NOTE: This column appears in the Wednesday, December 24 Times Union


  Close your eyes and punch the GO button on the way-back machine–destination December 21, 1985.

  We're going back to a day before the 3-point shot, before college mega-conferences, before chest-thumping gyrations for catching a first down pass in the second quarter when your team is down 28-3.

  Yep, THAT far back.

  I was a senior playing basketball at Argos. We had a REALLY good team, and we won the Culver Boys Holiday Tournament by beating Culver by 15 and a good Glenn team 83-52. We were 6-1 after that, with our only loss coming to current Grace women's coach Scott Blum (then a Sophomore) and  his Oregon-Davis team.

  What happened after that is a phenomenon that just doesn't happen much anymore in high school sports.

  We got a week off.

  We never practiced the week of Christmas.


  Back then, there weren't that many holiday tournaments. There was Culver, the big one at the ACC at Notre Dame, the Warsaw Lady Tiger Tournament and there were the Hall of Fame Tournaments in New Castle. We had a three-week gap in our game schedule. A week for Christmas, a week of conditioning during New Year's week, and a then a week to prepare for the first games of the new calendar year.

  When teachers and schools took a break for Christmas, so did a lot of winter sports teams.

  Not anymore.

  Now more-teams-than-not play in a holiday tournament, and even more play games this week and next.

  Why? Because they don't really have a choice.

  When the IHSAA expanded the schedules from 20 to 22 games this summer, athletic departments started scrambling to fill those two extra games. A lot of schools that weren't already in holiday tournaments before either found ones with openings or started their own.

  Plus the movement toward filling the holidays with games started about 10 years ago, when coaches realized their teams were getting flat and flabby during their Christmas vacation.

  I wish there was still a week where there were no games and no practices. A week where families could travel to see other family, or to warmer climates, or just stay at home and enjoy some uninterupted time together. Call it “winter moratorium week”. We have one the week of Independence Day, why not the week of Christmas?

  After all, Christmas is supposed to be about family, isn't it?

  And if the response you get begins with “well the money generated”…stop them. Attendance isn't that great at most holiday tournaments.

  Again, don't blame your athletic director or your coaches for this. This probably started before they became the AD or the coach and not doing it puts teams at a competitive disadvantage. Everyone's doing it! 

  But I would like to see the IHSAA go back to 20 basketball games starting next year, and make the week the Christmas falls on a week of no games and no practices from Monday through Saturday.

  Call it a Christmas gift for everyone in sports.

  I doubt anyone would return it.

  Merry Christmas from everyone at ESPN 102.7, Lake City Media Group and our good friends in the Times Union!