In the sports world, many holidays are like any other day for the athletes, coaches, trainers, and everyone else involved in the whole production. Christmas is certainly no exception.
The NBA uses the holiday as its unofficial coming out party for the year, and this particular season, the NFL will have a couple of night games as well to supplement its full slate of Christmas Eve. games.
But for the two biggest teams in Tucson right now, Christmas means leaving family and starting that second half grind.
Both the Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team and the Tucson Roadrunners are due back in town by Christmas afternoon, meaning players and coaches on both of those teams will be traveling throughout the day.
Several players on the basketball team are from the East Coast. like Rawle Alkins, Kobi Simmons, and Tyler Trillo, so they either leave for Tucson early Christmas morning, or even the night of Christmas Eve. as the team practices on Christmas night.
“That first practice is hard, but I think that gives them four true days off, and we’ll build towards Friday where we’re at Cal,” Miller said.
Practicing Sunday night puts Arizona right on track for a normal travel week for them, where they’ll likely head to Berkeley Thursday for a Friday date with the Golden Bears.
Lauri Markkanen, who stayed in Tucson because why travel to Finland for just four days, had family in town for a while and it gave him a sense of home while staying in the desert.
“They got here a couple days ago,” Markkanen said about his family after the New Mexico game. “It’s a little bit weird to have someone here who talks Finnish.”
On the hockey end of the spectrum, the Roadrunners have not been on the ice together since Wednesday’s win over Bakersfield, and won’t be until they are all in San Diego on Monday.
No one on that roster is a Tucson native, so there were a lot of people going a lot of different directions. For instance, head coach Mark Lamb said he was going to Saskatchewan for the holiday. Christian Fischer said he was going to Chicago, and then there’s a guy like Chris Mueller who was staying in Tucson.
Wherever the players ended up, they were all scheduled to report back to Tucson Sunday night, then fly out to San Diego Monday morning for a game against the Gulls later that night.
“I didn’t talk about the game at all,” Lamb said of his message to the team before the break. “I just said enjoy yourself right now, and we’ll deal with the game the morning of the 26th.”
“Come Christmas night I’ll start to reel it in a little bit, but the 26th is always a tough day,” Mueller explained. “It seems like everybody plays the day after Christmas, whether you travel or not, and it’s going to be hard on San Diego too, and it’s going to be no excuses.”
Two pretty different approaches to Christmas, but both with the same result: traveling back to Tucson the day of. Even though Tucson Airport probably won’t be jampacked with people on Christmas Day, the ones that do pass through will likely be the more famous of the community.