The festive season is upon us, a time to relax, recharge, reflect and rejoice.
As I prepare to wind down, I’m again thankful for a dear friend that’s about to ramp up: Barclay’s Premier League soccer. Three fixture dates, and thirty matches, over six glorious days.
It all kicks off on “Boxing Day” (December 26th), a national holiday in England. The tradition of soccer on “Boxing Day” dates back to 1860, when the world’s oldest (Hallam) and second-oldest (Sheffield) clubs contested the first inter-club match. 155 years later, families still get together to celebrate yet another Yuletide feast consisting mostly of leftovers, as they nurse hangovers communally and most importantly: watch soccer.
As far as the rest of Europe is concerned, soccer on December 26th is uniquely British. In Germany, the Bundesliga takes a six-week break in December and January. France similarly enters a state of hibernation, and some Eastern European countries postpone all matches until March. But in Britain (Scotland’s Premier League also has a full slate of games), the festivities are a time-honored and much-loved highlight of the sporting calendar.
Here in the U.S., NBC Sports Group is going all-in on “Boxing Day”, providing unprecedented coverage that’s highlighted by a first-ever doubleheader on terrestrial NBC (Newcastle v. Everton at 12:30 p.m. ET, followed by Southampton v. Arsenal at 2:45 p.m. ET).
For me personally, December 26th is mandatory pub time. Attendance in bars seems to grow each year, and now I’m just one of the many Americans our friends at Fado wrote about in 2014.
Maybe “Boxing Day” soon becomes as ubiquitous as NFL games on Thanksgiving, NBA games on Christmas or College Football Bowl games on New Year’s Day. Or maybe it doesn’t. Either way, it will continue to be one of my favorite gifts.
To get in the spirit, I suggest some repeat-watching of these epic 2014 BT Sport commercials:
Now let’s all raise a glass and toast the Barclay’s Premier League. If not for you, our only holiday soccer fix would be to dust off that Nintendo Wii from Christmas 2012. And no one wants that.