Past Christmas looks better in hindsight

There's nothing like a Christmas Day NBA broadcast to make me feel a little reminiscent, even as I cringe at the "back in time" ads:

  • I really hope if Blake Griffin finds a time machine, he doesn't waste the opportunity by going back to pitch a car that doesn't exist yet to a Blake Griffin who's years away from a driver's license.
  • And I have to question Phil Jackson when he says Michael Jordan playing through the flu in the 1997 NBA Finals, "made me a believer." To that point, Jordan had four titles, four regular season MVP awards, four Finals MVP awards, a Defensive Player of the Year Award, nine scoring titles, 11 All-Star selections and two Olympic gold medals.

Ads aside, I reminisce because I watched the NBA Christmas Day game when it was a singular game, and not the five slated for Tuesday. I was guaranteed to watch that game, because the family knew that's the only time I'd want control of the TV for 72 hours — there were no games Dec. 24 or 26.

There were two NBA games on what turned out to be my favorite Christmas, in 1999. The world was preparing for the Y2K apocalypse that never quite materialized. The Pacers beat the Knicks, and the Lakers topped the Spurs in what would be the first the Lakers' current 14-year streak appearing on Christmas. And I was a senior in college, making my final Christmas visit to home before I would embark on that real world thing in May.

Since relatives didn't see me often, and I had taken on my father's mannerism in just simply buying whatever I needed, they were left with nothing to give me but gift cards and cash. They were very thoughtful, but that was a boring Christmas day as everybody else enjoyed their gifts and I had a stack of cash that really couldn't do much with. We couldn't stick around to shop the next day in Billings, Mont., because my dad worked with the Department of Transportation and had to get back home to be on call that Sunday.

I had pretty much resigned myself to a boring Christmas of nothing, until we got to Bozeman, about an hour from home. A few minutes before the exit, my dad said, "I think I can be on call from here, if you want to take your chances at the mall." I said sure, figuring we'd all at least get to stretch our legs in the mall.

While in the mall, I had what basketball players call being, "in the zone," when it comes to shopping. I would bring a T-shirt to the counter, and the clerk would tell me, "I can't find the tag … so Merry Christmas, bro."

Next store, I found a Texas Rangers MLB authentic dugout jacket originally marked for $150, slashed to $35 because it's a terrible idea to stock Texas Rangers gear in Montana. The clerk didn't even try to sell it to me, and offered to hang it back up before I said, "Oh no, I'm definitely buying this."

About 30 minutes into our leg-stretching, my parents found me with a half-dozen giant bags, causing my dad to ask, "Did you rob somebody?"

Nope, I just discovered I had a skill at finding the amazing sale items, from the 23-cent Walgreen's candy purchase to the $2.86 at Men's Wearhouse. The skill works now when the family's not sure what to do and gets me an Amazon gift card. While the world recovered from the Mayan apocalypse that never quite materialized, I was landing a camera bag, disc golf bag, Scrabble mug and Adidas sweatshirt.

I'll love this Christmas, but I'll never forget the one that started it. Hope you've got a favorite Christmas, even if you don't realize it at the time.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Clovis Media Inc. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by email:

kwilson@cnjonline.com

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