Picking Splinters: A Bad-Gift Remedy

December 6, 2006 4:13 PM0 comments

I have no idea what I want for Christmas this year.

Really, I have no clue what I would like … aside from more time to watch my new HDTV that is. I have new clothes (thank you South Carolina outlet stores) and now that I’ve ensconced myself in a small mountain of debt roughly the size of Guam, I have satisfied all of my audio-visual demands for at least the next three weeks and four days. I’m not much of a material guy, so I looked into making some immaterial demands for the holiday season.

I really wanted a Georgetown victory over Duke last Saturday. I really thought that would have been easy enough. Not only did Georgetown have two All-American forwards, but they’re facing a team called the “Blue Devils” for Pete’s sake. Apparently not even the Powers That Be could alleviate the Hoyas’ allergy to nylon that has plagued them in second halfs this season. Strike one.

Next I was hoping some spontaneous peace, love and harmony could be brought to the New York Giants locker room so they could beat the Cowboys on Sunday. Again, I thought this would be a favorable wish seeing as how nothing about Dallas could possibly be considered holy (at least not anywhere inside the Beltway). Apparently my kindhearted wishes are no match for Ro-momentum. Strike two.

So now I’m down to my last strike and I’m hoping you all might help me out. (This is the part where my thinly-veiled, self-centered whining gives way to an actual sports-related point.)

Usually in this column I rail against the impact that big money has had on the world of sports, changing the focus from an athletic contest to an entertainment spectacle. One of the few positive side effects of that intermingling, however, is the increased impact of sports stars, teams and leagues to use that exposure to do some good.

Most people know about the NFL’s partnership with the United Way, and you assuredly know about the post-Katrina partnership between the major sports leagues and the Red Cross. However, it turns out there are all sorts of sports-related charities, and this being the season for good deeds and angels earning wings and whatnot, I thought I’d take a look at a few of them that have popped up on my radar in the past week. First is the Nothing But Nets campaign started by Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly. It’s not like someone with Reilly’s circulation actually needs an extra plug from yours truly, but the fundraising effort just makes a lot of sense. Essentially, each year thousands of children in Africa die from malaria, usually contracted while they sleep, because their families cannot afford mosquito netting.

I admire the cause because this goes further than simply throwing money at a problem — each donation buys netting that directly saves lives. No hopeful research, no clinical tests — just nets … hence the name. Since the program started, reported cases of malaria have dropped significantly. There you have it. It’s practical. It’s effective and it’s making a difference. If you want to research some more or make a donation you can visit www.nothingbutnets.net.

Closer to home, a sad double meaning for innumerable families, this past Tuesday marked the Coaches vs. Cancer Night at Centreville High School. The annual fundraising game was started in 2001 by George C. Marshall High School Head Coach Kevin Weeren as a way to honor his father, Victor, who a year earlier had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

Over the past six years, the game has raised more than $20,000 for the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org). It’s an impressive sum to be sure, but there is far more research to be done, and far more money to be raised.

So, getting back to my blank wish list, I came up with an idea. It is an inevitable fact that someone you know will get you a truly terrible gift. I am also willing to bet that you are picturing his or her face right now because someone who for the last four years has given you an obscure kitchen appliance, some sort of basket containing fruit designed to survive a nuclear winter, napkin holders and a Yuletide Cheese Log. Only if you’re lucky are argyle socks coming this year. Maybe some monogrammed handkerchiefs.

You’ll never use them, but you’ll say thank you and then stash them in the back corner of your closet, hoping the mice can completely devour the evidence before the incompetent gifter can discover them in the dark recesses. This year, cut them off at the pass.

Save yourself the awkwardness of the situation and tell said gifter that you know exactly what you want and it’s a donation to the charity of your choice. Make sure it’s your choice though, otherwise he/she might give the money to the Yuletide Cheese Log Preservation Society.

You don’t have to do this for all of your presents, though I certainly wouldn’t be one to stop you. Just one $20 donation, when made by lots of people, adds up in a hurry. And you can save that storage space for something more useful … like back issues of the News-Press.

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