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Jack Klugman died at the age of 90 on December 24, 2012.
December 24, 2016.
It’s Christmas Eve, and my whole family is here in Athens. My parents and my sister are here in an AirBNB a couple of miles away, and my wife’s mom is staying with us, and the boys are out of school and constantly fidgeting with the presents under the tree and all fired up and bouncing off the damn walls. It’s total chaos in here. We are now the grownups who host Christmas, and as a kid, I couldn’t have possibly realized how exhausting and stressful it really is. You have to do everything, and make sure everyone is happy, and schedule everything for everybody, and make sure you’re not losing your mind, and deal with all the vagaries and flareups that come with extending family being together and also remember that everybody loves one another when they’re making you pull your hair out and you’re doing the same thing to them. The holidays are supposed to be celebratory, but moments of celebration are fleeting, sporadic and, if they do happen, not fully appreciated until much later. Yet those moments are supposedly the reason we’re doing all this in the first place.
It’s just a lot. It’s family dynamics and deep-seated resentments and just the normal human feeling of need and fear, all crammed into two-day stretch we’ve all spent two months preparing for. It’s a wonder anyone has these holiday celebrations at all.
And this year, politics have been thrown into it.
I know, personally, of nearly 10 families who are not getting together this Christmas as a direct result of the Presidential election. The typical dynamic:
*** Baby-boomer parent(s) who hated Hillary and voted for Trump, either out of enthusiasm or, more likely, lesser-of-two-evils pragmatism;
*** Gen X/Millennial children, suddenly terrified of the new world we’ve all woken up in (particularly if they have children of their own), appalled by the last gasp of boomer-self-indulgence and avarice, represented by the single most repulsive person ever to hold elective office, let along the highest office in the land.
*** A sense of impotence from these children that they can do nothing about fixing this world, yet a deep desire to do something.
*** A closed-off political ecosystem on both sides, causing the only people either side knows who disagree with them to be the parents or the children. Everyone the boomers hang out with are all ready to move on — “get over it,” being a constant refrain when the election comes out — and everyone the kids hang out with think we just put a human monster in the White House. Because neither side sees anyone in their regular life who actively disagrees with them, they take the people who are closest to them, the ones who know them the most (and thus can take their votes in this election the most personal), and see them as the representation of The Other Side. You can’t blame people you don’t know in Michigan for Trump’s election. So you blame your parents. They’re right there, after all.
Take all that and stir in the usual fraught family business, and, well, it’s no wonder that so many people are just bagging on Christmas all together. (One friend went home for Christmas but made it clear there would be no present exchanges with anyone who voted for Trump. I find myself vaguely agreeing with the sentiment but most baffled by the practical execution.) It’s still pretty raw, what happened on November 8, and it hasn’t gotten any less scary every day since. I get it.
But I still can’t imagine skipping out on Christmas. This is my family. As Jeb Lund put it in my podcast with him about this last month, these are the people you’re stuck in the bunker with, no matter what happens. If it turns out that the world explodes, well, these are the last people you’ll be talking to before it happens. That political writer you agree with all the time, they’re not going to be there. That neighbor down the street who you go to the food co-op with, they’re not going to be there. Regardless of what you think about these people, and certainly what you might think of their politics, these are your people, and they’re going to be your people forever. You never know when one of them are going to be gone. Missing a holiday with them, or spending a holiday scowling at them or lecturing them, all because politics, is going to feel like a pretty stupid idea when that day comes.
My parents split their vote, one for Clinton, one for Trump, and while I’m completely baffled by, and irritated with, the one who voted for Trump, it doesn’t make me love them, or need them, any less than the other one. It is hard enough to get everything all aligned when it comes to family, to appreciate each other, to express how important everybody is, than to blow it up because they made an extremely (terrifyingly! horrifyingly!) terrible decision in the voting booth. At the end of the day, our family is all we have: They’re the only ones who will stand with us no matter what, even if they’re as irritated about it as we are. When the world ends, they’ll still be there. I’m not going to jeopardize that over politics. I’m going to need my family.
Especially since, you know, the world might actually end pretty soon.
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)
1. These Are the 10 Biggest Sports Stories of 2016, Sports On Earth. I love lists, and other than my top 10 movie list (coming next week!), this is my favorite one to do.
2. Will Smith Movies, Ranked, Vulture. We actually wrote this months ago but it finally ran this week. We probably overrated Hancock.
3. My Fake, Not Real Hall of Fame Ballot, Sports On Earth. I find it bizarre, still, that baseball writers decide who goes to the Hall of Fame, and I’ll never pursue an actual ballot that counts. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to get down on paper my own picks. Just don’t make it mean anything.
4. Grierson and Leitch’s December Movie Roundup, The New Republic. So many movies come out in late December that we had to stick them all in capsules, like it’s TV Guide or something.
5. Seven Sportshumans Who Had a Terrible 2016, Sports On Earth. Sorry, Jurgen Klinsmann, I totally believed in you too long.
6. What Cities are Poised for a Great 2017? Sports On Earth. As you can probably tell, it was “year-end wrap-up” week.
7. Ranking the 2017 Championship Chances of All 122 Pro Sports Teams, Sports On Earth. This didn’t require much writing, but I researched the heck out of this thing.
As I say every week: If you are the sort to subscribe to a weekly newsletter, I would have to think it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to subscribe to one of the three podcasts I do. Here they are:
Grierson & Leitch, we actually didn’t have a show this week because we did two last week and because we’re prepping for the huge Top Ten extravaganza next week.
The Will Leitch Experience, the yearly podcast with the great Tommy Craggs, this is a good one.
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, two shows this week, previewing SEC bowls and then enjoying a Georgia basketball win (before last night’s debacle).
Also, Pro Football Now featured a rant about the Jacksonville Jaguars that even got the mayor of Jacksonville mad at me.
I think people did like our Christmas tree, though.
Have a wonderful holiday, everyone. Hug someone who disagrees with you. (But never forget that they are wrong.)