What’s your favourite part of Christmas? Ask a dozen people and you’ll get a dozen answers. Some might say, wryly, the war on it; others may enjoy the company of family or pressing play on a favourite Yuletide movie. Eating a turkey or, I don’t know, a Christmas goose, is also a good answer. It’s a special time.
For me, I enjoy Christmas for the traditions, and for all that time suddenly unmoored from the day-to-day responsibilities we often have to confront during the rest of the year.
The best of these Christmas traditions are the ones that, to anyone else, would seem totally inexplicable. An example: as a kid, I enjoyed advancing a little plastic Santa figure across the mantle in the living room. Moving from left to right, each day I’d re-position that little guy a step closer to the edge next to the tree as part of the month-long countdown to the big day. It’s a dumb thing to do. But if you go to my parents’ house today, you’ll find the Santa in his customary spot, almost at his destination.
The holiday season has taken on a much different feel these days for me, as I tip into my mid-30s and the lives of those I know become markedly different. In years past, with a break from school or such, there was time to waste, time to just watch movie after movie, time to laze on the couch. Now, in between stat holidays, I move quickly between annual events — a high school reunion/poker tournament, a gentlemen’s dinner amongst neighbourhood chums, an afternoon spent playing obscure board games. These have become traditions too, and I long to keep them going for as long as I’m able.
If you’d asked me when I was 10 what I liked most about Christmas, I would have lied and said something other than gifts. Oh, I loved the gifts. Still do, to be honest (though I never have a clue what to ask for anymore; and I actually welcome the gift of socks). Except now those gifts come in different forms, are accrued and spent in different ways, and are enjoyed far more than, say, a new toy.
In the week lead-up to Christmas, Lucas Nogueira has been having a great time. Sure the Raptors are merely 2-1 on the week, but they’re 8-2 for the month of December. (Though it should be noted that Nogueira missed one of those games.) In that time, Bebe has the best plus/minus among backup centres in the entire league. Sure, a bunch of qualifiers, but we can go further with this.
How’s this for a gift: Nogueira is number two in +/- among all centres for the month of December (second only to Zaza Pachulia). And hell, he’s second among all centres for the entire season (behind only DeAndre Jordan). He’s also in the top 10 in blocks at 1.8 per game — eight places ahead of his good pal Bismack Biyombo.
Admittedly, a lot of Bebe’s stats still feel heavily context dependent, but the point here is this: he’s helping the Raptors win games. Unwrap that.
And then there’s this little stocking-stuffer:
With the game out of hand, the Magic mascot brought a toddler fan to sit beside the Raptors' Lucas Nogueira, who welcomed the kid: pic.twitter.com/o9smEuB1dl— Josh Robbins (@JoshuaBRobbins) December 19, 2016
When I start to seeing the various parties and gatherings brought on by the Christmas season, I wonder: you ever think Nogueira feels left out of things? In a way, he’s come on basically out of nowhere. We in Toronto know him and have enjoyed his presence around the team. But he was a mere curiosity last season, and totally overwhelmed in his play before that. Now he gets to be a key piece — not a weird outlier — on a top team.
I suppose there’s a flipside here to consider. After you successfully climb into a role, inhabit it, make it your own, there’s the possibility you’ll want something else, something more, something different. Maybe the bench isn’t enough, maybe you want to start, maybe there should be more respect given, more consideration. It’s hard to be at peace, even as the space in your life clarifies and defines itself. This is you, this is who you are, this is where you are at.
If there’s a moment to pause this holiday season, turn that over in your mind as the year ends. I know I do.
Level of High Level
The season is one of belonging, traditions and time spent hopefully in the happy company of good people. The “religious” backing on any of it matters not — just try to enjoy yourself. On a related note: the Raptors are kicking ass these days, Bebe is playing great in his role, and we’re almost out of 2016.
High Level Result: 10 out of 10 — I’m not going to get maudlin here. Enjoy the holiday season, tell people you care about them, be a good person. Rock on.