Sporty Holiday Memories


— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

We all have our Christmas memories, don’t we? I remember, as an eight year-old in the Seattle area, receiving a replica Seahawks’ helmet with a Jim Zorn jersey. That was the first year I became interested in sports and the passion has grown ever since. But this day can mean so many different things to people.

Former Seahawk Jim Zorn, now a quarterbacks coach at Kansas City, had his number on a jersey that Sam Finley got for Christmas. (Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

“Christmas is Christmas,” said running back De’Anthony Thomas. “It is one of my favorite holidays. I can’t wait for it, and hope to have a great Christmas as well as get some great birthday presents (ten days later on January 5th).”

With that in mind, I spent the last week of the Ducks’ football practices asking various players and coaches what their memories were during the holiday season.

“I don’t know where to start,” said UO defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. “We always have a great time at Christmas. I come from a big family and, when I was a young boy, we’d all get together at my grandmother’s house.  There’d be all kind of great fish frying, calamari, crab, and shrimp.  You name it. I have many great memories of getting presents and eating until we couldn’t see straight.”

Funny, but this can be a day that can, despite whatever differences we have, show how similar we are to one another.  For example, coach Aliotti came from the Bay Area, which is nothing like the state of Texas.  Yet freshman running back Tra Carson, who grew up in Texarkana, tells an almost identical story.

“We’d all meet up at my grandma’s house,” explained running back Tra Carson. “Everyone would exchange gifts there, and we’ll probably do the same thing this year.”

Coming back to the Bay, linebacker Michael Clay’s tale is a little more unique.

Oregon linebacker Michael Clay (number 46) has had some unique Christmas experiences. (Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

“My mother came from a big, Mexican family,” said Clay. “So they were always dancing and partying until about three in the morning. But we always went to church, and I always remember that.”

And that was just one side of the family.

“My dad and I were always on the road,” Clay continued. “We’d always have to go see relatives that were kind of spread all around the Bay Area. So I have memories of being with my dad in the car, as well as being with my mom’s family, too.”

Of course, much like my helmet and jersey, there’s always a gift or two you never forget.

“There are two,” claimed Aliotti. “I remember getting a bicycle, as well as receiving my first baseball glove.”

“I got a bike when I was in the third grade,” stated Clay. “More recently, however, I’m very fond of the iPod Touch I got from my parents because I still use it. I’ve got a bunch of songs from about every genre for music.”

Then again, you also never forget about a little sibling rivalry, either.

“I’ve always been a Dallas Cowboys’ fan,” said UO offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich with a wry grin. “So I always got Cowboys’ pajamas.  My brother got Philadelphia Eagles’ pajamas, so there was a little brotherly feud there.”

All things considered, the Ducks’ ultimate Christmas gift may have already been unwrapped.

“Getting to the Rose Bowl is a great feeling for my freshman year,” said Thomas. “I feel like each year should be better and better.”

Or has it? After three consecutive BCS Bowl appearances, what Oregon would really like under their stocking is a trophy that comes with a victory.

“A Rose Bowl win would definitely be on the list for sure,” Helfrich explained.

That being said, let’s talk a bit about the wonderful stuff that comes from sports.  My longtime friend and now-retired Register Guard sports editor Ron Bellamy used to say that athletes gave us all a gift every time they competed. He’d go on to say that it was our job, as sports journalists, to simply unwrap the presents.

I couldn’t agree more. If you see your team give it their all in a close game, you’ve witnessed something awesome. I (Conversely, if they deliver a subpar effort, I’m sure you’d like to give them a lump of coal).

De'Anthony Thomas' birthday comes shorty after Christmas, so he gets a fair share of presents. (Photo Credit: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

But win or lose, if they give 100% on the court, the track or the field, then they’ve given you the most for your valued entertainment time. Let’s remember that, particularly with college age kids here in Eugene, whether it’s an impressive Duck victory over Stanford or a painful defeat to USC.

Now then, I won’t lie and say everything is great about Christmas. Having worked retail for five years too many, I’ve sworn that I’ll never step into a shopping mall on Christmas Eve again.  There’s just too much pettiness and nastiness over stuff that really isn’t worth having.

I will also never, ever, listen to a certain Chipmunks’ song without having the urge to reach for a mallet. However, I won’t bore you with some of my no-so-favorite things.

Instead, I will simply say to enjoy being around the people you care about the most.  Or, if you cannot be with them on this holiday, call them and say how much you’d wish they were here.

As usual, I’d like to say more, but I’ve got to get on with some holiday fesitivites.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sam Finley is a local sports writer and enthusiast. He is a feature writer for Eugene Magazine and a for hire freelance writer. Sam can be reached at [email protected]

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