Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer covers one of the largest holiday controversies to hit the city since Eagles fans pelted Santa Claus with snowballs in 1968 – whether to watch the Eagles vs. Cowboys game at 5pm on Christmas Day, or have the traditional Christmas Dinner with your in-laws. Hmmm . . . . (Click here for the article, Hold the goose; this Christmas, it’s the Birds).
Sure, the NBA has had Christmas Day games for years. These annual basketball games, always between large-market teams with megastars, marks the league’s first major marketing push of the season, an effort to get casual fans to notice that indeed the NBA season has begun. With the exception of the Kobe vs. Shaq matchup a few yeas ago, these games really do not create too much a stir except in the households of diehard hoops fans.
But this Eagles-Cowboys game is different. Most importantly, we’re talking about football, the nation’s most popular sport. It’s the second-to-last game of the season, and both teams have playoff hopes on the line. Even without playoff aspirations, this rivalry is one of the best in sports. Add to that tradition Terrel Owens, the former badboy Eagle wide receiver turned badboy Cowboy wide receiver, and you get a game that is full of meaning for fans in Philadelphia, Dallas, and across the country. And with the national audience on a holiday, this game figures to get near Super Bowl type ratings.
In my household we will have an eye to the television. We are sports fans, and we enjoy watching a good Eagles game. It helps that our "fancier" extended family Christmas celebrations – with brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents – are taking place on other days during the holiday week (a low-key Christmas Day allows my Reverend Wife to recover from a crazy day of Sunday morning and Christmas Eve services). And even though we’ll be traveling down the road to my in-laws on Christmas Day evening, they’re bigger sports fans than my wife and I are. Surely the Christmas dinner can wait until after the final seconds tick off the fourth quarter clock – after all, it’s not like Christmas dinner is a sacrament.
Truly, I would have difficulty with this decision if the Eagles game were on the night of Christmas Eve. I don’t go to or watch Phillies games that take place on Holy Thursday, Good Friday or Easter Sunday. But those days are holier than Christmas, and those games usually coincide with the worship services and family gatherings that mark Jesus’ death and resurrection. On the other hand, a 5pm Eagles game on Christmas Day neither interferes with worship nor with the family traditions we are beginning to shape in our 4-year old marriage. With that in mind, this game seems like a pretty good Christmas gift, eh?
Merry Christmas, folks. And at the risk of being irreverent (not too hard for me!), let us pray:
Lord, as your angels flew over Bethlehem heralding the birth of your Son Jesus, so too grant that our Eagles might fly on the road to victory, score a touchdown one, two, three. Empower them to hit ’em low, hit ’em high, so that we may watch our Eagles fly, fly on the road to victory! E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES! In the name of your Holy Son, Jesus the Christ, who won the victory for us all, we pray. Amen.
(prayer inspired by Eagles fight song, detailed here)