Memorable Gifts: Secret stashes, swearing kids and a loss of yuletide innocence

The original Bad News Bears movie in 1976 was such a phenomenon that it not only inspired two (pretty terrible) sequels in 1977 (The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training) and 1978 (The Bad News Bears Go to Japan), it also inspired Little League teams across the country to name themselves after the collection of ne'er-do-well, foul-mouthed preteen fictional baseball players.

I was too young to see the original in theaters — my parents weren't going to expose me to the casual racism and a drunk head coach at 5 years old! — and still I became obsessed with the Bad News Bears. That might have been because my under-8 soccer team inexplicably took on the name Bad News Bears. But more likely it was because when I did my annual perusal of the Sears catalog to make my wish list to mail to the North Pole, I came across the cutest little Bad News Bears teddy bear.

How a movie featuring swearing, beer-drinking, brawling preteens inspired a cuddly little critter like this I do not know. I just knew I had to have it. I was almost old enough to be out of the stuffed-animal game, but this little guy wearing a Bad News Bears jersey, baseball glove, yellow cap and wide smile entranced me to the point where I told my parents that it was all I wanted for Christmas. Forget the Legos, nevermind the ventriloquist dummy, no model airplanes needed for this guy. I just wanted a new teddy bear to join my menagerie of Winnie The Pooh, Eeyore and Tigger toys.

I nagged my folks, and nagged some more, and hoped they'd get the message. Then one day as I poked around casually under my parents' bed and in their closet, just minding my own business (and snooping for their secret stash of presents for my sisters and I), I found it. There was my Bad News Bear, yet to be wrapped.

I was thrilled of course. At least at first. But I almost immediately felt an entirely new emotion for my 6- or 7-year-old self: regret.

Now that I knew I was getting my cherished bear, that was one less surprise for Christmas morning! And not only that, I'd have to fake my excitement when I opened it a week later, lest my parents know I was trespassing for presents! Be careful what you wish for, am I right?

The ruined surprise didn't make me love my bear any less, and it lasted several years. But I never sneaked a peek under my parents' bed again before Christmas morning. ♦

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About The Author

Dan Nailen

Dan Nailen is the managing editor of the Inlander, where he oversees coverage of arts and culture. He's previously written and edited for The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly, Missoula Independent, Salt Lake Magazine, The Oregonian and KUER-FM. He grew up seeing the country in an Air Force family and studied...