ROTTERDAM — After some trial and error, my mom got wise and made a list.
With five growing boys and all of those sports teams we liked, she needed a cheat sheet so the Christmas presents would be just right. That was years ago when she scribbled down Mets, Dolphins, Yankees, Giants and the like, and aside from the "duffle bag incident" one year, they have been.
How cool was I, wearing a New York Rangers hockey jersey around before it was cool to wear a hockey jersey, or sporting that Larry Czsonka Dolphins jersey after the Super Bowl? I've got a cool mom.
That leads me to rule No. 1 of the sports gift-giving thing.
Know their teams. Find out who their favorite athletes are. Make a list, like my mother-in-law began to do a few years back (with my urging) and continues to add to as our family grows. She will tell you, and my mom will, too, that it helps. Silly as it sounds.
You don't want to be giving that New York Giants wooly to a New York Jets fan now, do you?
Here's a few other things to keep in mind while hunting for sports gifts in the Capital Region, and it starts with those Giants, as well as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and more recently the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and anything Syracuse University. Just look and you shall find. Their apparel, mugs and caps are readily available, where finding New York Mets and New York Jets merchandise is more difficult outside of specialty shops.
If you're looking for the national teams that are trending hot, like, say, the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers or Golden State Warriors, their stuff is out there, but jump fast.
"If a team is hot it always moves. When a team wins it moves," a sales associate from Champs Sports in Rotterdam told me. "A good example is the [Carolina] Panthers. When they were good last year, they were selling.
"This year it's Philly [Philadelphia Eagles]. Everyone is asking for Philly."
A quick note here. Think ahead. It's football season, meaning baseball apparel and the like are harder to find now. See a neat baseball jersey or hat in October, grab it. It probably won't be there in December.
More likely this time of year you'll find items from iconic teams like the NFL's Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears and the NBA's Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls.
"The Bulls are always there because of Michael Jordan," the sales associate said.
But for others, even some of the greats, you'll have to find that specialty shop or go online to pick out their jersey, poster or replica figurine. Remember. Think ahead because shipping takes time.
While jerseys, pennants, pins and scarfs all make for great gifts, think outside the box for your sports fan. From equipment to movies, books, game tickets, video games, sports shop gift certificates and baseball and hockey cards, they all work.