ABOUT THE TIME YOU pick tonight's newspaper off the driveway, the BYU football team will be flying to Tucson for the Copper Bowl.

Ho, ho, ho, once again the Cougars will spend Christmas on the road. They've loaded lots of toys and goodies on their plane.By now the Cougars have this mobile Christmas routine down pat. They've had lots of practice. A long time ago they started getting used to the idea of Christmas in the Sun Belt.

I'll be home for Christmas.


Well, they have only themselves to blame. Is it anyone else's fault that the Cougars wind up in a bowl game every year? They've earned bowl berths in 19 of the last 20 years. After this year's Dec. 29 Copper Bowl, they will have played nine of their last 10 bowls either on Christmas Day or in the four days that follow Christmas. That means they have celebrated Christmas in a hotel for nearly a decade.

'Tis the season to play bowl games, tra, la, la, la, la, blah, blah, blah, blah.

The Cougars have spent more Christmases on the road than Bob Hope. They could be a USO act. They're second only to St. Nick in Christmastime frequent-flyer miles.

Deck the halls with lots of bowl games, blah, blah, blah . . . oh, never mind.

The Cougars have spent the holidays at (sing along) one All-America Bowl, two Citrus Bowls, one Aloha Bowl, two Freedom Bowls, four Holiday Bowls . . . and a partridge in a pear tree. Their Christmases have been celebrated in Birmingham, Orlando, Anaheim, Honolulu and San Diego.

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas.


The Cougars have spent so many Christmas vacations on the road that not one, but two babies have actually been born at a bowl site. In 1983, Brenda Fowler, the wife of reserve quarterback Blaine, gave birth just before Christmas in San Diego. Last year, Rachelle Hanshaw, the wife of guard Tim, gave birth on Christmas Day in San Diego.

You know you've pulled a lot of bowl duty when your team can claim two bowl babies.

Well, the Cougars aren't exactly suffering because of all this bowling. It's real tough duty, these mid-winter, all-expenses-paid vacations to sunny Orlando, Anaheim and Honolulu. It's hard to feel sorry for guys who can bank on annual holidays at Disneyland, Sea World and DisneyWorld.

But it is Christmas, and Christmas was meant to be spent at home, wasn't it?

The other day LaVell Edwards, BYU's longtime coach, was visiting his grandchildren and taking in the Christmas atmosphere of their homes when it suddenly occured to him how removed from traditional Christmas he has been.

"That was one of the few times I realized that it's been a long time since I've been able to relax and do nothing on Christmas," says Edwards. "You get so you don't even think about it."

Maile Chow, the daughter of Edwards' assistant coach, Norm Chow, has known nothing else. She has spent every one of her 18 Christmas holidays at bowl sites.

"It's a crazy life we lead, isn't it?" says her mother, Diane.

The Chow family, and others affiliated with the the team, have adapted by having their Christmas either before or after Christmas Day, at home. Last Sunday they had their "Christmas Eve," singing carols and opening a couple of presents. On Monday morning, they kept the kids home from school and had their Christmas Day. While the rest of the world went on about its business, they opened Santa's presents (how they would explain Santa's early arrival to small children, we're not certain).

"We call it our fake Christmas," says Diane.

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Most of BYU's players, coaches and officials celebrate Christmas in their hotel rooms, but they are spartan affairs since pine trees and presents don't pack well. Some are more stubborn, though. Mike King, an assistant to the athletic director, packs his family's Christmases in the equipment truck and ships them to the bowl site.

Somehow, Christmas is always salvaged in some small way. One year it's a group of Samoan players producing a musical program. Another year it's Edwards handing out presents while wearing a Santa hat.

"There was one Christmas that really touched me," says Edwards' wife, Patti. "We were in Honolulu for the Aloha Bowl, and every night a group of minstrels would perform at the hotel. Their voices would float up from the courtyard up to the balconies. You'd hear the singing and the sound of the surf in the background. It was beautiful."

Christmas on the road; it's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

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