Hail Mary time

Stuffing one for a sports fan

It’s fourth and long; the two-minute warning; bottom of the ninth; the clock is ticking. You need to reach down deep and pull this one out. The Gipper’s counting on you. Turns out you almost forgot to shop for that demented, distracted and sometimes-possessed sports fan whose stocking hangs limp and empty on the wall. Don’t panic. We have a game plan for you.

Contrary to popular misunderstanding, the average sports fan is mild-mannered and jovial. Even a modest attempt at honoring the fan’s love and devotion of sports in general, and their favorite team in particular, will be greatly appreciated. So you’ve got that going for you.

Sporting goods stores, big-box stores, specialty and gift stores so popular at the malls and even convenience stores and gas stations all have items suitable as sports-related stocking stuffers.

The obvious place to kick off your search is team paraphernalia. With the proliferation of satellite television and sports packages that bring every game into your living room, fans are increasingly following teams from out the area. Retailers have stepped up to the plate to fill the long-distant need. Of course, there’s also the Internet. No longer are we in the Northstate limited to Raiders, 49ers, Kings, Warriors, Giants and A’s gear. A dedicated Dolphins fan in Durham can now buy her team’s paraphernalia locally.

Check out Sports Fever in the Chico Mall for a large lineup of mini-footballs, nightlights, mini-helmets, pennants, toothbrushes, wallets, antennae balls, gum and candy, posters, shot glasses, beach towels, pillows, blankets and more. You can even get a team stocking and fill it with team stuff. And don’t forget the panties and thongs for the female fan.

Tickets and “vouchers” are another way to go. The Web has become an amazing resource for buyers and sellers and you can get tickets to almost anything if you’re willing to pay. Stubhub.com is a good place to start.

For an affordable and accessible option that’s fun for the whole family, try tickets to UC Berkeley football games. With the program’s recent rise to prominence and the success last season of local products Aaron Rodgers and Garrett Cross, Cal Football has become much more popular in these parts. Before each game you can get in the spirit in the “Fun Zone” right next to the stadium. Single-game general admission tickets are under $20.

The cheapest and easiest option of all is a “free pass voucher.” Simply create a coupon that entitles your sports fanatic to an officially sanctioned, uninterrupted, chore-free TV sports viewing on a given Sunday or other special game day. This can work for you, too. Let him have has game, beer and pretzels with his buddies, and you go shopping.

Another strategy that could work for you is to buy team Christmas decorations. Make this concession during the holidays when the house is already decorated, and be free of logos and mascots on the walls and shelves the rest of year.

The outdoor sportsman is easy to shop for, but anglers and hunters can be very particular, so call your sports fan’s fishing and hunting buddy to get the details. To you, a lure is just a lure. But to the angler, and to the fish, the right size and color make all the difference. Fishing reels, tackle, duck calls and ammunition all make great stocking stuffers.

Other always-popular items include Swiss army knives, Leatherman multi-purpose tools and Mag-Lite flashlights. Cyclist must need extra pairs of those tight shorts, and shoes might just fit into a runner’s stocking. Remember to be creative and keep your eyes open for interesting items. Your sports fan will love you for it. Now get out there and fill that stocking!