Sport and Christmas Day don’t mix, at least that’s what you’ve been programmed to believe.
But it turns out December 25th has seen many momentous sporting moments through the years, and we’re not talking the fastest to the best seat in the house in front of the telly, or the stiff competition for the annual game of charades. Oh no, festive friends, we’re talking actual real, competitive sport. Grab another mince pie and have a read of the best of the sporting action Christmas Day has gifted us in years gone by...
A kickabout in the ceasefire - 1914
Five months into the worst war the world had ever seen, the guns fell silent. The story is shrouded somewhere between romanticism and truth but we do know this, on Christmas Eve carols were sung between both trenches and a German soldier shouted “Tomorrow, you no shoot, we no shoot!” Remarkably, in the midst of the bloodiest war, there was a ceasefire on Christmas Day in 1914.
While sharing cigarettes with their German counterparts, Ernie Williams of the 6th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment confirms that from nowhere, a football appeared. According to the veteran, a kickabout ensued in the lightest sense of the word, with a couple of hundred people joining in! There was no score, there was no winning or losing, this was about how even in conflict, sport can bring people together.
Kobe Bryant v Shaquille O'Neal - 2004
When two giants of their sport meet for the first time, people sit up and take notice. On Christmas Day in 2004, basketball fans were handed the perfect present as the legendary Shaquille O’Neal took on Kobe Bryant in a game dubbed ‘The Return of Big Daddy’. Big Shaq faced his former teammates after leaving LA for Miami Heat that summer following trouble between him and Bryant, while Kobe was flourishing as the Lakers’ main man. However, Big Daddy would come out on top, with Miami Heat winning 104-102 in overtime after an enthralling contest.
Kobe missed a potential game-winning shot on the buzzer, drawing criticism from Shaq while the Hall of Famer also made a big foul on Bryant late on as he approached the hoop. "No layups, no dunks," he said afterwards. “For everybody?" a reporter asked. "Basically everybody, especially him," O'Neal retorted. The ‘him’ was Kobe, but Shaq refused to even say his name. They may have won three NBA championships together, but their rivalry had been long-standing and this was the first time we got to see them play it out on the court.
Sugar Ray Robinson Beats Hans Stretz - 1950
They don’t make boxers like Sugar Ray Robinson anymore. Arguably the best of all time, with 22 wins to his name, he took on former German champion Hans Stretz on Christmas Day 1950. It was part of his European tour, with Jake LaMotta firmly in his sights. He got his opponent out of there in five rounds, flooring him seven times, but it wasn’t this fight that made him so special.
Sugar Ray had fought just two nights previously. In fact, he cancelled a planned training session, saying, "Man, I just got through fighting nine rounds two nights ago," and was in no mood to mess about. Homesick, bored and desperate to get back to New York with his boat ticket booked for the 27th, he fought five times in the space of a month, all across Europe.
This was part of his revered 91-bout winning streak and was his 19th fight in 1950 - a remarkable figure when you compare it to today’s boxers. One of the best ever even got the job done on Christmas Day.
The Longest Uninterrupted NFL Game - 1971
American sports to this day continue on Christmas Day, and back in 1971 the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs played out the longest uninterrupted game in NFL history. It was a Christmas cracker as the Dolphins began their era of dominance in the 1970s in the most spectacular way. The Chiefs were up by 10 after the first quarter before the Dolphins came back in style to level things at 17-17 by the end of regulation time, with the Chiefs missing a crucial field goal at the end of normal time.
Overtime beckoned and, with both sides missing one field goal apiece, it seemed as if the game might even drift over into Boxing Day as the game entered overtime period two. Finally the deadlock was broken as Larry Csonka's lungbusting run set up a 37-yard field goal by Garo Yepremian. Victory for the Dolphins, but it came after 82 minutes and 40 seconds of uninterrupted gametime.