Frankie O's blog: What's under your tree?

Frankie O's blog: What's under your tree?
December 23, 2011, 5:39 pm

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

As you get older the holiday season takes on new meaning. For me it signifies the end of the ten month torture-fest known as my fantasy sports affliction. I cant explain the fog that takes over your brain when you have to know every three-back rotation in the NFL as well as every NL bullpen. Its a wonder that I can do anything else. I love the reactions I get in the bar talking about it. Guys are especially skeptical about the roto baseball.

Why would you do that? Dude, youre drinking a Grasshopper, why would you do that?!

But I do understand talking about fantasy sports can make peoples eyes glaze over. Fantasy conversations in the bar should be in general terms, getting specific about your team just kills the buzz. Especially, if youre that guy who owns every player of relevance. Of course thats easy to do if you have a void in your life that makes you enter 7 leagues. The story you want to tell loses all meaning when you begin with the phrase, In my other league Dont be that guy!

Ironic though, in the two month break I get from the obsession with endless statistics, that Im right in the middle of the most wonderful time of the year and all that it brings with it.

Lately, the true meaning of the holiday season is increased stress. At my advanced age - and those of you who know me know how far that it advanced this week! life is about simplification. Unfortunately, that goal is increasingly elusive. So during this season of giving, I do. I give the wife the credit cards and close my eyes. There. That was easy. This is supposed to be a time of fun, right? And since no good deed goes unpunished, Ill have the depressing winter blahs, along with everyone else, when the bills come in next month. Cest la vie. (Did I just go French? Boo-Ya!)

What I think the holidays can do though, hopefully, is bring back that feeling of when we were younger and anything was possible. Kind of like Opening Day, except its colder and you get presents.

It also should be a time to be thankful for what we have. That of course is ironic, since all we are bombarded with by the advertising world is about everything that we DONT have and should, because we deserve it!

Ive gotten to a place where the holidays bring about memories from those of the past and hopefully Im creating the same kind for my kids. None of mine really center on what I got. I always remember as a kid getting a bunch of things, but I couldnt tell you most of what I got or when I got it. (Obviously, most were sports related.) Some of it has to do with being born on Christmas week. So I was getting presents for that, and some that were combined! (I swear Im not bitter! But while Im getting combined gifts, my sister is having picnics and parades on her birthday since she was born on the 4th of July. Honestly!)

Not a year goes by though that I dont remember Christmas of 1971.This was the time when my infatuation in pro football was starting to bloom. It was all we talked about as kids at school or afterward, when we would play at the park until it was time to go home.

After awaking way too early and tearing the paper off all of our presents, we played for a while, then, it was time to visit both sets of grandparents. I remember that for most of the day, the TV was off as we were visiting. After being at my grandparents on my fathers side for a couple of hours, the television was turned on, after we ate, for the Dolphins-Chiefs playoff game. I dont know that I fully understood what I was watching (Or that I would today for that matter!) but I realized that the game meant a lot and was very exciting. The energy came right through the TV. That was assured by the big game AFC voices of their time, Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis. The score kept going back and forth with twists and turns. Big defensive plays, field goals, missed field goals, touchdowns and interceptions, until after 82 minutes and 40 seconds, Garo Yepremian kicked the game-winner from 37 yards out. It was (is) the longest game ever played in NFL history. Double-overtime! Twelve Hall of Famers played in the game, six on each side. Both of the head coaches are also inducted in Canton. But the player I will never forget was the Chiefs Ed Podolak. He was all over the field. Smallish for a running back, he had a funky facemask under which his large nose seemed as though it was going to protrude right through it. By the end of the game that nose was covered in sweat and dirt and blood. He had 350 total yards in one of the guttiest performances I have ever watched. Too bad it was in a losing effort. I was rooting so hard for the Chiefs to win. (Setting up a long string of games in which the football team Im rooting for met a bitter demise. Be nice or Ill root for your team!) There is much debate about the greatest games in NFL history, but you can guess which one gets my vote. That was when the NFL started for me.

While watching the game in the living room, I heard the side door in the kitchen open. My grandfather was still in uniform as he came through the door arriving home from his shift as a local police officer. Soon afterward I had to get out (Gladly!) of his recliner in front of the TV. As he loosened his tie as he sat down to relax, I hopped on his knee so that we could have our picture taken together. I sat on the floor next to him as we watched the rest of the game. I dont remember much else, but I remember Ed Podolak and sitting on my grandfathers knee for that picture like it was yesterday. That was forty years ago. It wasnt too long after that my grandfather passed away. That picture is one of the few that I have with him. There isnt a time that I hear about that game and dont think about that picture. Nor is there a time that I look at that picture and dont remember that we watched that game together.

So as I enjoy another Christmas, there are plenty of NBA games and one NFL game to watch. In my family, the Bulls and the Bears will be must-see TV. A game without Kobe kind of loses its luster for the Bulls against the Lakers so I hope he plays, but it doesnt look good. And I wont even get into the Bears situation, but how can we stop watching this far in? But in the end, it doesnt really matter. As always its about getting together and sharing time with each other. But you never know, maybe something memorable will happen that we all can share. I already know that your team doesnt always have to win to have a memory that will last a lifetime.