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Football Fathers Make Christmas Sacrifice

Chargers get creative during holiday away from home



    Football Fathers Make Christmas Sacrifice
    Getty Images
    SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 5: Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers looks on from the sidelines in the closing minutes against the Oakland Raiders during their NFL game at Qualcomm Stadium on December 5, 2010 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

    At 4 a.m. Saturday, a sleepy-eyed Randy McMichael will rise out of bed and zombie walk to his computer for a meeting that supersedes any involving the Cincinnati Bengals the next day.

    Over 2,000 miles away in Atlanta, Ga., the tight end's 6-year-old son is about to open his Christmas presents, and McMichael, like many Chargers balancing life as a player and parent, doesn't want to miss it.

    Thanks to an earlier morning wake up call, he won't.

    “He'll call me, wake me up, and then we'll probably Skype for an hour,” said McMichael, a father of four and regular user of the online video call service. “This is the first Christmas I've been without him, so it's going to be a little hard. I've always been there. Even last year, I flew from St. Louis for Christmas Day, was there for two hours, and flew back.”

    McMichael and the rest of the Chargers will briefly be in San Diego on Saturday before a morning flight to Cincinnati for Sunday's game. Those with families are making those early hours count.

    In the Philip Rivers home, the quarterback, his wife, and their five children will awake to early alarms.

    “I'm sure we'll be up when it's still dark,” Rivers said. “...It's going to be nice to at least be home for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. That's a big positive. The kids are excited about that.”

    Left tackle Marcus McNeill will rendezvous with his 2-year-old son in Cincinnati. During the season, the two often see each other using a video call application on his phone called Tango.

    Cornerback Quentin Jammer, a husband and father of three, is among the many players who uses Skype to stay in touch with his family when on the road. Outside linebacker Antwan Barnes will use the service to witness his 1-year-old daughter's first Christmas.

    The technology is consolation to an occupational hazard.

    “This is our job,” Barnes said. “This is what we've got to do. Of course we feel bad we can't be there, but at the same time, this is why she's getting those gifts. We're doing our jobs. But you still wish you could be there live to see her face and expressions as she opens those presents.”

    Kicker Nate Kaeding, a husband and father of 1-year-old and 2-year-old boys, shares Barnes' outlook, saying the missed family time is part of the business's “nature.” 

    “If there is one classification for what we do, it's probably 'entertainer,'” Kaeding said. “You look around the country, there's a lot of people during the holiday season — and I grew up doing it on Thanksgiving and Christmas and the holidays — you sit around the TV after you open presents and watch a game. Whether it's basketball or football or whatever it may be, it's just part of the tradition.

    “It's unfortunate you have to spend holidays away from your family, but I also feel privileged to go out and entertain everybody, too.”