Long before the NBA hijacked sports on Christmas Day, the Blue-Gray College All-Star game was the lone sporting event on television on Christmas. The game provided diehard football fans and purists the opportunity to watch players from smaller Division-I and I-AA programs, as they showcased their abilities in a time before the internet and extended cable television. Jerry Rice and Shannon Sharpe were just two of many future Hall of Famers who took part in the Christmas classic.
The game was played from 1939-2003 before being discontinued due to a lack of sponsorship. It was great for football fans, but also for the kids who grew up during that time period, especially the 80s and 90s.
The two teams were divided into North and South squads, according to the geography of their school, in a Civli War type contest. For kids growing up, it was the first opportunity to watch players running around in different helmets with numerous stickers on their head. This proved to be confusing for youngsters looking for the lone Virginia Tech Hokie or James Madison Duke.
The game was never that well attended, which is not hard to believe with it taking place on Christmas morning, but it thrived because of the support from the Montgomery, Ala. community and the Kelly Tire company. As the number of bowl and All-Star games increased, the Blue-Gray did not stand a chance. There were fewer players to pick from and not all were fond of competing on Christmas Day. The game explored moving the date to Jan. 8, but it never was able to pick up any traction. And in hindsight that’s a good thing, because it preserves the memories of the classic.
For many people, it still seems strange to get up on Christmas morning, open presents and await a game that has now been absent for 10 years. Like everything in life, time moves on and memories fade away, but as the kids of that generation become parents, the opportunity of immortalizing the Blue-Gray to our kids and preserving those fond memories still exists.