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Prister: The 12 Gifts of Sports (Dec. 2)

Eric Prister | Thursday, December 1, 2011

To quote a popular Christmas carol (and a possibly more popular ESPN commercial), it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

The holiday season is upon us, which means not just celebrations and parties, shopping and gift-giving, but also sports. In the spirit of the 12 days of Christmas, I give the you the 12 best things about sports during the holidays.

12. Baseball’s Winter Meetings

Often the most important off-season moves are made at these meetings in early December, and this year should be no different, as big-name free agents Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are currently on the market. The Yankees will spend too much money, the Red Sox will try to keep up, small market teams will barely get involved and Cubs fans will once again proclaim that this is their year.

11. Fantasy Football Playoffs

Week 14 of the NFL season is certainly not the start of the playoffs for the real teams, but for fantasy football players, things are starting to heat up. Because teams who have already clinched playoff spots have a tendency to sit their starters for the last week or two of the season, fantasy players move their playoffs back a few weeks and get even more excited about individual performances than normal.

10. NFL Playoff Races

9. Quest for Perfection (or lack thereof)

For those who prefer real football, the holiday season brings playoff races in the NFL. Teams will battle for one of six playoff spots in each conference, some making late season runs and others unbelievable collapses. Teams like the Indianapolis Colts will make a strong run for the leagues worst team and the right to draft Andrew Luck, while the Green Bay Packers will make their attempt at perfection.

8. College Basketball Conference Play

The holiday season also means that college basketball teams finish with their out-of-conference schedules and start conference play. Whether you’re looking for a classic Big-10 matchup in which the two teams struggle to combine for triple-digits or a Big East game pitting two of the top teams in the nation, conference play surely will not disappoint.

7. The NBA on Christmas Day

Sports fans expect to be entertained every day of the year, and the NBA takes up the task of doing so on a day on which every other American gets to stay home. This year’s games will be even more exciting, since they will be the first games of the year in a lockout-shortened season. All the stars will be out on Christmas — let the LeBron bashing begin.

6. ESPN’s Bowl Game Coverage

5. Ridiculous Quarterback Play

ESPN is often accused of over-coverage, and the bowl season is no exception. But thankfully, when it comes to bowl games, there is no such thing as too much coverage. Also, because most bowl games are played in warm climates and because the MAC does not believe in defense, the early bowl games always have the potential to be incredibly high scoring, which is nothing if not entertaining.

4. Heisman Trophy Ceremony

Once again televised by ESPN, the awarding of the Heisman Trophy gives analysts and fans alike the opportunity to celebrate the great seasons of the best players in college football (Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson), remember the best Heisman winners of the past (Tim Brown, Tim Tebow) and laugh at those who, after winning the Heisman, couldn’t stay on an NFL roster (Eric Crouch, Charlie Ward).

3. SEC Domination Over the Big-10

2.Bowl Games on New Years Day (or the day after)

Most years, Jan. 1 is a day chock-full of high-quality college football games, including three match-ups between the SEC and the Big-10. And while college football fans will have to wait until Jan. 2 this year because of NFL games on New Year’s Day, the nation’s most talented conference will still run up and down the field on the nation’s most overrated conference. Last year the SEC defeated Big-10 teams by a combined 93 points. Can they make it 100 this year?

1. Watching Sports with Family

The holiday season often offers a unique opportunity for families to watch sports together. Whether it’s ordering a pizza and watching a bowl game with your dad and brothers (or, in my case, dad, uncle and cousins) or eating a delicious home-cooked meal with an NBA game on in the background, sports is for many an integral part of the holiday experience and a great way to bond. So when your mom asks you to turn off the TV and sit down to eat, remind her of all the ways sports bring people together. Then turn the TV off anyway — she’s your mom after all.


Contact Eric Prister at eprister@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.