Oh, who am I kidding? I'm no saint. Here at Outside the Box, the holiday season means spiking the eggnog, putting on the Bob & Doug McKenzie record ("On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a beer"), making a list, checking it twice, and then adding Worldwide Soccer Manager 2008, a year's supply of tawny port, and some sultry pics of Angie Harmon.
See, everyone loves the holidays. What's not to love? People give you things you want. It's like looting without all the broken windows.
So with that in mind, I decided to give some American soccer personalities a few hypothetical gifts. After all, it's been a crazy year on the U.S. soccer scene, and these people deserve to be rewarded for their efforts. Of course, they may not know they wanted these gifts, but if they received them, I guarantee they would not ask for the receipt.
Bob Bradley: a standing O. The U.S. national team boss spent the first half of the year with Jürgen Klinsmann's shadow trailing him like some God-filled cloud in a Monty Python animation. He spent the second half injecting new energy, new blood -- including some of his own in the form of son Michael -- and new hope into Team USA.
Michael Bradley:Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island. Bradley fils just keeps impressing at Heerenveen. He scored a hat trick a week ago and from the holding midfielder position, no less! But when an English Premier League team comes a-courting -- and one surely will (though hopefully not Fulham or Derby), Bryson's hilarious take on Britain will come in handy.
Columbus Crew coach Sigi Schmid: a DVD of Cocoon. If Van Halen can reunite and rock in Fargo, then certainly more Boca Juniors geriatrics (think: Martín Palermo and Hugo Ibarra) can find the same fountain of youth in Columbus that Guillermo Barros Schelotto did. Then the Crew can drop the earnest nickname and become Boca Columbus.
ESPN broadcaster Eric Wynalda: a monster.com profile. It's amazing how many e-mails I've received complaining about Waldo. "It's like he hates soccer," one guy wrote.
Section 8ers: Zippo lighters, Chicago Fire Department version. Poor Chicago Fire fans. They donned their Blanco jerseys and cheered the Men in Red on a wild-goose playoff chase. Then their talismanic coach, Juan Carlos Osorio, ditched them in favor of New York. Brutal. Section 8ers won't be burning flares when the Red Bulls come to Toyota Park next season; they'll be burning Osorio effigies.
Los Angeles Galaxy striker Clint Mathis: an appointment with hairstylist to the stars, Ken Paves. It's undeniable at this point: Cletus' mojo is directly linked to his coif. Therefore, he needs to bring back the 2002-era faux-hawk. After all, he's in L.A. Everything is faux.
San Jose Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop: a "Be Careful What You Wish For" T-shirt. That whole L.A./Beckhamania/paparazzi thing just wasn't for Frank. He's much happier in the crunchy-granola milieu of NorCal. But, as Thomas Wolfe famously said, you can't go home again. Building a team from scratch -- sans Landon Donovan -- isn't easy. Just ask Mo Johnston.
Derby County midfielder Benny Feilhaber: a Panerai watch. Time isn't just money in soccer; it's what gets you more time. Last summer's move from Hamburger SV to Derby hasn't panned out for the young Gold Cup hero. He's made only four appearances on a team so hapless that NCAA champ Wake Forest could probably beat them. If Feilhaber wants to stay in Bob Bradley's good graces, he better start getting some playing time.
L.A. Galaxy coach Ruud Gullit: a copy of Neil Strauss' The Game. "Sexy football" is fine and all, as a concept. But did Ruud even watch tapes of the Galaxy last season? They were about as sexy as Sandra Day O'Connor. Maybe Strauss' best-selling tutorial on picking up girls will translate to the soccer field.
Houston Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark:The Autobiography of Mohandas K. Ghandi. When you hauled off and booted Carlos Ruiz, 80 percent of MLS defenders cheered, but still, you've got to get a hold of that temper of yours, Rico. And now that it's probably burning you up inside that your teammates proved they don't need you to win the trophy two years in a row, it's time to study some good old-fashioned pacifism.
New England Revolution coach Steve Nicol: an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot range model air rifle. Losing three MLS Cups in a row means having to endure idiotic optimists' patting you on the back and saying, "11 coaches in this league would love to trade places with you, Stevie." To which the only appropriate reply is: "Shoot me in the eye, please. Now."
L.A. Galaxy midfielder David Beckham: Ruud van Nistelrooy. Or Wayne Rooney or Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Thierry Henry or Andriy Shevchenko or ... someone, it really doesn't matter, anyone, who can actually finish one of his bending balls.
SI.com soccer editor Jonah Freedman: a Panathinaikos scarf. Come on, Jonah, forget last week's loss to Panionios. The Green need to make the SI.com power rankings, and you know it.