By Taylor Rudin | Guest Writer
While for many this is the standard holiday scene at home, numerous collegiate and professional athletes are forced to diminish this time of celebrating reunion with friends and family is greatly due to unrelenting athletic commitments.
Depending on the level of competition, this time of fellowship may be reduced for collegiate athletes to a few days. The NCAA for Division I basketball mandates “three consecutive days off during the institution’s official vacation period after the first term of the academic year.” In comparison to the normal college student receiving approximately three weeks of time away from the hustle and bustle of college life, Division I student athletes have a mere 72 hours of break, which may or may not be on campus, depending on the coaches’ decision. According to Chris Isidore from CNN, Northwestern University’s football players “are allowed to leave campus for several days before Christmas, [but] they must report back by Christmas morning.” Regarding NCAA Division III athletics, the handbook has looser regulations, not mandating a specific break period following the fall semester. This trend impacts numerous competitors, prompting them to remain game-ready despite the declared “break.”
Critics of sports’ nonstop demands into the holidays argue they are one sign of the world’s “ever-creeping commercialization of Christmas,” according to Christopher Gasper from the Boston Globe. Sports offer distractions, encouraging fans to remain fixated on statistics and team records, both collegiate and professional, instead of celebrating reunification with family and friends. This phenomenon shifts the focus from renewing and deepening relationships and, in the case of the Christian, Jesus’s birth, to personal entertainment. In addition, the prolongation of athletic competition requires a continued commitment not only from players and coaches, but also from trainers, media personnel, sports facility maintenance crews and the workers’ families who are deprived of their loved ones’ presences. Gasper declares, “There are certain jobs too important to go unstaffed on Christmas — police officer, firefighter, emergency room physician, etc. Professional athlete is not one of them.” While acknowledging the need for certain workers to remain on duty in case of a civil emergency, in Gasper’s opinion, athletes do not fall into that category but still pull numerous people away from Christmas revelries for work, signifying society’s increasing commercialization.
On the other hand, John Amaechi, a former NBA player who writes for The Guardian, argues that sports provide entertainment, which is what people want during their break. Amaechi comments, “It was almost seen as a special treat to go to the game. In fact, many of these games are packed.” The demand for an exciting spectacle does not decrease with the holidays, and if anything, it increases, giving sporting events spirited, enjoyable chaos. Lasting only a few hours, most sporting events allow fans to spend the remainder of their day however they like, providing plenty of quality family time. In addition, Amaechi asserts the differences of each family’s traditions. Some center their holiday activities around attending sporting events as entire families, creating a space through sports for people to come together.
Athletes enjoying a Christmas break unaffected by sports is almost unheard of nowadays. As watchers and participants engage in the entertainment craze of the holidays, the original purpose of the break and meaning of Christmas can get jostled and lost among the chaos, but it could also be highlighted, uniting families through both viewing and competing in athletic contests. Whether this phenomenon overrides the meaning of Christmas or enhances it depends on the person.