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.