Jon Marthaler bakes up a delicious batch of links for you every weekend. Other times, you can find him here. Jon?
Merry Christmas to all! When you think about it, Christmas is probably the closest thing we have to a universal day off; few people work the day, with the exception of essential services, some gas stations, and (at least in the movies) Chinese restaurants. It's the one day of the year that virtually everyone expects to have a chance to spend with their families. Even Scrooge gave Bob Crachit the day off on Christmas Day.
The one exception to this rule seems to be sports, where the NBA has no compunction about ruining Christmases far and wide. The league has a quintupleheader scheduled for Tuesday; you'll be able to watch basketball from 11 am to midnight, should you so desire. It's one thing for the home teams, who theoretically will get a chance to have Christmas morning and/or Christmas dinner fit around their schedules, but those five games have five road teams, all of whom are away from their families this holiday. The Celtics, Knicks, Rockets, Thunder, and Nuggets - sorry, guys. You're spending your Christmas on a plane and in a hotel room.
Speaking of the players is to say nothing, too, of to the thousands of other people who'll miss Christmas thanks to these games. Stadium staff, team personnel, TV crews, team beat writers - all of these folks have to give up their Christmases as well, thanks to the league's desire for holiday hoops. Spare a thought as well for a few college football teams - the Gophers among them - that have Christmas Day scheduling issues.
The jokes all say that most people can't wait to escape their families on Christmas, but the truth is that most of us relish the chance to get together and celebrate. This year, though, I'll be thinking about all of those people who give up that chance as a blessing to the rest of us - not just nurses and doctors and firefighters, but Kevin Durant and James Harden, and all of the ESPN announcers, and the Staples Center staffers, and all of the football players across the country who'll eat Christmas dinner in a team lounge. Merry Christmas, everyone. Thanks for giving up your day to make it better for the rest of us.
On with the links:
*I want to print out this Steve Rushin column about hockey, and hand-deliver a copy to every owner, possibly by stapling it to his forehead. If somebody wanted to dump a hundred thousand copies on the houses of Jeremy Jacobs and Craig Leipold, I'll start buying printer ink. Dear NHL: You're not alienating casual fans now; none of them now exist. You're alienating your actual fans, and we're a disappearing breed. You're on your way to second place in CANADA, and if you lose Canada you might as well fold up shop.
*Brian Phillips of Grantland heads to the rodeo finals in Las Vegas, and the whole thing becomes a wonderful mishmash of one part stranger-in-a-strange-land diary, one part Vegas travel journalism, and one part elegiac rumination on his lost Oklahoma childhood. It's tremendous.
*And finally: not only am I now convinced that squash should be an Olympic sport, I'm also convinced that it is the greatest sport ever invented.