There are all the usual Christmas traditions: decorating trees, watching It’s a Wonderful Life, caroling, shotgunning a Great Lakes Christmas ale mixed with a carton of egg nog in a Walgreens parking lot, the Beef o’ Brady Bowl and, new for 2012, arguing with your stepfather about the Republicans’ reactions to the Benghazi attacks. But one tradition stands above them all: going to an obscure relative’s house and staring with 97% horror and 3% awe at their elaborate and entirely too life-like Department 56 Christmas village. Department 56, as you probably know (you probably don't, which is fine), is the number one provider of the sort of Christmas-related figurines that allow those so-inclined to construct an old-timey village anyway they choose.
Personally, I'm a fan of the Dickens Village, but a strong case can be made for upstart Williamsburg. Well, for too long your great step-aunt or third cousin by marriage or whoever has had all the fun. The good news is that some savvy eBay work can help fans build a sports-y village of their own, without having to spend a fortune on Department 56’s signature collection of ruddy-cheeked white people. The secret: the incredibly affordable, widely available and not at all lifelike Starting Lineup action figures.
A note: the stadiums and the locker rooms that will form the center of your sports Department 56 village will have to be built from scratch. If you start now and dedicate 20-40 hours per week I’m estimating you can have a replica BC Place ready by Christmas 2014. But the true beating heart of any Department 56 village are the people—why just look at Old Man of the Gables! So let's start populating that Christmas Village, shall we?
It’s a bit of a secret, but patrons of the Dickens Village like to party. You know who else liked to party? The Oakland/L.A. Raiders of the 1970’s and 80’s! Start your village off right with this Vann McElroy piece, depicting our bearded and helmet-less hero in a disarmingly friendly pose. A veritable steal at the buy-it-now price of $85.99.
Former Red Sox and Athletics third baseman Carney Lansford would fit in comfortably in a Department 56 village, probably better than any athlete over the last 50 years (possibly since Christy Mathewson). In fact I’m pretty sure this piece was based on Lansford’s childhood. Collectors' tip: go with the much cooler 1988 Carney Lansford fielding over the merely passable 1989 Carney Lansford at the bat.
Since former Atlanta Hawks guard and 1986 Slam Dunk Champion Spud Webb was originally a creation of Charles Dickens. It makes sense that he’s the current proprietor of the Devonshire Creamery. If you can’t steal this one from your family’s pre-existing Dickens Village do it, if not just bid on it here.
Do you see those outstretched arms? Those represent legendary linebacker Brian Bosworth trying to capture as much of the Christmas Sprit as he can possibly hold. And since we all know that the Boz is a man of letters—see his effusive blurb on the back cover of the Infinite Jest paperback—you can naturally pair it with Boz’s Books!
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