The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

December 17, 2012

Better ideas for the sports fan in your life

By Charles Curcio, Sports Editor

Monday, December 17, 2012 — The holiday shopping season is a time of complete chaos for most of us trying to sift through the avalanche of circulars, commercials and online offers trying to find the right gift for your loved ones this season.

It’s important to remember that it is the thought behind the gift that is important, as well as honoring and cherishing the reasons for celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

However, beyond that, we always want to find those gifts that really fit someone’s interests, hobbies or personalities.

The sports fan has become more and more easy to buy gifts for, in my opinion, considering that virtually every major league sports franchise has an online store for fans to purchase trinkets.

I thought I would share with you some of what I think are the greatest gifts that a sports fan can receive on Christmas morning.

I have long been a fan of gifting sports fans in my life tickets to see their favorite team play.

While the NFL season will have all but wrapped up their regular season by the time the holidays are over, other sports are still going strong.

I remember growing up that my father was a huge Portland Trail Blazers fan back in the Clyde “The Glide” Drexler days, so I got us tickets to a Blazers’ game in Atlanta against my team, the Hawks.

However, Dad had to unwrap three boxes to get to the tickets because I did not want him to guess what his gift was, and because I thought it was funny.

I saw where the Charlotte Bobcats are partnering with some restaurants and businesses in Uptown Charlotte to do special deals for Wednesday games. Dis-counts will include free travel on the Lynx light rail, discounted food at the game as well as benefits like free bowling shoes with the purchase of a bowling game at Strike City at the Epicentre.

I have also seen a number of ticket deals on both GroupOn and LivingSocial, two websites that I have used frequently in the past for discounted meals and other activities. Both of those sites list a number of discounted activities that includes game tickets as well as discounts at various golf courses in the area.

As my compadres at Grace Street Hockey know all too well, I have several game-worn hockey jerseys that I acquired in my time announcing for the Charlotte Checkers of the ECHL.

There is something awesome about owning a game-worn jersey, knowing that someone wore that sweater on the ice or on the field and competed in an environment that most of us will never find ourselves in.

Although many jerseys are rather expensive, I saw where the Kannapolis Intimidators were selling game-worn jerseys for $75 on their website and at their Intimidation Station souvenir store, which is open during the holiday season on weekdays.

If anyone knows of where I can get an old Atlanta Knights IHL jersey, please let me know. I was a huge fan of the Knights during their four years of existence, including a championship season in 1993-94.

Knights fans were so loyal to that team that even when the NHL’s Thrashers came to town, people still shouted out “KNIGHTS!” during the national anthem at Thrasher games to honor the old Knights team in the way that Atlanta Knights fans shouted out during the anthem.

Loyalty to your team or your school seems to have taken a major hit over the past few years,  but the ultimate show of loyalty is a game-worn jersey.

You can never have enough hats with your team’s logo on it. Nothing instantly says “This is my team!” than having that hat on your head.

I wear a dark-blue Atlanta Braves hat during baseball season, which goes with any outfit I have and is still a ball cap. The “A” on the cap looks similar to the cap that the Albemarle baseball team wears, but I promise you, it is a Braves’ cap.

This suggestion will be my mother-in-law’s favorite, because of her love of books, but she always buys me a sports book of some kind every Christmas.

These books do not have to be the biggest tomes in the Barnes & Noble and be too wordy, if your sports fan does not read much. I got a book one Christmas from B.J. Drye that was about Dan Marino’s life in football, and I loved it.

However, don’t shy away from novels, either. I read John Grisham’s “Playing for Pizza” several years ago and it remains one of my favorite novels (thanks, Tommie B!). I recommended it several years ago and I still do.

Memorabilia can get very expensive very quickly, and you can not always be 100 percent sure of the authenticity of an autograph, so I might not recommend those necessarily unless you can verify the item.

However, if genuine, nothing is better than something to go up on the wall that is arranged well and looks great with your team on it.

My beautiful wife made me a shadowbox several years ago that contained a number of ticket stubs, press credentials and programs from various games that I either attended or announced. It was one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received.

In the end, it really is not about the gift itself but the fact that you went out of your way to shop for someone else to put a smile on their face.

The joy of the gifts of the holiday season are not just found under Christmas trees or exchanged after the lighting of Hanukkah lights or even after a Karamu feast.

True holiday joy comes from being with a supportive, loving family, and in the case of the Burleson-Curcio clan, eating pulled pork barbecue out in a house off a gravel road in the Norwood countryside.

Happy Holidays to you all, my gentle readers.