Remembering Sports X-Mas Gifts Past: Top 10 of Yesteryear

Republished from December 23, 2009. Hey, some things are timeless. And time is short…

A Christmas Day Lock for Years

Happy holidays, all. As we sit on the eve of Christmas, it seemed time to get all nostalgic up in this piece. I’m 32 and lucky enough that I can’t legitimately claim there are tons of things (OK, anything) I desperately need for the holidays.The case wasn’t that different back in the day, but, hey, I was a “kid.” Kids get mad gifts, and my mom does gift-giving like nobody’s business.

Fortunately for her, when I was a young buck, “unlocking the mystery” behind my holiday gift desires was as hard as kindergarten algebra. Between the ages of say 6-16, you were safe giving me any sort of officially-licensed NCAA or pro sports apparel. Depending on the exact age there were slight deviations in the formula, but going the sports route was pretty safe in those years before I passed into shirts, sweaters and ties territory.

Here’s a rundown of top 10 “sporting gifts” from my youth that consistently generated fits of giddiness (at least most of them). Let me know if you’re feeling me, and hit me your recollections in the comments.

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10. Topps “Traded”/Rookie Sets: For more years then I’ll admit, the Topps “Traded” set under the tree was LOCK CITY. Hell, I could pick out that small rectangular box of 100 or so cards of recently-moved and just-called-up goodness quicker than a Vince Coleman stolen base. Donruss’s “The Rookies” sets were also frequently in the mix. Speaking of which, what’s the general consensus on what do with all those cards? I’vegot easily 50 full sets of everything from baseball to hoops to the USFL. Part of me has delusional visions of sitting and taking some future offspring through those cards as he looks on in wide-eyed wonder. The other part thinks mortgage.

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9.Costacos Bros. Posters: We’ve been down this path a few times before, but it doesn’t make these pieces of ART any less relevant or take away from their gift awesomeness quotient. Did I mention Mom made me put these things in the basement? Curious why she didn’t let me have free reign with the hammer or fun tack on the ole bedroom walls? Hmmm…

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8. “Basement Games”: Can’t come up with a better name for this genre. In my family, there was always one “big” gift that came at the very end of the x-mas morning extravaganza and was usually hidden in some sneaky location. The basement games fell into this category a few times. Although my model was not as fine as the one pictured above, the air hockey set-up was a memorable winner. Knock hockey just couldn’t compete. Wooden sticks versus aerodynamic saucers with that luscious air poking through those holes? Can you hear it? Can you feel it? No. Contest.

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7. Caricature T-Shirts: Is this not an idea whose time needs to come again? I friggin’ LOVED these tees. Sure, looking back they’re potentially a bit politically incorrect (Straw does have a big schnoz, but c’mon folks). Isn’t that fun though once in awhile? I had Doc, Straw, ‘Nique, and I’m sure others. For a tremendous walk down caricature t-shirt memory lane, check out The Sports Hernia’s multi-part series — phenomenal work.

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6. Insert Team-opoly: I know I’m not alone on these, right? No offense, mom, but I never really liked Monopoly to begin with. Adding decades of Jets or Mets glory moments to the board doesn’t sweeten the pot. Plus, there is no “get out of jail free” card for fans of my teams. You’re a lifetime prisoner.

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5. Sports Toys: Pogo ball. Aerobie. Kadima. You get the gist. Although nothing come close to this icon.

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4. Champion Mesh Shorts: It didn’t matter the team, and it still doesn’t. I think I have at least five pairs of these shorts from various teams and institutions to which I have no affiliation. They date back to the 90s. They are awesome. I will wear them until the elastic completely disintegrates. Still a viable gift.

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3. Jerseys: Alright, we’re making the full turn into officially-licensed apparel land. Jerseys were more of a special gift, but this was fertile ground for me for at least a decade. In keeping with the theme, “coolness” outweighed team allegiances or geographical ties. Hence, the Bad Moon Rison jersey (of course, there were others). Oh, how I loved thee.

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2. Fitteds: OK, any sort of team hat really. I had a ridiculous hat addiction growing up. It was debilitating at times. Christmas was just another occasion to collect more lids. Fitted preferred. What’s that, ma? Which ones? Doesn’t really matter. Hit up the two-for-20 deal and make sure it’s got a cool mascot logo on the back. How annoying was it when you fluctuated between sizes, by the way? 7 or 7 1/8. Really depended on the haircut for me. Always a tough call on size, but unquestionably a solid gift.

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1. Starter Jacket: Perhaps the granddaddy of them all. The Starter Jacket was transcendent. Wear one and you simply oooozed cool. My UNLV Starter Jacket (as I once related to Steady Burn for his great homage -paying post) stands in the pantheon of my all-time greatest Christmas gifts. Others have also waxed proper on the mystical, magical Starter jacket, so I won’t carry on in trying to explain the phenomenon. Instead, I will just fondly recall my fire-engine red Runnin’ Rebs model replete with the handlebar-mustached master Rebel, six shooters holstered, ready to run-and-gun. I wore that jacket OUT. By the time it was officially retired, it was a dull orange. Its legacy, however, still shines on with great splendor.

Ahhh, those were the days. Happy holidays, folks.

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About the Author: Cecilio's Scribe is the founder of The Legend of Cecilio Guante and a generally pessimistic fan of the Mets, Jets, Knicks and Rangers. A fine NYC-based gentlemen who hones his marketing skills as his primary trade by day. Husband, chef, father of a newborn and after-hours blogger by night. Proud alum of the mighty Big Red of Cornell. University. Hot sauce devotee. Staunch protester of the continued wussifcation of American sports. Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick.

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