Chicago Fire

Random News: Worst holiday gifts for the sports fan

Random News: Worst holiday gifts for the sports fan

Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010
9:18 AM

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

You might not know this, but you're a pretty good actor. You can play happy person when your natural instincts call for sarcastic humor with a slice of anger and embarrassment. Just flashback to the last time you opened a really lame present.

Take the following scene: you're exchanging gifts at a family party. You select a present. You rip off the wrapping paper and take a look inside. It's a pair of socks.

A Green Bay Packers pair of socks.

You: (pinching your fingers, forcing a smile, twitching slightly, trying to be nice) "Y-y-yeah! It's great! I can put it to good use!"

Your Sarcastic Thoughts: "Yeah...as exhibit A in a restraining order case in the near future."

The Gift-Giver: "Oh yeah! I thought you might like that! I heard you like sports!"

You: (shaking your head incredulously) "That indeed."

Your Sarcastic Thoughts: "That's it. I'm moving in with the Kardashians. I'm out. Every year it's something different with this bunch."

The holiday season brings out the best acting skills in all of us. We gut out conversations with people we see once a year. We compliment the chef whose food may or may not have a hair in it. We try to play the nice guy. We try to not embarrass people. We don't want to hurt anyone in the season of hope, joy and giving. We try to shake off bad Christmas presents. The gift might be a waste, but we don't want burn bridges in case the person actually comes through with a fairly decent one down the line, you know?

But there shouldn't be the need to act in the first place. It's time to take a stand.

It's always better to give than receive this time of year, right? So if we're going to go all-out in giving, we need to start doing it correctly. I have come up with a list of the worst possible gifts you can give to a sports fan. It's a list that's sure to turn one's stomach and serve as a breeding ground for horrible flashbacks to Aunt Shirley's X-Treme X-Mas party back in 2002 (or whatever). But through pain does come pleasure. Take notes. And don't be "that guy" or "that girl" that serves up the following:

A Personalized Jersey: I went to a game at Cubs-Mets game at Shea Stadium a while back and sat a few rows behind a guy that had "Szczepanski" and a 21 on his road Cubs jersey. The Mets fans had a field day with it: "My Sosa...how you've changed!" "Hey Pat...I'd like to buy a vowel!" "I bet you spent more on that jersey than on your flight." "Tell your Mommy to stop sending you out in bad clothing." And so on. Nonstop. For nine innings. But don't blame the long last name or opportunistic Mets fans. Blame the moronic idea of personalized jerseys. They're the equivalent of having your name printed on your lunch box in 3rd grade. They both will leave you hurt mentally (and physically in, say, Oakland).
A Team Logo-ed Tie: This is where having a girlfriend should...should...come in handy. No girl in their right mind would let their guy wear a tie like this in public. And if you're a guy that sneaks out of the house with a tie like that? You know what-- good for you. You have no shame. Nice job with being your own independent self. It's admirable. But take note: if you're closing down a bar at 2:45am, and it's down to you and that guy over there battling to get that girl's phone number, you will eventually need the tie to wipe away your tears. You have no shot.

Cologne Endorsed By An Athlete: I was one of the biggest Michael Jordan fans growing up. I got his shoes, hung up his posters, watched every game and screamed like crazy when he would go for 50 at the old Madhouse on Madison. He is, and will always be, the man. But my Mom and Dad got the idea that, since I was a fan of MJ, I would be a fan of his cologne. Not exactly. No offense Mike, but the Michael Jordan cologne smells like a combination or kerosene, Preferred Stock and a tequila bar in Cabo on New Year's morning.

Bad Sports Movies On DVD: If you're a sports fan, you need to be careful when you talk about your likes and dislikes around others. See, a lot of guys like sports, movies and comedy. But a lot of gift-givers screw up and think that all three of these can be combined into one can't-miss present:

You: "Oh wow! You got me...Caddyshack 2!

Gift Giver: "Yeah! I thought you'd like that! I figured since you love golf and already own the original Caddyshack, it would be perfect!"

Not exactly. Friends don't let friends watch two hours of failure (even most Clippers fans). Other sports movies not to give as presents this holiday season: Rocky V, Angels In The Outfield, The Fan, Any Given Sunday, The Babe, Juwanna Man, Major League: Back To The Minors, Slap Shot 2, Like Mike, Kazaam, Ed and Teen Wolf Too.

An Autographed PhotoBaseball CardBallJersey Of Someone You Don't Cheer For: Here's another rule-- any time you hear a person repeat the kind of gift they're opening, it's usually a sign that you goofed up. For instance if someone says to you, "Oh wow...you got me an autographed picture of Hakim Warrick! Nice!", you're in trouble. Hey-- just because you got a killer deal on eBay doesn't make you a hero on Christmas morning. Do some homework.

Bad sports gift honorable mentions include: socks of rival teams, socks of your favorite team, socks...period, random team-sponsored paraphernalia (plastic lawn ornaments, air fresheners, seat covers, floor mats, orthodontia..etc), tickets for teams you don't cheer for, any sports-themed Christmas ornament, any Jock Jams CD or any sports-themed underwear.

Good ideas for the sports fan in your life? How about high-def television? Or a recliner chair? Tickets to the Super Bowl? OK, OK, let's not get crazy here. But seriously, even something simple like a gift-card to an all-you-can-eat wingsburger joint on football Sunday would do the trick. All it takes is a little research-- without going overboard. Sports fans are simple but we're slightly more fickle than you might think. We love our sports but we won't know what to do with a Macho Man Randy Savage lunch box. And we don't want to waste time regifting or putting things on Craigslist.

And we'd rather keep our acting skills at bay.

(Wait hold on a second...I know people that would like a Macho Man Randy Savage lunch box. A lot of people.)

Or something like that.

With push for playoff seeding in full force, Fire head to Philadelphia with key absences

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With push for playoff seeding in full force, Fire head to Philadelphia with key absences

There aren’t many easy games left on the Fire’s schedule, but Saturday’s game in Philadelphia appears to be one of the more winnable games remaining even if it is on the road.

The Union have a respectable 7-4-3 home record, but are out of the playoff race and are winless in six straight. The Fire hope to pick up a second straight road win, keep pace with New York City FC and stay ahead of red-hot Atlanta in the race for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The game will be televised on CSN+ (channel finder) with coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

While on paper the game is winnable, the Fire will once again be significantly shorthanded in midfield. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juninho are both out with injuries. Schweinsteiger will miss his third straight game while Juninho will be out for two in a row. The Fire beat D.C. United 3-0 with Dax McCarty pairing with Drew Conner in central midfield last weekend.

With Joao Meira returning from injury as a sub in that win against D.C., coach Veljko Paunovic could run a similar lineup to the one from last week or elect to go with three centerbacks in an altered formation. Either way, the Fire remain without key pieces during a time of year when the team wants to be hitting its peak with the playoffs just over a month away.

“You want to get your top 11 group on the field together so they can get games, but if that’s not the case then you can also get guys experience and you can get younger guys in games that mean something and that matter because there’s no substitute for experience,” McCarty said. “You can’t replicate that in training. Guys like Drew Conner, guys like Djordje (Mihailovic). Those guys that are going to be very important for us in our playoff push and our depth heading into the playoffs.

“That’s the reason why depth is so important in MLS because while you would love to be able to count on your first 11 every single time you step on the field, (but) that’s not the case. I think we’ve seen that throughout the whole season. I don’t think we’ve had our first 11 group on the field together for months so you want depth and obviously it’s important to get guys healthy."

The extent of Schweinsteiger’s injuries hasn’t been clear. He had a bruise on his calf from a collision during the match in Montreal on Sept. 2, but also has a thigh injury. Schweinsteiger appeared to be nearing a return last week when he was running and working out in training separate from the group, but he was not at training on Tuesday or Wednesday this week, which implied a setback.

When asked about Schweinsteiger’s status, Paunovic has remained coy.

“Basti is very important for the team,” Paunovic said. “We want him as soon as possible. We will provide all the help that we can. As soon as we can have him back it’s going to be very important for the team. Also during that time we have guys who are prepared and ready and want to step in.”

Everyone knows he is a key absence, but the team has a solid 2-1-3 record without him this year.

“It doesn’t take a genius to see the positive attributes that he brings to the team,” McCarty said of Schweinsteiger. “He’s been one of our best players and obviously he’s a focal point for the way that we do things, not only defensively, but attacking as well. He’s a guy who teams have to account for whenever he’s on the ball. His vision, his ability to make plays within the game, knowing what the game needs and what time, you can’t substitute that. It makes my job easier, it makes our strikers’ jobs easier, so it’s a big loss not having him on the field.”

Chicago Fire at Philadelphia Union

Where: Talen Energy Stadium (Chester, Penn.)

TV: CSN + (channel finder)

When: Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (14-9-6, 48 points), Union (8-12-9, 33 points)

Nerds in Sports Podcast: Being a 'professional nerd' and Star Wars theories about Rey's parents

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Nerds in Sports Podcast: Being a 'professional nerd' and Star Wars theories about Rey's parents

On this edition of Nerds in Sports, we talk with io9.com senior editor Rob Bricken.

Rob explains how he juggles being a fan with being a ‘professional’ nerd, how he came to run io9.com, plus his theory on why Rey’s parents are in Star Wars may shock you.

Kevin Anderson and Michael Piff co-host. We are Nerds. In sports.

Listen to the Nerds in Sports Podcast here.