Christmas shopping never easy

Kevin Wilson

College basketball reminds me of Christmas shopping.

It’s not so much because one friend loves Syracuse basketball and another loves Kansas basketball and gifts are easy to find. It’s more because of what I saw Tuesday on ESPN.

The sports broadcasting company used its numerous networks to broadcast 24 hours of college basketball games, which I quickly deduced led to some, um, non-stellar scheduling for lower-level schools.

I’m imagining ESPN calling athletic directors for Stony Brook and Monmouth, the teams involved in the 3 a.m. game, and getting them on board.

“Great news guys, you’re the fourth game in our 17-game extravaganza. It will be fantastic exposure for your … what’s that? What time will it be? That … doesn’t matter. This is E-S-P-N. Only 10 percent of Division-I teams will be in this extravaganza. Mmmhmmm, mmmhmmm. Well, I’ll get to the time in a second, but don’t your guys want to be on SportsCenter? Da da da, da da da … sound familiar? Well, they’ll be on, all right. Actually, they’ll be on ESPNNEWS, because there’s no SportsCenter that day. There are five other games after you on the main network. But ESPNNEWS is on all the time, even at 3 a … hello?”

That guy’s got to put two schools in a less than ideal situation, a situation I replicate every Christmas with my family, when I ask, “What do the niece and nephews want?”

I’ve got six to shop for, in the same house. And I’ve got to make sure I stay within a certain price range for everybody, so no kid gets the scorn of being Uncle Kevin’s favorite. I do have a favorite, but let’s come back to that.

Last year, I got a holiday wish list from my brother in late December, the day after I’d sent off the package. I tried to avoid a repeat this year by asking their mom in early November. I wrote, “Any ideas on gifts for the kids and you would be appreciated.”

The message I got was, “They like toys.”

OK, that wasn’t really the message. But it was a lot closer to that than it was to my gift requests, which normally go, “I like any one of these six movies or these 10 books… or to save on shipping, you can buy gift cards at the following stores that exist where I live.”

The message (with names cleverly changed) was closer to, “I’ll ask Boy No. 1 on Friday. Boy No. 2 likes any kind of toy. Boy No. 3 likes cars. Boy No. 4 likes the ‘Wimpy Kid’ books, so any of the three most recent will do. Girl No. 1 likes any type of doll. Boy No. 5 is an infant, so any age-appropriate toy works.”

I felt guilty when I wrote back, asking for more clarification. There are times I’ve bought a bargain-bin DVD and thought, “What a deal,” only to go home and discover I already had that DVD. Yet here I am, expecting my family to have an accurate catalog of every toy, video game and DVD six kids have. I should be happy that I got specificity for Boy No. 4.

I got a response e-mail Sunday. “Talked to Boy No. 1. He likes Erector Sets.” Guess who just became my favorite nephew.

Erector and Lego sets are the best gifts to give as an adult who’s kinda clueless on his nephew’s possessions. If he has a DVD of “How to Train Your Dragon,” and I buy him a DVD of “How to Train Your Dragon,” I’m insensitive. If he has a bucket of Legos, and I buy him another bucket of Legos, he has twice as much cool stuff to build.

I discussed my gift theory online, and a friend told me, “There’s a Star Wars Lego set for the Death Star. I almost cried.”

I did cry … inside. I wept for my dignity as I added one more specific item to my Christmas wish list.