Enjoy holidays -- one halftime at a time

During this season of giving and reflection and renewal, a man's thoughts naturally turn to football.

'Tis the season for men wearing plastic reindeer antlers and a fine dusting of Doritos crumbs to sprawl on sofas, basking in the TV glow while our plucky families celebrate all around us. It's a season of hope and joy, anticipation and disappointment, the thrill of victory and the agony of sweatsock feet. It's the time of year when grown men ask Santa to please, please grant one wish: a first-and-goal on the two with a minute to go.

While others sing carols and make resolutions and gobble leftovers, we men display as much holiday energy as your average potted poinsettia. Lumps of coal we are, as we watch round-the-clock games, sometimes two or three at once, moving nothing but our eyes and our overdeveloped remote control thumbs.

It's not that we're lazy. We're pouring all our available resources into rooting for our favorite teams, occasionally even jumping up from the La-Z-Boy to shout, "Yes!" and grab another egg nog. Our teams can't do it without us. We're the Twelfth Man, pouring spiritual energy into the television sets of America.

Our families, on the other hand, seem able to soldier on with the decorating and the turkey-basting and the party-throwing without us. Or, with the limited participation that we can offer during halftimes.

The football leagues and the TV networks pander to sports junkies by televising the important games during the holiday season, when the biggest audience is likely to be off work and lying in front of a big-screen TV, naked except for boxers decorated with candy canes and evergreens, eating day-old guacamole directly off its fingers.

This year, men will be distracted from their loved ones by an estimated 137 college bowl games. Plus the NFL playoffs, which take us well into the new year, finally culminating in the Super Bowl, which I believe is sometime in July.

While the rest of the world makes merry and bright, we football fans relish tackles and sacks and crackback blocks. We wallow in the violence and the spirited competition and the mud and the blood and the beer. Nothing says "Happy Holidays" like a crushing blindside tackle in the secondary.

Our preoccupation with football is partly a coping mechanism, a way to deal with the bustle and glow of the holiday season. All that danged JOY. Brrr. It's also a primitive urge. It's winter, so we eat lots of big meals and hibernate in our dark dens, waking only when the crowd noise alerts us to a big play, just in time to watch the slow-motion replay.

We know our football fixation sometimes stresses our spouses, who are forced to use food aromas and actual beer to lure us off the couch long enough to, say, open our Christmas gifts. Our lethargy sets a bad example for our children. Our children. You remember the children. The ones who run screaming in front of the TV screen once in a while? Them.

Our families should not despair. Eventually, the football season will end. Spring will arrive, and we men will rise up from our sofas and shake the crumbs from our pelts and emerge from our caves. We'll stop obsessing on point-spreads and statistics and fantasy leagues and and bad calls and boneheaded coaching. We'll once again gather our families in the warm embrace of our full attention.

Until March Madness.

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