Make that sports fan’s Christmas morning

One reliable gift for giving and receiving is the gift of sports
Assorted sports related gifts for Christmas.
Assorted sports related gifts for Christmas.

Categories: Life & Arts, Sports

It’s Christmas morning.

And even before you break out the breakfast eggnog, you have a pretty good inkling what’s in that thick shirt box under the tree with your name on it.

And that little square box in the corner. And that bigger square box in the back.

For the person who has everything, you get harder and harder to buy for as the years go on.

But the one reliable gift for giving and receiving is the gift of sports.

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This time of year, sports gear and sports-related merchandise is at the top of many fans’ lists to Santa. And rarely do people disappoint.

If you’re an adult fan of the Jets, Mets and Rangers, for instance, then you’ve got half of the closet devoted to hoodies, t-shirts, jackets and jerseys in green, orange and blue.

The closets of Yankee fans look like Jeter’s locker. New England Patriots fans look like they shopped at a store called Uncle Sam’s. Every Red Sox fan has something with a scripted B on it. If you’re a New York Giants fan, you wear a lot of blue.

On opening day of each season, you’ve got your choice of team neckties and matching socks. On sunny days, a wide selection of hats. On hot days, you drink out of team beer mugs and on cold days you drink out of the team coffee mug. Lining your shelves at home and at the office are an assortment of bobble heads, inscribed golf balls, key chains, autographed balls and player cards sealed in plastic. 

And it wouldn’t be Christmas if you didn’t have at least one ornament on the tree shaped like a football, baseball, basketball and a guy holding a hockey stick.

For sports fans, this is the time of year when you replenish your supply of team apparent and knickknacks.

Roger Guglielmo, 47, production operations manager at Dealertrack in East Greenbush, is an avid New York Mets and Buffalo Bills fan who’s gotten his share of team t-shirts, coffee mugs, beverage koozies and key chains over the years.

Among the gifts he’s gotten are a handmade Buffalo Bills fleece blanket as a Secret Santa gift at work and a strange Buffalo Bills can holder with a magnet that he keeps on the windowsill of his office.

He said he always loves getting new t-shirts. But two items he’s gotten really stand out.

“This is a toss-up between an NFL-sized football with a Bills logo on it and a Subway Series gold pendant,” he said when asked about his favorite gift. “I don’t wear jewelry, but the pendant has the Mets logo on one side and the Yankees logo on the other with MLB/World Series logos. I received that as a gift the Christmas after the 2000 World Series.”

As time has gone on and there’s less focus on gift-giving, he said he’s finding he gets less sports stuff each year.

“I think those who shop for me likely know that I don’t really need more.”

He might not need more. But a lot of people apparently do.

Retail sporting goods in the U.S. is a thriving and growing business. 

Back in 1992, retail sports shops reported $15.5 billion in annual sales, according to Scarborough Research. In 2016, that figure had tripled to nearly $47.5 billion.

The big four American sports leagues generate billions in merchandise sales each year. The NFL and MLB together account for nearly half of the North America licensed sports merchandise market in terms of revenue.

Some of the top sellers stay the same year after year. But retailers will also see a jump in a team’s merchandise because of recent improved performance by the team, playoff appearances or new popular players.

In 2017, the top merchandise sellers in their respective leagues (Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League) were the Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs; Cowboys, Patriots and Seahawks; Bulls, Warriors and Cavaliers; and Oilers, Blackhawks and Maple Leafs.

At Sports Zone in Colonie Center, owner Jay Dent says that sports items are easy gifts to buy when you don’t really know a person well, but you know their favorite sports teams.

Grandparents tend to head to his store to buy items for their grandkids and nieces and nephews.

Jerseys, hats and sweatshirts are always popular, he said. And because his store specializes in out-of-market teams, he sells a lot of New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers gear.

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He said the most popular items are items that players are wearing on the sidelines at a given point in the season.

For instance, this month, National Football League players have been wearing military gear as part of the league’s Salute to Service program.

So for this month, he stocked up on that type of apparel, which he has to order nine months in advance.

This time of year, NFL teams also tend to wear throwback jerseys, so he’ll expect to sell a lot of those. Next month, they’ll have something else to promote, and he’ll see a lot of sales of whatever those items are.

At Al’s House of Sportscards on Union Street in Schenectady, people can buy sports cards for their favorite fans’ favorite teams without spending a ton of money, said owner Al Fitzkov.

Cards for New York Yankees third baseman Miguel Andujar, Yankees second baseman/shortstop Gleyber Torres and Atlanta Braves rookie outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. are the most popular cards this year, he said. But he said cards for some older players also remain popular, particularly Yankees great Derek Jeter, who retired in 2014.

Dick’s Sporting Goods, the largest sporting goods retail company in the United States, mostly stocks just jerseys and shirts for the local teams like the Yankees and Giants.

At the Wilton store, one employee said people tend to do their Christmas shopping there for items other than for the major league teams.

Big sellers around Christmas are basketball systems, trampolines and Red Rider BB guns like the one from the movie, “Christmas Story,” he said.

If team jerseys and t-shirts bore you, or if you want to be more creative with your gifts this year, USA Today recently compiled a list of 10 unusual holiday gifts for sports fans. 

The list included collage t-shirts with several photos of your fan’s favorite athlete covering a shirt, a potty basketball game that you hang in your bathroom, a Lebron James bobblehead Christmas ornament, adult-sized baby pacifiers featuring team logos for the whiny fan, team slow-cookers to keep the chili hot during games, and a team sandwich logo press so you can imprint your support for your team on every piece of toast.

Some retailers carry the items, but a lot of the unusual items are available online or at team stores.

If you’re one of those doing the shopping, you can get away without breaking the bank. Or you can go all out.

A team t-shirt might run you around $20-$25, while a decent hoodie will go for around $45-$75. Looking to surprise your favorite sports fan with one of those expensive realistic team jerseys? NFL jerseys start at around $75 and work their way up. NHL jerseys start at around $100 for the basics and can go up to $250 or more if you personalize them. For baseball jerseys, look to pay $75 to $125. And for NBA jerseys, expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $250. 

For basic sports cards, Fitzkov said you can spend as little as $5 to $8 for a single card, up to thousands of dollars for the most in-demand autographed cards.

For Christmas, sports is the gift that keeps on giving. 

If you’re proud of your team colors, then you’re a gift-giver’s dream.

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