My Love/Hate Relationship With Christmas Day Games

Darius Soriano —  December 23, 2010

I’m not going to lie.  Christmas is my favorite holiday.  I get that extra time with my family and the great food of Thanksgiving plus gifts like it’s my birthday.  I love walking into my parent’s house and seeing the done up tree and smelling fresh cookies that were just baked.  If there’s a better time to relax with everything I’d ever want at my fingertips, I’ve yet to find it.

But where things start to get complex for me is in what’s now become another Christmas tradition: the Lakers playing a marquee game.

You see, I love watching the Lakers play and particularly enjoy the big games.  Every time the Lakers play an important contest, I get that rush of adrenaline and an anxiousness comes over me that makes the viewing experience that much more meaningful.  So, over the years, these games on December 25th are ones that I look forward to.  I want to see the big match up; the game against another top level team and this game always provides that.  Whether it was last year’s game vs. the Cavs or the year before where the Lakers took on the Celtics, the Christmas day game is one that has me excited like few others in the regular season.  While the results matter as much (or little) as any other single game (it’s just 1 of 82 right?), this game always feels bigger than that, so it’s natural to put a bit more on it.  The fact that the stakes get raised gives it a sense of a playoff game in December and that feeling of importance is like another gift to unwrap in my living room with my family.  I really do love it.

Except when I don’t.

Back in August, after the schedule came out, I took a look at the holiday games that the Lakers would play and wrote the following when looking at the Christmas day game:

The Lakers play poorly on Christmas. I’ve had plenty of recent Christmases at least partially spoiled by a Lakers loss. Look at last year’s match up with Cleveland. Or the three straight years the Lakers lost to Miami on Christmas (’04-’06). Really, when looking at the past 10 seasons, the Lakers have only won 3 games on December 25th and at one point lost 6 of 7 (and 5 in a row). And it’s not like this lack of success can be blamed on being on the road as the Lakers have played 8 of those 10 games at home. (Although, if you want my theory, I actually think being at home hinders you in a Christmas day game as you’ve got all of your family commitments and the good times of the holiday broken up by a basketball game. When you’re on the road, I would think it’s easier to focus on the game itself without all the other commitments swirling around you. But I digress.)  And maybe the Lakers weren’t the most talented team in that stretch (especially in the middle of the decade), but considering the Lakers have won 5 championsips in the last 10 seasons but have only won 3 games on this particular holiday…let’s just say I’m prepared for any result.

So you can understand why, despite my love of this specific game, that I’ve had too many bad experiences with it to really enjoy it.  When you get excited to watch your team play only to watch them fall short multiple times, it really takes the fun out of the day.  And when that day is one where everything else is exactly the way I want it to be, suffering through a downer like a Lakers’ loss can be difficult.  Sure there’s family there to take your mind off it and I can always walk back to the kitchen to grab another snickerdoodle or fix another plate of food, but after a loss I usually find myself being shaken from a daze as I’ve slipped into my thoughts about what went wrong.  That’s no way to spend my Christmas afternoon and it’s happened more times than not in the past decade.

But like a drug that I can’t get enough of, I’m back for more this year.  The Heat and their super-trio are visiting LA and I’m once again giddy with excitement.  I can’t wait to see how the match ups unfold.  Can the Heat’s interior D slow Bynum, Gasol, and Odom?  Can Arest, Kobe, and Barnes slow Lebron and Wade?  What will Phil say to the sideline reporter when he gets interviewed at the end of the 1st quarter? (Whatever it its, you know it will be good.)  And then, of course, who will come out on top?

The anticipation is ramping up now with only a couple of days left and that love of the moment is now back in me.  Except, thinking about those ghosts of Christmas’ past has me wondering if I’ll spend another afternoon upset and deep in thought about a late close out or fumbled defensive rebound.  Again, it’s complex.  Here’s hoping this year provides more of what we saw in the video below.  I’d definitely love that and it would surely make my Christmas even more enjoyabo.

Darius Soriano

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to My Love/Hate Relationship With Christmas Day Games

  1. I’m with Phil and LeBron on this one. I wish they’d not schedule the games on Dec. 25. Let the people who celebrate Christmas — including the players, fans, coaches, media, etc. — enjoy the day with the families.

    I choose to spend the time with my family that day, which means I end up missing one of the year’s biggest games. (Or watching it later on DVR, which someone will always wind up ruining by telling me the score.)

    It sucks either way, and in particular for Laker fans who feel as I do since it’s a given that this happens to this team every year. If the NBA has to showcase these games, mix it up some so it’s not the Lakers every single season.

    I think the people who get it worst are the ones who work at places like Staples Center, making little money at the food stands or as an usher or parking attendant.

    How’d you like to be those folks, busting their a– to make ends meet day in and out and then being told they get to drag themselves out of their homes on Christmas morning to go to work for $50 bucks?


  2. I just wish they wouldn’t play on that day. Knowing the game is on distracts my focus from the rest of the day’s activities. Even if I have it on DVR, I find myself thinking about the game before hand and worrying about it when it’s actually being played.

    Yeah, I have no one to blame except myself since I’m a Laker addict. But that doesn’t make it easier knowing that the game is going on.


  3. Thanks for the sweet video reminder! The Ariza to Sasha and-1 is probably one of my favourite plays ever. To me it symbolizes the beginning of transformation our boys endured. From the 08 bitter loss and soft labels to the bullies and back-to-back champs. One of my favourite games too, for that matter.

    (well that play + Odom’s ass slap on KG in Boston the same season)

    Here’s to an enjoyable Christmas first and foremost… followed by what will hopefully be a sweet Laker win. Time to shut up all the doubters.



  4. Gotta say, it’s not a viewung issue for me personally, as since in live in New Zealand, it’s Boxing Day here since we’re a day ahead. I completely agree with the two negative elements of the current model. If they want to give a Christmas day off, why not swap Christmas Day & Eve around, and give the players Christmas day off, to spend time with their families. Also, if they are going to have them, why the hell should the Lakeshow have to endure the Christmas ordeal every year. Nobody wants to be forced to work on Christmas Day every year, even if they have an awesome job being a L.A. Laker.


  5. No problem here in Sweden, since we celebrate Christmas eve instead of Christmas day, ie the 24th instead of the 25th.

    Really nice clip btw. If Bynum got that speed back, combined with his current size – the rest of the league could join forces in one super-team and it still wouldn’t matter;)

    Paul-Wade-Bron-Dirk-Howard vs Fish-Kobe-LO-Pau-Drew? (LO added for size.) I say we’d destroy them;) If nothing else, Kobe would be so excited by the challenge that he’d will the team to victory by whatever means necessary.


  6. The following sentence from the Darius’ Post sums it up for me, “Again, it’s complex. “, that is a complete sentence all by itself. I will prepare to watch and enjoy the Lakers Christmas day game, like usual. I just hope it does not ruin my Christmas, like it usually does.

    “Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.” – Franklin P. Jones


  7. We’re going to lose on Christmas Day. We almost always do. It’s not a big deal, and it gives the league and LA-Haters something to drool about for a while.

    And when the playoffs comes, the Lakers use the game as fuel. Win or lose, the game won’t matter.

    Wake me when it’s June.


  8. Everclear: You’re right about the game not mattering, but at the same time: if we stop caring about these games, what’s left? 6-7 games in June? Seems a little boring to me=)

    This is why I prefer a system where every game matters.


  9. Wow, watching those highlights, look how young and athletic Andrew Bynum looks. He doesn’t run like an old man, doesn’t look like he’s struggling to get off the floor with every jump. If we have that Bynum in the playoffs, I think we can take anybody, home court or no home court.

    Also, those two big threes by Odom had so much arc on them compared to his shots now. He’s gotta go re-watch that video and re-learn that form.

    And last but certainly not least, I miss Ariza. Even if he wasn’t the most complete player, he gave us 1-2 exciting, energetic hustle plays per game that made you want to applaud. RonRon has been great, both on and off the court, but Ariza just made exciting plays every game.


  10. Mmm, I’d actually kind of forgotten how many times we’ve lost… I usually create some kind of restore point and approach Christmas with the eternal hope of a kid that’s convinced there’s a bobsled lurking under the tree.


  11. I was thinking the same thing, you have to miss Ariza. Remember game 1 against the Nuggets that same year?


  12. @ Zephid : I completely concur at Bynum’s lateral quickness, though it must be pointed out that he’s slightly bulked up a bit since then. I think if he somehow returns back to full fitness and remains healthy till June (knock on wood!), we’ll be able to knock off Miami or Boston in 6 no matter who we play.

    About the Christmas Day games, I may be in the minority here but I actually kind of like them. I mean, it’s a bit of a bummer having to leave the dungeness crabs and pumpkin pies on the dining table for a couple hours but what better way to cap a lovely christmas meal than kicking back to watch a good ol’ purple and gold ballgame. I totally understand the inconvenience it causes for the players, and especially the fact that Lakers have a less than stellar Xmas record, but I enjoy the hubbub and razzle dazzle of a Christmas game. I was fortunate enough to catch the Celts vs Lakers christmas game two years ago at the Staples two years ago and I loved every minute of it.

    Which reminds me how much I miss Trevor Ariza and (dare i say it!) Sasha.


  13. Update: Just got invited to Christmas dinner with the ex’s family. Sobering thought unto itself. Add – guess what time dinner is?


  14. Can’t be 2 in the afternoon, could it?


  15. @Andreas: I know, I know. But after being heartbroken and embarrassed by the Lakers on Christmas over and over again – only to get the final word come playoff and Finals time – I’ve learned to devalue the annual game. The players and Phil wisely do, so I do the same. Now, win or lose, I can enjoy it more without the heart attacks after every basket. =)

    @Dave M: She’s an ex for a reason. Not like you’re gonna lose anything at this point if you watch the game!


  16. #14 – oh yeah. And I haven’t been invited to one of their things in years. It’s deliberate malfeasance I’m sure.


  17. #15 – there’s a daughter involved. The ex is being very crafty. I may have to send my double.


  18. Ohhhhh. A daughter. That does complicate things.

    Well… sounds like it’s time to raise a new little Laker fan! =)


  19. Oh, she’s already raised and in highschool. I think it’s time to raise a little trouble and on Christmas day no less. Will send missives from behind enemy lines.


  20. I’m with Phil on this one, although I think scheduling one game around 2pm isn’t that bad. Scheduling 5, that’s excessive.

    As for the highlight, it’s funky how the score is still tight even with us making highlight plays seemingly every possession, and wow I miss young Bynum, Ariza, Sasha and uninjured Walton. That pretty much was almost like a Walton-highlight reel 😉