of July; New Year’s Day has long been a college football extravaganza; and it’s hard to imagine Thanksgiving without football…the list goes on and on. But rarely does the NFL calendar and the holiday calendar line up the way they have this year. And the Steelers are playing in the trifecta: Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day — just the second team in league history to draw the jam-packed holiday schedule. At first, it seemed like a cool idea, family gathered around after Thanksgiving Turkey, or around the Christmas tree, or with pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day, settling in for an afternoon or evening of cheering for the Black and Gold. While it’s hard to feel bad for millionaire NFL players working on the holiday, there are many more people involved. Franchise staff, referees, concession workers, and media, just to name a few. Then there are all the related businesses: hotels and mass transit, restaurants and parking attendants, and of course the families of all of the above, altering their holiday plans and traditions to make room for these coincidentally-scheduled football games. For some families, football may become a special part of the holiday line-up, a once-in-a generation chance to celebrate the season at Heinz Field. And seats may be easy to come-by, as some season ticket holders opt for family commitments over football. For others, it may be more of an inconvenience, impacting family work schedules and church services. Bowl-bound college football teams work holiday dinners and family time into their pre-game preps, with few complaints. Bowl games are not only usually played at warm-weather vacation-type destinations, but are also a celebration of a successful season. For the players themselves, the opportunity is fleeting, with only a handful of chances to experience bowl games in their careers. For coaches, however, especially those with small children, it may seem more like missing out on the family stuff. When I would travel for Penn State bowl games, my Mom would always say that Christmas is “whatever day her family was all together.” Still, Christmas dinner with colleagues in a hotel hundreds of miles away was a far cry from the family traditions of home. For those who love the idea of waving their terrible towels in celebration of the holidays, this has become an awesome NFL season. For those who are disappointed to have to work on Thanksgiving and/or Christmas and/or New Year’s Day, the good news is that chances are this won’t happen again for another hundred years or so. However you celebrate, wishing you the happiest of holidays. Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.