In my family, Thanksgiving day marks the beginning of the Christmas decorating season. By the end of the day on Black Friday, the tree is up and adorned, various holiday-inspired trinkets are strewn about the house, and the exterior is decorated and lit as much as my limited electrical and handy man knowledge can support. Usually Kevin McAllister is on the TV bemoaning how Fuller is going to wet the bed, and a good block of holiday tunes have been sung along to. One more finishing touch marks the end of the Thanksgiving holiday, and that’s the arrival of Petey, our Elf on the Shelf.
For the uninitiated, the Elf on the Shelf is a magical plush, semi posable toy that is intended to be Santa’s eyes and ears in your home. Every morning the kids wake up to finding their elf in a new location, thereby proving he is alive (unless we forget to move him). Special parenting marks go to those that show creativity and ingenuity with the predicaments they get their elf in. We have fun with it and the kids really enjoy it, but like most things with age, the adult version of this isn’t as fun.
For 76ers fans, it seems we always have hope sitting on the shelf. Three years ago it was Nerlens Noel, and for two years now it’s been Joel Embiid. It’s gotten so bad that local sports talk show host Anthony Gargano has his listeners praying to Saint Servetus….the Catholic Church’s patron saint of feet. This year, this holiday season, Ben Simmons is my Elf on the Shelf after breaking a bone in his foot just days before the season tipped off.
I finally got out to the Wells Fargo Center a few weeks back to see the Sixers take on the Phoenix Suns. The Sixers’ amazing PR staff took us down courtside, and Embiid is impressive to say the least. He’s big, he’s imposing, he’s athletic, but most discouragingly, he’s alone. As amazing a talent as Embiid is, it only made me long even more for what’s sitting up on the shelf, injured, with an unclear date to return. Embiid only stoked these fires that night dropping a career high of 26 points in his limited 20 minutes of game time. He did it all, blocked shots, made his free throws, grabbed boards, and hit transition threes. It took two years of waiting, but even in limited time Jojo has been like Santa Claus delivering Christmas presents all year long to the patient, well behaved, Sixers fans.
As the Sixers’ dance team performed their half time routine, my own sugar plum fairies danced though my head envisioning what this team will look like with all its parts in place. Between Embiid, Simmons, Okafor, Saric, a lottery pick next year, and the .500 Lakers first round pick, contention is so close I can almost taste it. The fantasizing didn’t last forever. Before I knew it T.J. McConnell was back on the court.
Coach Brett Brown announced last week that when Simmons returns he’ll be the team’s point guard. The idea of Simmons running pick-and-rolls with Embiid is enough to keep me on my best behavior this December, if only Santa could deliver Ben to us before the All Star break. I’d do anything at this point to avoid lumps of coal in my stocking. Stockings alone are giving me nightmares of broken foot bones.
Another Christmas will go by this year without seeing my beloved Sixers play on Christmas Day. Presents will be exchanged. The kids will light up when they get what they’ve been asking for all month long under the tree. It will be a special day being with family and friends, or kith and kin as Clark Griswold likes to say. But just like Gayla Peevey, what I’m asking for can’t be delivered by an Amazon drone, a UPS driver, or even in store pick up. Maybe if I watch every game, and cheer really hard, St. Servetus will deliver me a Christmas miracle and allow Ben Simmons off the shelf.