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The Home Team / Gifts that worked, gifts that didn't

Published 6:03 am, Thursday, December 12, 2013
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It's about five years ago, and I'm driving Robby, my youngest son, home from physical therapy. We're listening to ESPN Radio, of course, and we hear this guy go off an an outrageous, scathing, and absolutelyhysterical rant about steroid use in Major League Baseball. His routine gets funnier by the minute. Robby and I can barely breathe.

Me: "This guy is a riot."

Robby: "How have we never heard him before? He's amazing."

The sports talk host was Colin Cowherd, and I now contrive to do all my local driving errands between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. just so I can listen to his show. To me, he's entertaining, thought-provoking, hilarious and brilliant. I say "brilliant" because any time I feel really strongly about something in sports -- the Knicks will never win with Melo -- he agrees with me. And if I have no opinion, I simply take Colin's. This has become completely obvious to my three sons. If I were to announce that the Patriots are now very beatable with Gronkowski out for the season, they'd say, "Colin tell you that?"

One of my favorite features on the Monday segment is "Colin Was Right, Colin Was Wrong," where he highlights what he nailed and what he whiffed on over the weekend. What I'd like to do now, and I doubt Colin will mind, is steal that idea and apply it to Christmas gift-giving.

In my family, my three sons -- and sometimes even my wife and myself -- have resorted to circulating via email "lists" of the presents we might want to receive from Santa. The lists compiled by the boys come complete with links to the items requested, right down to size, style and color. Basically, all the giver needs to do is click and pay, and the receiver is happily "surprised" on Christmas morning.

Everything works fine if you stick to the list. It's when Santa goes "off list" that things get a little dicey ...

Santa Was Right

I gave Robby a pair of silver Trinity lacrosse-style gym shorts. Robby had always worn Trinity shorts that were blue and gold -- the school colors. It was clear, though he didn't outright say it, that he thought these were the ugliest shorts he'd ever seen. Gradually, though, he started wearing them. Quite a bit. Soon, his older brothers wanted the exact same shorts. Next, their friends. Now every kid we know in Westport and college campuses across the country are rocking those same "ugly" silver Trinity shorts.

The boys gave me an exercise bike. I'd always been an outdoor exercise fanatic -- no gyms, no machines -- so when my three sons gave me an exercise bike, I was skeptical. But after a few days of black ice on the roads (not great for running), followed by several more days of slush, compounded by still other days when I didn't get a chance to work out until after dark, I became a believer.

I gave Matt a pair of USC Trojans flannel pajama bottoms. He doesn't wear them to the office or for going out weekends, but around the house you're just not going to find my oldest son in anything else.

Santa Was Wrong

I gave Carol a pair of hand-painted leather cowboy boots. Austin's one of my favorite cities. And I love country music. And I actually wear cowboy boots quite a bit. But it's become quite clear to me, after she politely thanked me for the "surprise" and immediately assigned the boots to a forgotten corner of a storage closet, that Carol doesn't. And never will.

Carol and I gave our two older sons restaurant gift certificates. What better way to impress that special lady in your life than a romantic dinner at a classy Manhattan restaurant? This was our thinking. But after the certificates went unused for quite awhile, and we fished for an explanation, the boys gently told us that paying for dinner with a gift certificate was not really such a super-cool move. But thank you very much.

I gave everyone in the family Grinnell Basketball T-shirts. On my annual September cross-country road trip last year, I stopped in Iowa to visit Robby's friend Luke, who plays basketball for Grinnell. I got a little overzealous in the campus bookstore, as I always do, and as a result, there are now four bright red Grinnell Pioneers T-shirts -- never worn, never washed -- at the bottom of bureau drawers in every bedroom of our house.

So, Colin, any good gift ideas for the holidays?

Hank Herman is a Westport writer, and "The Home Team" appears every other Friday. Hank's adventures with his dog, Ricky, can be followed on his blog "Beagle Man" on the Westport News website -- http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/ . Hank can be followed on Twitter @BeagleManHank and reached by email at DoubleH50@gmail.com