PAGES: Jim Ross and Paul O’Brien, Slobberknocker: My Life in Wrestling
For those of you with loved ones needing a new podcast, think about this nearly 11-hour audiobook just released last month. Ross’ memoir of his career as pro wrestling’s equivalent to Vin Scully should be an interesting listen. Even if you don’t like wrestling, this book should be interesting for a number of reasons. Ross—one of the lead World Wrestling Entertainment announcers for over twenty years—grew up deep in the heart of Oklahoma, where his first love was football. He played center for his high school football team, and did some college radio announcing before his wrestling days began. Still a big college football fan, Ross did some commentary for Fox Sports while on hiatus from the WWE a few years ago. If you love wrestling, football, the Plains, and barbeque sauce, you’ll like Slobberknocker.
Many fans cheered President Donald Trump’s call for players who kneeled during the national anthem to be fired. Some of the players, in response, have in essence said, “Bring it on.” Both sides in the debate might want to be careful what they wish for, however, as this recent 30 for 30 graphically demonstrates. The film looks back on the last time NFL players missed a significant amount of action, the players’ strike of 1987. Unlike a 1982 strike that took away about half the season, only one week of play was lost this time around. When the league re-opened for business, however, it did so with replacement players—i.e. “scabs”, a historical pejorative for strikebreakers. Outcasts from the recently-dissolved United States Football League and the Canadian Football League’s dissolved Montreal franchise joined with even less heralded wannabes to fill out the squads. On the one hand, the quality of play predictably suffered, and interest from some fans (particularly in Philadelphia, where attendance plunged for the sole “scab” game played there) waned as the on-the-field product looked like a joke. Some fans, however, became attached to the plucky fill-ins, several of whom are profiled in the documentary. The film’s climax is a memorable Monday Night Football clash between the all-scab Washington Redskins and a Dallas Cowboys unit featuring mostly regular players who crossed the picket line. It’s a great gift for the sports historian in your life.
THREADS: The Oregon Ducks’ Duck Uniform
Perhaps lost in last year’s forgettable season for the Oregon Ducks’ football team was their debut of a Donald Duck uniform—a la their mascot—in a game against Colorado. If you want to look the part of your favorite team—or have the coolest Halloween costume ever—these are the duds to shell out for. All you have to have is probably around $500 to plunk down on a white helmet, green and yellow jersey, white gloves, white and orange pants, orange socks, and orange cleats. Honorable mention: if you want to throw back to last Christmas really neat NBA Christmas Day uniforms, with the teams’ names in cursive.
GRUB: A gift card to your favorite diner to start a “Tradition”
Really? Don’t laugh yet. According to a recent Sports Illustrated article, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione started “The Tradition” of going out to a diner before every road football game when he worked for another Middle America school in the mid-1990s, and continued the habit when he joined the Sooners in 1998. The meals can be elaborate, but sometimes simple gets the job done, as when Castiglione got plain pancakes, poached eggs, and bacon hours before Oklahoma stomped Ohio State earlier this year. If you travel to see your favorite team play, you might consider starting your own “Tradition”, because it’s worked pretty well for the Sooners: since Castiglione joined the team 20 years ago, Oklahoma has won a national title and ten Big 12 championships, played in ten NY6/BCS/championship games, and has only had five seasons where they didn’t win double-digit games. Pass the syrup?
GAME TICKETS: To one of the world’s “unique” soccer stadiums
Is your Tattered Pennant fan really hardcore? This idea certainly requires them to have much more time and money on their hands than the others, but you could get them tickets for a game at Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz, Bolivia, reputed to be one of the highest in the world at just shy of 12,000 feet. Even all-time great Lionel Messi is said to have succumbed and thrown up on the pitch due to altitude sickness. If that’s not enough to make you queasy, the stadium is reportedly haunted. But it’s located in a beautiful setting smack in the middle of downtown, with views of the nearby tall mountains. If your fan, on the other hand, is a little more fair-weather, get them tickets to see FK Vozdovac Belgrad in Serbia. There’s only 5,200 seats in this stadium, so you might have stiffer competition than in La Paz, but it’s—get this—located on top of a shopping mall. As one European publication blithely contends, “Where else can you combine your weekly shop with a trip to the footy?” The article also features a stadium built into a cliffside in Portugal, a soccer pitch on a bay in Singapore, and a few other quirky spots. American stadiums might be more state-of-the-art, but they look boring and pedestrian next to these sporting sites.
THE BEST GIFT OF ALL: More time this season to watch some good sports
Late December and early January will feature the NHL Winter Classic, the NBA’s usual top-shelf Christmas Day slate, NFL games on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, early-season college basketball, and, of course, a ton of college football bowl games. ESPN has a bowl tripleheader every day between December 26 and January 1 this year, with the NY6 and CFP semifinals taking place on December 30 and January 1, and the final day of the NFL regular season in between. It might just be enough for the Tattered Pennant fan in your life to be able to kick back on their satellite, Roku, or phone and have some time this holiday season to watch some games.
 You can buy it at https://www.amazon.com/Slobberknocker-My-Life-in-Wrestling/dp/B076598WST/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
 You can buy the sweater at http://www.uglychristmassweater.com/product/seinfeld-festivus-for-the-rest-of-us-pole-sweater/?attribute_pa_sweater-size=medium&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIwJDbgqLf1wIVDp1-Ch3RrwrXEAQYASABEgIe9_D_BwE
 As of this writing, unfortunately, this documentary is not available to stream through conventional sources online, or out on DVD. Check with your cable/satellite provider or your preferred streaming media service to see if it’s available for purchase.
 Start putting your uniform together at http://shop.goducks.com/Oregon_Ducks_Jerseys
 For pics, see http://www.businessinsider.com/oregon-ducks-football-duck-uniforms-2016-9
 My favorite local chain is Biscuits Café; check them out at http://biscuitscafe.com/. They also have locations in other Western states. Alas, they don’t do gift certificates/cards. Others that I like that do have gift cards, however, include Black Bear Diner (link to online gift card at https://blackbeardiner.com/shop/)
 https://www.si.com/eats/2017/11/02/oklahoma-sooners-athletic-director-breakfast-tradition-diner (according to Wikipedia, Castiglione was the AD for the Missouri Tigers, not the Hawkeyes).
 Piqued your curiosity? See the full article (with pictures) at https://www.redbull.com/gb-en/theredbulletin/the-strangest-football-stadiums-in-the-world