By Teresa Varley
It's hard to imagine how Dick LeBeau does it. How he captivates a group of grown men, NFL football players none-the-less, while reading a poem that you remember from your childhood.
And then, you listen to him to him recite it, every word coming straight from the heart. You hear the inflection in his voice, the emotion he puts into it. The loving way he delivers it. The joy it brings him.
And you watch him. You see his face light up. You watch his hands move around, making you see every word, not just hear it.
And then it hits you, because you too were captivated when you had the chance to hear it. You become part of the poem. You can envision every little detail. You can't help but smile and feel the joy of the holiday season. It's pure magic.
And it's something that Steelers players look forward to every year – the annual reading of "The Night Before Christmas" by LeBeau during a team meeting.
"It's awesome," said safety Ryan Clark. "I kind of teared up the first time I heard it. Just the passion he has about doing it. Guys get excited about it. It's something you look forward to every year. He is so engaging. He is a masterful story teller. It's all about family rather than football."
LeBeau sets the stage perfectly, telling a story before sharing the poem with the players.
"In the beginning he takes five or six minutes just to set up the ambiance," said defensive end Chris Hoke. "He talks about the family and what is going on with them. The father is trying to figure out what he is going to give his family for Christmas. You are picturing what is going on with the family. Then he goes into the poem. It's an unbelievable experience.
"I have started to read it to my kids and they enjoy it, but I wish I could do it the same way Coach LeBeau does."
Not many can.
"It's truly a tradition here," said Clark.
Enjoy the magic with your family.....*
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Clement Clarke Moore
** 'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below, When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky, So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof The prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my hand, and was turning around, Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath; He had a broad face and a little round belly, That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself; A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, And laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."**