Column - Commentary
Another Christmas Story...and more Drunk Santas!By DAVE KIFFER
January 02, 2021
Nor did he speak Italian or fight with the neighbor’s dog over the holiday turkey. The only thing that Dad ever fought with over Christmas was a brand spanking new electric carving knife that someone mistakenly thought he needed. We always used to joke that a successful Christmas with our fractious family was one in which no blood was spilled. The “Christmas of the Electric Carving Knife” was not one of those years.
But I digress.
Anyway, I was reminded recently of my second favorite Christmas Story. It also involves Drunk Santa. Actually, it involves a lot of Drunk Santa’s.....and the NFL.
Once upon a time, I lived far, far away from Our Fair Salmon City.
I have tried to live far away from Our Fair Salmon City several times. It has never quite seemed to stick. No matter how far away I get, something keeps dragging me back, even when I am thousands of miles away. The Rock - floating about in an endless sea of rain - seems to have a very "specific gravity." And I am entrapped in it.
Anyway, the “Christmas of 125 Drunk Santa’s” happened 3,600 miles away and 31 years ago.
Geeze Louise, just saying something happened 31 years ago makes me feel older than Paul Revere’s saddle sores. Seriously, the world was a different place 31 years ago. Heck it was a different place 31 seconds ago when you fell down the rabbit hole that is this story.
But I digress, again.
If you’re a geographic whiz you have already surmised that the “Christmas of 125 Drunk Santa’s” was in Boston. Because, if you go 3,600 miles away from Ketchikan in any other direction you pretty much end up in the middle of the ocean. So, by guessing Boston, you are close. It was in the Beantown suburb of Foxboro, which was basically just a location for Foxboro Stadium and nothing else.
Note, I use the lazy person’s spelling of Foxboro. Not the correct spelling with all though extra letters. Which are silent. I’m taking a stand here against silent letters. I mean what the heck is the point of putting letters in a word that aren’t even pronounced?
That's what the French do. They give a word something like 27 letters and then pronounce it "roo." We are not (naught?) French. Besides, I probably couldn’t correctly spell long-format Foxboro if my life depended on it.
Speaking of which. About half-way through the “Christmas of 125 Drunk Santa’s” my life did indeed come into question. But I am - as usual - getting ahead of myself.
I have already identified two important facets of the story, Foxboro Stadium and the Drunk Santas. Here are two more. Football and the weather.
For most of my life I have been a fan of the Los Angeles Rams NFL team.
Yes, I know that living in Ketchikan people get all up on step if you are not a fan of the Seattle Seahawks. If you don't have a big green #12 stamped on your butt, you are not worthy. Sorry, but I have to swear on the grave of Jack Patera that my sports fandom was ossified across the board when I was younger than 10 years old. There was no Seattle Seahawks team when I was younger than 10 years old. Yeah, some of you are thinking there was no “football” that long ago. But there was. The forward pass may not have been invented but there was football. Just not in Seattle.
So, I was a Rams fan and have been one ever since. Except for that unfortunate period where they moved to St. Louis for 20 years. The less said about that horrible, godforsaken, relentlessly dark time the better. They are back in LA once again, thank goodness.
They were still in LA the first time during the "Christmas of the 125 Drunk Santas" although they were trying to leave. They were already playing their “home” games in Anaheim and they were threatening to leave the area entirely unless the taxpayers spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build them a new stadium. That was something the good suckers, I mean good citizens, of St. Louis eventually agreed to do.
Anyway, one of my bestest, best, best friends in Boston did something really cool - literally - for the Christmas of 1989. She bought me two tickets to see the Rams play the Patriots on December 24th in Foxboro.
You're probably thinking "wow" two NFL tickets must have cost a fortune. Apparently not for December 24 in Foxboro. (see below).
First, a word about the winter weather in Foxboro.
Foxboro stadium (it is now where all stadiums eventually go, Parking Lot Heaven) was uniquely designed in that most of the seating was completely open to elements. If there was rain or snow or blazing sun you got the full effect. If there was a breath of wind anywhere in New England you felt it. Plus, it was on a hill, so any wind and cold was acutely experienced at Foxboro Stadium, I was about to find out just how acute.
How cold was it?
Well, I remember the wind chill being somewhere around minus 100 and the wind gusting to 50 mph. That, of course, is a memory trick. If I check the weather for that game on the internet of all irrelevant information, I find that that the windchill on Dec. 24, 1989 at Foxboro Stadium was only about minus 20 with the temp at zero and the wind between 15 and 20 mph.
Perfect weather to be watching a three-hour football game on a bare steel seat unprotected from the elements. Not.
In those days, the New England Patriots were not a good team. They were led by a quarterback named Steve Grogan (no relation to either Bill Grogan or his goat). So, attendance at the 60,000-person stadium was a little light at 42,450 that long ago Christmas Eve. Even that was a stretch. I'm guessing it was actually about 10 percent of that total. Which was the capacity of the restrooms. More on that below.
The Rams were slightly better at that point. They were led by a quarterback named Jim Everitt, who would eventually be best known for trying to beat up a sports commentator who called him "Chrissie Evert." I'm betting the real Chris Evert could have beaten the snot of out both of them.
As I noted it was very cold that day. The few people there were extremely bundled up. Since it was the day before Christmas about 125 of them were bundled up as Santa Claus. Anyone who has ever bundlled up as Santa Claus knows that the suits are both bulky and not particularly warm. Even then most of the suits came from sweat shops in the tropics and were made of remarkably flimsy materials because, unless you were a store Santa you didn't wear them long enough to for cut and fabric to matter. You certainly didn't wear them outside when it was 100 degrees below zero. Anyway, it seemed, that all of the 125 Santas at Foxboro Stadium that day compensated with 100 plus proof "anti-freeze."
The game started. Somebody kicked off. Somebody with frozen fingers fumbled. Didn't matter whom. The facts of the game became immediately unimportant as the crowd quickly shifted into survival mode. Even if it wasn't exactly 100 degrees below zero, it felt like it. Every body part that could possibly go numb and freeze immediately did so. Ever have the sense that your spleen and your Isle of Langerhans are frozen solid? I did.
As the game went on the crowd quickly thinned. As the anti-freeze worked its way through everyone's system (even the non-Santa's were clearly imbibing), the patrons ended up in the restrooms. Where they determined that it was (a) about 50 degrees warmer (a balmy 30 degrees Fahrenheit) and (b) the speakers announcing the game worked just fine. So, they stayed. At half-time my patient, yet frozen, girlfriend went to the bathroom. She did not return.
Pretty soon, I was the only person left in my section. Pretty, pretty soon, I was only the person left in that end of the stadium. Still, I stuck it out. Because...well, because I am not very smart.
I'm, for Jack Frost's sake, from Alaska. No matter where I go, that seems to be the most important fact of my life to Outsiders. In Boston, I was known as DSK or David S. Kemo. I was used to the brutal cold, they all assumed, so even though there was no one in that frigid stadium who knew who I was, I wasn't going to bow to the chilled breath of the weather Gods. I was going to stay out there and watch that danged game to the bitterly frozen end, even if it was my end that was frozen.
In the third quarter, just as my mind was wandering to thoughts of tragic polar expeditions dying in their tents, I got up and walked around, if only to show that my feet still worked and I was not ready to die in my seat. I walked down by the field, I walked up toward the nosebleed seats (fortunately, it was way too cold for blood to bleed). I almost walked into the tunnels that go to the locker rooms. There was absolutely no security. Anywhere. I thought about going down on the sidelines where the players huddled near heaters. But to do so, would let down all Alaskans. So, I just walked around. And around. And around.
Eventually, I ended up over near where most of the 125 Santas had ended up congregating. It was at least 100 guys in suits and me. They were all really, really drunk at this point. There was a bit of shoving going on and more than a little trash talk. Pretty much each Santa-suited fan had now determined that they were the only true Santa. The others were all fakes.
I wish I could remember some of the barbs they were tossing at each other. At the time, they seemed really funny. i chortled just enough that I felt my left kidney start to thaw. But even if I could remember them, I probably couldn't repeat them here on this family friendly website.
All of a sudden a more serious scuffle broke out and soon they were all embroiled. I'm guessing it kept them warm. The remaining non-Santa fans in the stands turned their attention away from the game and began cheering the brawling Santas. And my, my, my, the faux red felt "fur" was indeed flying!!
Eventually the ruckus spilled out of the stands into a far corner of the one of the end zones. That finally got the attention of the security guards and soon the Santas were being cuffed and hauled off to the security office in the concrete bowels of the stadium.
I have one specific memory. As I made my way toward the bathrooms, I say a young boy - no more than four or five - standing next to his dad, pointing at the Santa's being "arrested" and crying.
When I got to the bathroom, I found that people were standing 15 deep at the urinals. Not to go to the bathroom, but to share the warmth of community. We stood there feeling the ice leech from our veins, listening to the end of the game. To this day, I can't tell you who won (that's a lie, as a Rams fan I can tell you they won 23-20) or how many people ended up at the ER with frostbitten digits (another lie, the Boston Globe later put the number at more than 100).
But somewhere, in wilds of Beantown, there is a 35-year-old who is still scarred by the sight of Drunk Santa being hauled off in handcuffs to the hoosegow.
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Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Kiffer is a freelance
writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.