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Soccer on Boxing Day

By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service, December 28, 2013

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS) – I love Boxing Day. And I love Football—the English sort. Maybe I love Boxing Day because of Football. Yes, I think that’s the case. But if you think about it, both “loves” are strange things to say for an American, particularly since most Americans don’t know a thing about Boxing Day and very little about English Football. Yet, for this Yank, I look forward to the uniquely British- inspired holiday each year (in Ireland it’s known as St. Stephen’s Day). Why? Well because of Football, of course.

Manchester United players celebrating a goal

For the other Yanks not familiar with Boxing Day—it’s simply the day following Christmas when a manager or boss of a company would exchange gifts with his employees. If you go back further in British culture, you’d phrase it like this: it’s the day when servants would exchange gifts with their lords.

But we don’t live in the Victorian era anymore. And Downton Abbey is not a real show—even though many American’s think it is. And in modern times most Brit’s don’t spend the day exchanging gifts with bosses. Instead, they spend Boxing Day doing one of three things: shopping, eating, or watching Football.

Chelsea FC celebrating another championship

So do I — and I’m not alone. Millions of other people throughout the world gather with a host of other Football fans around TV sets in pubs, in stadiums, an in the privacy of their own homes to watch the “showdown”—to use a uniquely American phrase culled from the Victorian Era here in the States—two gunslingers going at it in the desert Southwest. But instead of gunslingers, we have two teams. You get the point.

Speaking of gunslingers and Boxing Day: last year I was unable to take in the day’s Football games because I went down to Lincoln County to walk the streets Billy the Kid walked (http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2012/s12120131.htm). I traded one set of gunslingers for another. But believe me you, I was thinking of Football.

This year I followed my traditional Boxing Day schedule. I woke up at 5:30 and sat most of the morning. Until 12:30 P.M, I think. In this 8-hour stretch I watched four matches. And without going into a blow-by-blow summary of the games (both Manchester United and Chelsea won—so I was happy), the morning was sheer pleasure. Where else could you get intrigue, suspense, excitement, and a good deal of sport without leaving your living room? I can’t think of another place.

Pastor, Alistair Begg

Being that Football is the world’s most popular sport (some estimates put the number of fans at 3.5 Billion. That’s a lot of people cheering!), it’s unusual that it hasn’t taken off too much here in the States. But things are changing. When David Beckham is talking with LeBron James about started a new club in Miami, you know “the games afoot” (to quote Shakespeare and Sherlock Holmes—other British imports).

According to Forbes Magazine, “Competition among sports networks for live sports programing, an expansion MLS team in New York City in 2015, David Beckham getting an expansion team and possibly having LeBron James as an investor. Indeed, a big reason for the recent acquisition of IMG Worldwide by William Morris Endeavor are the meshing of sports and entertainment celebrities to market and sell content.”

So there you have it American style. Why do Americans want Football/Soccer? To mesh “entertainment celebrities to market and sell content.” Put another way: it’s about the business, the big bucks.

But for other Americans—myself included—it’s not about the big bucks, but the love of the game.

Guitarist, Yogi Lonich

I grew up playing Football/soccer in New Mexico. I was a goalie. And after I moved to California, my love increased as I watched a good friend of mine, Yogi Lonich’s, father sentry the game with passion. Mr. Lonich was from what was then called Yugoslavia. Each time I walked into his house in San Jose, California he was glued to the TV set, telling us to sit down and watch the match with him.

Yogi and I did for a moment, but then we’d drift off to practice music. I guess Yogi’s practice was put to good use. He later became guitarist for Chris Cornell, Buckcherry, and other notable rock bands. But one thing that stayed with me from watching Football with Mr. Lonich was his hunger and appreciation for the game. I knew then—back in the mid 1980’s—that Football was bigger than my youth league team in New Mexico.

Liverpool FC icon, Bill Shankly

Throughout the years I realized how important Football is to many people. Bill Shankly—a Scottish player and coach—put it as follows: “Football is a matter of life and death, expect more important.”

Now I definitely don’t think that Football is as important as one’s faith, family, or friends, but I do find the game a spectacular picture of life, a drama that plays out with all the splendid intricacies of the great characters found in the finest plays of the world.

When I met fellow Football fan and pastor, Scotsman, Alistair Begg, a year ago, we hit it off, talking about the majesty of the game. In a note he left on my desk he stated, “It has been my privilege to be here and to meet a brother who truly understands ‘the beautiful game.’”

And beautiful a game it is. So it’s no wonder that a Yank living in New Mexico would spend a British holiday watching a British import sport.

It’s because beauty transcends culture, inviting anyone with eyes to see or ears to hear into its enchanted display of wonder.

So from the desert Southwest—Billy the Kid Country—to the rest of the world, let us all say, “The game is afoot,” and enjoy the magnificence of the game throughout the holiday season.
See all ASSIST News articles at www.assistnews.net


This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.


Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, minister, and family man. You may contact him at www.briannixon.com

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

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