Take this oldie but goodie shopping list with you when shopping for your guy!
Excuse the late hour at which I am posting this feature (nearly midnight on the east coast), but this Christmas in the NFL project turned into a much greater beast than I had originally intended. What I first thought would be a quick project after my kids went to bed -- running through the NFL's 32 teams to collect holiday videos -- became an hours-long task. Not only where there a lot of features, I ended up watching most of them without realizing I was doing so. Since nearly every NFL team had a feature other than its holiday card (the AFC edged out the NFC in fun videos, though), I have taken the liberty of dividing them up into categories: philanthropic, player Q&A, and special snowflake. You will understand the need for the special snowflake section once you get there.
It was genuinely wonderful to see all of the wonderful events put on by teams and the individual players. So much Christmas cheer being spread to those less fortunate!
- Buffalo Bills center Eric Wood and his wife, Leslie, long snapper Garrison Sanborn, quarterback Tyrod Taylor and others talking about the Bills' Christmas party to benefit local children.
- Tampa Bay Bucs defensive end Gerald McCoy interviewed teammates to get their favorite holiday gifts while shopping with kids for a community event.
- The St. Louis Rams also hosted a holiday shopping spree and a party for 3,000 local kids.
- The San Francisco 49ers adopted families for Christmas and players, staff, and their families wrapped and gave the gifts personally.
- The Seattle Seahawks defensive line hosted a party and provided gifts at the Skyway Boys & Girls Club.
- The Cincinnati Bengals showcased a number of charity events including Holiday Hearts by quarterback Andy Dalton and wife, Jordan; Vontaze Burfict, Adam Jones, and Reggie Nelson surprising more than 100 elementary school students with bikes; the Meijer’s Shop with a Bengal and the Marvin Lewis Community Fund’s Shop with A Pro; and Carlos Dunlap - Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee - delivering Christmas trees.
- The Cleveland Browns gave back through a few shopping trips they highlighted with photo galleries.
- Wide receiver Harry Douglas of the Tennessee Titans provided holiday treats for children.
- Players from the Kansas City Chiefs spread holiday cheer with a visit to a local children's hospital.
My top takeaway from these Q&As: boys love their toys. Top gifts by most players were video game consoles. I can honestly say I fall into that category as well; I received a Nintendo (the original) as a kindergartner. Prize for strangest answer definitely goes to Texans center Ben Jones, who says his pet pig and a cow were his favorite gifts of all time.
- Detroit Lions running back Joique Bell asking teammates for the best and worst Christmas gifts they've ever received.
- Minnesota Vikings defensive end Brian Robison went through the locker room to ask who would make the best mall Santa and Santa's helper. Unfortunately for 5-9 cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, he was the unanimous choice for elf.
- The New England Patriots wished fans a Merry Christmas and asked a few players for their favorite holiday cookies.
- Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown asks teammates about Christmas gifts while the team's "junior reporter" gave out Christmas cards to the players.
- A pig and a cow were the favorite Christmas gifts of Houston Texans center Ben Jones. Video games systems were big for a few San Diego Chargers' players.
- A few teams did written Q&As with players to find out some of their Christmas favorites. The Miami Dolphins asked guys for their favorite Christmas memories, the Colts asked for favorite Christmas gifts, the Giants asked for favorite Christmas songs, movies, and gifts.
This section truly is special. We have poems, competitions, and Ave Maria.
- The New York Jets start a new holiday tradition: a word-guessing competition between tackle Breno Giacomini, quarterback Bryce Petty, defensive end Leonard Williams, defensive lineman Damon Harrison.
- The Cowboys told the story of La'Elf the Guard. I still have no idea what was going on in that video.
- Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker sings 'Ave Maria' at a Catholic Charities benefit. This was a very cool thing to watch - he has a much deeper voice than I would have expected.
- A traditional holiday message from Jack Del Rio and the Oakland Raiders, who beat San Diego in overtime on Christmas Eve night at the Coliseum.
- The Denver Broncos wished wide receiver Demaryius Thomas a happy birthday.
- Last but not least, senior writer for Jaguars.com recites a Christmas poem.
It's 10 days and counting until Christmas Day. I'm struggling to complete my holiday shopping, because - unfortunately - I'm not one of those parents who can boast about purchasing all gifts by August. Two of my three kids are at that age where Christmas is everything (the other is only a year old, so she really doesn't care) and I'm looking forward to their Christmas morning squeals. One very different reality for me this year compared to many other years is that I am no longer within the NFL family. What does that mean? It means I have a typical holiday. I don't have to squeeze a Christmas celebration into a game week and explain to friends and family why I'm unable to attend countless parties and gift exchanges because I have to work.
The holidays really are unique in the NFL, with three very different realities … each dictated by one key factor: the team's record.
1. Headed to the Playoffs
Ah, those coasting through December. There's really nothing like it. If you're already "in" with three weeks left in the season (yes, I'm looking at you New England, Carolina, and Arizona), you couldn't care less that your Christmas is a little different. Yes, you would love to be there all day with your kids on Christmas Day, but you'll take a few hours opening gifts before zipping off to practice or meetings.
Because you're in, baby.
Everything looks fantastic through the lens of being in. Practice at the crack of dawn? Eh, who cares? We're in! Long meetings? What does that matter? We're in! While that doesn't take away from the sting of a disrupted Christmas, it sure does make it a lot more tolerable.
2. In the Hunt
Teams on the fence are kind of like our heading-to-the-playoffs friends with a lot more stress. Disrupted Christmas is still okay, but there is an underlying minefield. Should Week 16 (the game between Christmas and New Year's Day) result in the end of all playoff hopes, it will not be a happy new year. It will be quite the opposite.
WAGS will wish their significant other's team had never even sniffed the playoffs because a just-barely-missed reality hurts way worse than never even hinting at it to begin with.
Hey, at least Christmas is relevant, and the short present-opening session (or missing it altogether if Christmas falls on a travel day or gameday) serves a purpose. The only problem is the sour taste that follows if that purpose falls flat.
3. Completely Out
This can suck or be outstanding, depending on the day of the week Christmas falls on. This year Christmas is on a Friday, so coaches can change up the schedule allowing players to be home with their families on Christmas morning. That is definitely better than Christmas falling on a travel day, when some players and families have little flexibility.
But if the holiday falls on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, being out of it completely can result in coaches switching up the schedule so the team is off for Christmas. That is definitely a plus.
The real tough part about being completely out of it is that the sacrifice of a shortened holiday is futile. Not only do players miss time with their families, they are doing so with no playoff reward on the line. It's like rubbing salt in the wound.
It's not only Christmas, either. I have spent more than one New Year's Eve at an airport hotel … the airport location selected strategically to avoid the craziness and partying of a big city. Now, if you're in the playoffs, partying at a crappy airport hotel bar can seem downright poetic. If your record has seen better years, that limited menu is like a slap in the face.
As much as the playoffs make the holidays better for the entire family, they do little for a mom home alone with her kids. I speak from experience. My husband travels with a college basketball team, so - during the season - I'm often by myself with my three kids. Not only is it stressful caring for three kids alone, it's just sad when we're not all together. Add to that the holidays and it's really tough.
Still, I know NFL families wouldn't trade their current blessings for anything. It's the sacrifice that comes with the territory! But every great thing has it's downside and "no holidays in the NFL" is for sure one of them.
So here's to all of the NFL WAGS and their families getting through the holiday season … may you have family and friends surrounding you for a joyous Christmas and wonderful New Year!
"This house is so full of people it makes me sick. When I grow up and get married, I'm living alone!" Along with a shared love of cheese pizza, Kevin McAllister and I shared a fairly similar worldview. I related to this quote all through my high school years; I couldn't wait to leave for college and get away from family. Freedom was my ultimate goal.
It wasn't until campus was seven hours from home that I found myself more homesick than summer camp of '98. The desire I placed so highly on a pedestal was slowly showing its negative side -- loneliness.
Focusing on what 'Could Be'
How many times do we look to our future and place our happiness on what could be?
"If ____ happens, then I will be happy."
Just like Home Alone, we find ourselves "thirsty for more" (sorry, I had to). We obsess over a shift in our lives and how that shift might finally make us happy. Instead, we need to learn to be happy and satisfied with our circumstances in every present moment.
What comes to mind when you think about Christmas? My memories are staged at my grandparents' house at the kids' table. It's upsetting that it usually takes a death in the family or a decrease in gatherings to finally realize how much we long for those times. I would give anything to be in their living room with my cousin while football played in the background. How ironic that -- fifteen years later -- football is no longer background noise, but the one thing that secludes me.
Just like military families, those who work in the healthcare field, or those who simply live far away from home, I am sad to be apart from my loved ones during the holidays. Instead of rejoicing, I find myself ungrateful for my present circumstances on the one day dedicated to appreciating life.
I actually catch myself fantasizing of a life post-football.
A life when I won't be 2,500 miles from my family, when my driver's license will finally match my residence and when I'll know how to answer the seemingly-innocent question, "Where are you from?"
Don't get me wrong -- I will truly miss these years. I've been to a number of places and met so many amazing people. What I'm working on is learning to appreciate the moment. I have to stop thinking about an "ideal" situation. Similar to gleaning a wheat field, I will make an effort to take all the 'scraps' the world views as trivial, gather and embrace them.
I'm working to turn my typical areas of complaint into areas to rejoice. Instead of resenting house cleaning, I'm rejoicing that I have a house to clean. I may struggle to sleep, but I'm struggling in a warm bed.
Living in the present is difficult. But imagine how much happier we will be if we appreciate the now instead of hoping for a change in our circumstances to produce satisfaction.
Think of Home Alone. After just one day of eating all the ice cream he could eat and watching more than enough Angels with Filthy Souls, Kevin was ready for everything to go back to how it used to be.
Like many other WAGS, apartment living has become the norm for my family. When your significant other has to move from one side of the country to the other, in the middle of the season, it is very hard to pack up a house, sell it, and move within a short period of time. Apartments are very convenient, allowing short term leasing and catering to the instability of the NFL. The downside to living in an apartment during the holidays is most definitely the lack of ability to personalize décor. I love holiday decorations and if I had my way, I would probably paint my door red and green. However, I’ve had to learn to be creative and work with what I have. Here are a few helpful tips when decorating your apartment for the holidays.
- Opt for a small artificial Christmas tree over a large live tree. Unfortunately, some apartments do not allow live trees because of the fire risk it poses. Also, a real tree may not be conducive to a small space that may already be cramped. A small artificial tree is not only a space saver, it is also cost-effective. I was able to pick up a pre-lit six feet tree from Target for only $30.
- String lights along the balcony/porch. I love driving past houses during the holidays and observing all of the amazing lighting, inflatable snowmen, and reindeer. Apartments however, lack the yard space for such a display. This is where lighting a balcony comes in handy. A simple outlining of the railing will give your apartment a sleek holiday look, and also make it stand out amongst your neighbors.
- Purchase evergreen-scented packs and hang them inside of the tree. I know there is nothing like the smell of a live fir tree to put you in the mood for some holiday caroling. This is a smell that an artificial tree will never be able replicate on its own, but a brilliant person came up with this solution. The evergreen-scented packs will definitely fill a home with the smell of a freshly cut tree.
- Hang a holiday wreath on the door. Like I said before, I would love to paint my door and definitely get in the holiday spirit but I’m sure my property manager wouldn’t be the least bit amused. A nice holiday wreath will set the mood for guests and anyone who walks past your door, and let them know you are decking the halls.
I hope these tips help you along the way and put you in a joyful mood!