The power of sports during the holidays

by Joey Giragos, Sports Reporter
graphic by Lynn Kim

There’s something about big meals and big games that seems to make for the perfect family gathering. In my own household, the annual NFL football post-Thanksgiving dinner and prime-time NBA game on Christmas Day have become staples of my family’s holiday traditions. 

This year, the Patriots played on Thanksgiving for the first time since 2012, so naturally, much of Massachusetts spent the holiday watching Mac Jones and company take on the Minnesota Vikings. My family is no different; every year we sit down, bellies filled to the brim with turkey and watch football for hours. 

Sometimes, the games are great and everyone is engaged, whether it be quietly from the couch or yelling from the beanbags on the floor. Sometimes, the games drag on, and out come the fantasy football score updates and bathroom breaks. 

But even when the Texans and Jaguars are trading three and outs, we still watch, chatting aimlessly and soaking up the opportunity to be together as a family on the holiday. I’ve grown to appreciate these moments and cherish the wholesome togetherness of grabbing a blanket and watching football with your family.

Our traditions don’t stop just at football. The holidays also happen to be a great time to watch college basketball in full swing, and from a young age, my brother and I were always glued to the TV watching whichever schools happened to be playing on ESPN. 

When I was six and my brother was four, my dad, hoping to translate our love for watching basketball into some physical activity, bought a six-foot mini basketball hoop. Now, more than 10 years later, the hoop still stands in our hallway and has graduated from receiving lay-ups to vicious dunks and off-the-wall shots as we’ve grown up. A simple gift has turned into a staple of my childhood — something my dad surely couldn’t have imagined when he bought it years ago. 

When the weather gets cold, we wrap the hoop in garland, and friends and family alike grab the little green ball, turn on the electronic scoreboard that goes with it and ball out.  That hoop has stood the test of time and creates a sense of consistent bonding between me and my family.

A more wacky family tradition is our superstitions, which all started during a Patriots-Seahawks game. Yes. That game. Back in February of 2015, we watched intently as the Patriots took on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. 

With 31 seconds left on the clock, the Seahawks were just one yard away from scoring a touchdown and winning the Super Bowl. I was losing hope, but my ever-creative dad thought of a way to keep my dreams alive. He noticed some small round magnets from a play set scattered across the floor. He picked one up, and told me to shake it for good luck. 

Thus, the “hope balls” were born. On the very next play, Patriots rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler intercepted Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s pass, clinching the Super Bowl victory for the Patriots. In the years since,  I’ve treasured the hope balls, and they still sit on my desk, ready for a shake anytime my team needed a miracle. 

The hope balls’ record isn’t perfect: our UNC Tar Heels losing the 2022 March Madness National Championship was a colossal hope balls failure, but I’ll always remember what they did for me on that Super Bowl Sunday. I will never stop shaking them during every big game.

Sports and holidays have one major thing in common: they bring people together. For as long as I can remember, the two have been deeply intertwined in my family. Being able to share my passion while connecting with my loved ones brings an unmatched feeling of joy to the holiday season.