It takes a lot to feel sorry for Premier League footballers. Swanning about playing the sport we devote our lives to while being paid enough money to fund an African coup, no wonder our sympathies come across as a little hollow.
But Christmas is perhaps the one time when, whisper it quietly, players earn their keep. With the fixture list bunching tighter than a half time queue for the toilets, players get very little Christmas downtime. Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur (Sky Sports 1, k/o 5.30pm) and Stoke v Liverpool (SS1, 7.45pm) are just two of nine matches taking place this Boxing Day, which means no extra slice of Christmas cake for the likes of Gareth Bale or Raheem Sterling.
It’s the same story further down the leagues, with Nottingham Forest v Leeds (SS1, k/o 12.15pm) the pick of a day in the Championship that features all but two teams from the league in action.
18-year-old Sterling is only just old enough to have stopped looking out for a stocking at the end of his bed. As you crash out on the sofa, nursing your sore belly and head after a day of indulgence, maybe you could raise a discarded glass to the sacrifices he and his team mates make for our sporting enjoyment.
Only, it’s probably also worth saying at this point that Sterling’s just signed a new contract worth an estimated £30,000 a week. For that kind of money, even the most gluttonous of us might be able to say no to that fifth mince pie.
In fact, the people we should really respect are the jockeys turning up at a soggy Kempton Park for the traditional Boxing Day racing (C4, 1.15pm). The King George VI Chase is the highlight of the day, where wispy riders perched on top of skittish, rippling horses race to earn their keep, with 2010 winner Long Run aiming to lift the bleary-eyed punters from their post-Christmas haze.
Jockey Tony McCoy revealed a few years ago that his Christmas dinner consisted of “three thinly-sliced pieces of turkey breast, one spoonful of cabbage, three Brussels sprouts and a splash of gravy.” The whole thing washed down with lemonade came to just 597 calories. A hot hour spent in the bath to sweat out the weight and an early night is all the Christmas cheer he allows himself before the big race. Now that’s commitment to sport.
Finally, with only a few weeks to go before Andy Murray begins his quest for tennis domination in the 2013 Australian Open, there’s a chance to catch again the US Open final where he grabbed the first Grand Slam of his career (SS2, 4pm). Murray has been sweating in the Florida sun in preparation for what could be a world-beating year. We’ll find out in January if it’s all been worthwhile.