Allegany Communications Sports­­

Speaking of Christmas movies, as to the raging debate of whether or not “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie, I am of the opinion that it is a Christmas movie even though, while it all centers around an office Christmas party, the plot is clearly not about Christmas.

That’s right. The movie is a Christmas movie because it is not specifically about Christmas, and the same rationale applies to why, for instance, the best baseball movies ever made are the best baseball movies ever made — because they aren’t movies specifically about baseball.

When you set out to do a movie solely about Christmas or baseball (and I have yet to do either), it usually isn’t very good. See any of the Hallmark Christmas movies if you don’t believe me.

However, if Christmas or, say, baseball fall into or provide a steady backdrop to the plot of a movie that follows a completely abstract storyline, said movie, through the evolution of time, becomes a Christmas or baseball movie. Or whatever kind of movie you happen to be looking for at the time.

For instance, “Die Hard” is not a movie specifically about Christmas; it is a movie about survival (John McClane) and self-discovery (LAPD Sgt. Al Powell). It’s about the hero unknowingly falling into a major heist by international terrorists, knowingly killing the bad guys and falling more deeply in love with his estranged wife through the backdrop of blazing gunfire, bloody feet, exploding bombs and f-bombs and merry Christmas tunes.

It closes to the musical backdrop of a grand old Christmas favorite, and we watch it at Christmastime. You and your date go home satisfied and in the Christmas mood.

Voilà! A Christmas movie.

Oh, and brace yourselves … “It’s a Wonderful Life?” It’s about the life of a suicidal man who can’t decide whether or not to jump off a bridge. Yet it is the most beloved Christmas movie of all time.

You think “Gone With The Wind” is a war movie? The Civil War just happened to be going through the film at the time of production. GWTW is about a time, a civilization, an era, all kinds of love that was never meant to be, and we can go on and on …

For that matter, whenever I hear the song “Disco Inferno” it makes me happy. I don’t know the words to the song other than “Burn baby burn, disco inferno.” Nor have I ever cared for disco, but to me the song brings to mind a time in life that was happy and filled with possibilities.

As for Christmas movies, I have no rankings as I do for baseball movies, other than “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the greatest Christmas movie ever made, with “Miracle on 34th Street” and the 1938 “A Christmas Carol” very next on the list.

There are many others, of course, newer and older, such as “A Christmas Story,” “The Bishop’s Wife,” “Home Alone,” “Last Holiday,” “The Holiday,” “Holiday Affair,” “White Christmas,” “Desk Set,” “It Happened on Fifth Avenue,” “Love Actually,” “Trading Places,” “The Shop Around the Corner (the original “You’ve Got Mail”) and “Christmas in Connecticut,” and how many more?

All Christmas movies are wonderful in their own way, even Hallmark movies, I suppose, because there is something we take with us after watching each one of them. We all have our favorites, but every one of them is a favorite, because they wake in us the spirit of Christmas.

If I had one Christmas wish concerning Christmas movies it would be that “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a little more routinely accessible as it was years ago when you could pick it up at any point of the story on just about any channel on the dial. With that movie it doesn’t matter where you pick it up, you tend to watch it all the way to Clarence’s bell ringing on the tree.

Of course, NBC changed that years ago when it bought “It’s a Wonderful Life” and aired it only on Christmas Eve, and at times unannounced, which I never understood (but then, NBC didn’t ask me to).

You see it more and more these days, but not the way you did when it was merely considered to be a rerun of an old movie, yet served as a true holiday companion, often times when a holiday companion was needed the most.

Kind of like Clarence, you know?

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT