Monday, November 10, 2014
Last night on the news, I heard it announced that Amazon is now going to hire taxi drivers in New York and Chicago to deliver their packages so they can get them to customers sooner. This is the same company that is experimenting with drone delivery, which they say will get an order to us in an hour. I’m not sure I want a mechanical gnat mistakenly dropping my Limoges vase on the roof because Google GPS hadn’t yet programmed in the porch extension I added last summer, but getting new underwear in the same time it takes a double pepperoni with extra cheese to arrive on my doorstep is pretty amazing. Not to be outdone by Amazon, many outlets are offering free shipping or $2 shipping for items, including couches and TVs. I’d like to see the drone that would deliver those. All this cheap, speedy delivery got me thinking: why do we even start holiday shopping anytime sooner than a week before? Why am I penciling in holiday fairs in October, watching my local PBS station’s holiday auction in the two weeks before Halloween, and storing gifts all over the house so early that I forget I already bought something for my youngest niece? Instead of setting our alarms so we can sit out in sub-freezing temperatures on Black Friday, we should set our alarms for Dec. 10 giving us plenty of time to order things for delivery by Hanukkah or Christmas. However, if you have to start shopping soon because that’s the tradition, I have some suggestions for the soccer players and fans in the family.
Every soccer fanatic has a team he or she loves and naturally wants their jersey to wear. But you know what those jerseys cost, averaging over $150. However there are replica jerseys that you can order for under $40 that look like a regulation jersey but lack that sewn on “official” label. For youth players who grow out of both the jersey and their love for a team, spending so much money on a clothing item seems unnecessary. Several websites cater to replicas and have amazing selections for both adult and youth fans. Brazil World Cup Shirts (http://brazilsworldcupshirts.co.uk/) has an easy-to-navigate website with a huge selection of jerseys and other football gear. Although a British site, the prices are in dollars and they ship to the U.S. You even have the option of putting any player’s name and number on the jersey, so you can personalize with a favorite player who might not be popular enough to have an official jersey. Most replica MLS jerseys cost nearly as much as authentic jerseys even from discount websites. Fanatics.com offers jerseys for around 40 percent off, so youth jerseys run in the $40 range and adult jerseys for $50. Use the tabs at the top of the home page to get to soccer then MLS. The team links are listed on the left hand margin. I’ve not used either website but both get a secure website rating and take Pay Pal, a good sign of their trustworthiness.
There are lots of soccer themed gifts available that can be great stocking-stuffers. Zazzle (http://www.zazzle.com/soccer gifts) offers gifts that can be personalized. There are key chains, pillows, watches, mugs, t-shirts, and posters to name just a few of the thousands of items. My favorite option is a variety of soccer birthday invitations available for a reasonable price. I’ve shopped on Zazzle and on Café Press (http://www.cafepress.com/ soccer-themed gifts). The latter has a pair of Flip Flops for $17 that show cows playing soccer on a pea green pitch. They are very cute and unusual. Kids Soccer World (http://www.kidssoccerworld.com/) offers just about anything you might want for the youth player, including toys, specialty items and clothing. I love the lip balm in a soccer ball case for $4.25. The balm is SPF 20 and vanilla flavored. You can also get it as a key chain for a dollar more. The website has a link to gifts under $10, which is a great option to quickly find stocking stuffers, Hanukkah gifts, or St. Nicholas swag. A final site, Find Gifts (http://www.findgift.com/categories/sports/soccer/) has some unusual ideas such as collage picture frames, lollipop bouquets and magazine subscriptions.
Considering that last item, magazines are the gift that keeps on giving. They are a way for soccer players to read up on the latest contests, key players’ feats, and standings. My boys love FourFourTwo, which focuses on the English Premier League. Titled for the favorite team formation (four in the back, four in the middle, and two up front), it is big, glossy, and packed with great information. A six-month subscription is $34.50 and a year is $69 (https://fourfourtwo-magazine.com/america-and-canada-offers/). If the MLS is your player’s or fan’s motivation, there’s an app called Overlap that features stories and stats on MLS teams and players for the amazing price of free. FourFourTwo also has a free app which gives you the essence but not the full power of the magazine. Soccer America (http://www.socceramerica.com/) covers North American and international soccer. It’s published quarterly and costs $39 a year on the website. There’s also Soccer 360 that publishes six times a year for $55 (http://www.soccer360magazine.com/tablet/usa-resident-subscription.html) and also offers a free app.
Going along with magazines are books. For youth players, there are lots of great fiction and non-fiction options. All of the following choices are available from Amazon (www.amazon.com) and can be located by typing in the title in the search box. For non-fiction, I really like “The Everything Kid’s Soccer Book” by Deborah Crisfield for $8.99. This is a pictorial guide to rules, team tactics and techniques. This book is definitely for the beginning player so although the base age is listed as 7, I would say that reading with parents at age 5 or as soon as a kid starts playing soccer would be appropriate. Older players won’t find it challenging. For those players I recommend “44 Secrets for Playing Great Soccer” by Mirsad Hasic for $7.49. Many Under-12 and older players found the “secrets” helpful, but even younger players can learn from these ideas. Biographies of players can be inspirational for any soccer enthusiast. DK Publishing, well-known for its dazzling photography-supported texts has a biography of Pele by James Buckley for around $6 paperback. Although intended for younger readers, the photos are so engaging that older readers may find this worthy of their time. From The Amazing Athlete series, there’s “Abby Wambach” by Jon Fishman that retails for $7. Published this past January, it’s an up-to-date look at the top female American (possibly even international) player. Older readers will be challenged and entertained by “Outcasts United: The Story of a Refuge Team that Changed a Town” by Warren St. John ($8), which details the efforts of refuge children from Africa, the Middle East and Central Europe who escaped war, death and torture to find relief in the joy of soccer. This is a young adult adaptation of the book “Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refuge Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference,” which some readers might prefer. For fiction, there’s the “Wild Bunch Soccer” series, which is up to five books now for 3rd/4th graders and up. The series by Joachim Masannek runs around $11 for hardback and $7 for paperback. Matt Christopher has several soccer volumes such as “Soccer Hero” and “Soccer Duel,” which run around $5 for paperback and are appropriate for pre-teens. Mal Peet’s book “Keeper” is a fictional interview with the goalie “El Gato” that reveals the dark history and triumphant victory of a South American urchin. Combining mysticism and ghost story with the provocative realism of soccer, it’s a haunting tale.
No soccer match is complete without snacks after the game or snacks during a televised game. Giving soccer “food” for the holidays can brighten any event. Olive Garden (one of US Youth Soccer’s sponsors) has a full catering menu to help carbo load before a game. Every year before the boys’ first high school game, we had pasta and salad from Olive Garden, which provided all the necessary items such as plates, napkins and utensils, as well as the food. There was always more than the boys could eat for a very reasonable price. You could stuff a few restaurant gift cards in a stocking for a meal later. Protein bars make a healthy gift with several brands out there to choose from. Bryce really likes Think Thin bars, which have no sugar, are gluten free, and have 20 grams of protein per bar. They come in a large variety of flavors and cost around $1.75 a bar. Fruit baskets are always welcome, especially in the dead of winter when fruits aren’t as plentiful. Hale Groves (www.HaleGroves.com) has an extensive selection of primarily citrus fruits starting at around $26 for a small variety box and around $36 for a basket. Harry and David (www.harryanddavid.com) concentrates on apples, pears and cherries and has dozens of gift boxes for under $30. This may seem a bit strange, but smoked salmon sits well with many soccer players. It’s full of protein, keeps well without refrigeration until opened, and goes with all kinds of menus – salmon eggs benedict, bagels, salmon salad, salmon pasta, and salmon loaded baked potato. I know the holidays leap upon us suddenly despite the early warnings with store decorations, tons of catalogs and people who insist on sending cards before Thanksgiving. We plan, procrastinate, rush and worry all at the same time and still manage to find ourselves panicking at the last minute. Hopefully a few of these suggestions will help ease the pressures and result in some holiday hugs and thank yous. When it comes to the holidays, it’s never too early to make your list and check it twice.