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Sport Needs To Be Played On Christmas Day In Australia Starting 2019

I see it as a no-brainer.

Sport Needs To Be Played On Christmas Day In Australia Starting 2019 Image: PA

They do things differently in the States, and when it comes to sport, no country does it better.

Well, that’s my belief anyway, based on countless hours of TV watching as well as numerous work and leisure trips to America in the past 15 years.

I was there again this week, and found myself blown away by the excitement of five games of NBA being played on Christmas Day.

That’s the American sporting way, and the NBA has been scheduling December 25 matches since 1947. On the years when Christmas day falls on a Sunday, the NFL also plays matches.

Not everything American should be transported to Australia. I get that, but to me, having now seen it first hand, sport on Christmas Day is something that needs to be introduced Down Under. Pronto. 

I got the amazing opportunity to sit in on post game locker room interviews with several NBA players this week, including LeBron James and Ben Simmons.

All said it was a privilege to play on Christmas Day.

I raise this because, as we know, these men are not shrinking violets. They speak their minds on every occasion, and were even recently prepared to strike to get a better deal. So, when they endorse Christmas Day play, they absolutely mean it. They are not running someone else’s agenda. 

These Christmas Day games are always sold out and watched by huge numbers on TV.

It’s the rolled gold definition of prime time. Every player can showcase the best of their talents to the biggest amount of people. 

When you may only have a handful of years at the top level, that certainly is a privilege. Just like the teams that get to experience Anzac Day matches every year in both the AFL and NRL.

And the fans? They can’t get enough of the games. It’s like playoffs have come early. The NBA ‘gift’ games each year to teams who deserve it, the teams that have genuine sizzle and marketability. Think about LeBron James returning to take on the Golden State Warriors for the first time since switching from the Cavs to the Lakers. It’s enough to make you salivate more than you did over the roast turkey you inhaled a few hours earlier.

My Christmas Day this year consisted of a hike up in the Hollywood hills before breakfast, followed by some ice skating in downtown LA with my kids. This was the entrée to the next 10 hours of NBA magic on television, both in my hotel and pubs we visited. Everywhere we went had basketball fever - it was contagious!

I’m not a strongly religious person, so I know it is easier for me to push for sport on Christmas Day. I totally respect those who are religious and are against it. 

But what I can’t get my head around is why we can’t strike some kind of compromise, or balance. Surely a post 6 pm match start time would be a good starting point, wouldn’t it?

Given the Australian sports calendar, it comes down to cricket, NBL and A-League for a Christmas Day leap of faith (pardon the pun).

There’s been much discussion from all three codes as to playing on this day but as of yet no sport is willing to be the first to market.

I see it as a no-brainer. In my eyes, the sport that jumps first will reap the biggest rewards.

Rewind a few nights. How did you spend your Christmas night? On the couch in some sort of food coma after consuming your body weight in prawns, ham, plum pudding and VB stubbies? If that was you, you weren’t on your own.

While you were on the couch, I reckon you got the remote out and flicked around the free to air channels, then moved onto Foxtel, Netflix and Stan before finally settling on watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for the 17th time! 

Why? Because there’s no live sport to watch. Surely it’s time we as a country got with the program and scheduled some sort of sporting contest on Christmas Night?

I’d imagine at-venue attendances would be slow to build but that would be off-set by the record numbers of couch inhabitants looking for a way to not watch the Griswold's in action.

These are the people who’d much rather see Usman Khawaja smash a century, Andrew Bogut or Casper Ware dominate the court or Keisuke Honda slam goals into the back of the net.

Remember, in the States, their equivalents say it is a privilege to play on Christmas Day.

As a viewer, it would be a long overdue privilege to watch them strut their stuff on December 25. 

After all, it’s about to be 2019. Surely it’s time for us to move with the times.

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