This is the best time of the year -- and the worst.
That's because this is the calendar crossroads wherein we cuddle with our mistress (the Phillies) before rushing home to be with our wife (the Steelers) and kids (college football).
This is precisely where mixed emotions intersect ... as classic American pastimes run roughshod with our emotions.
As such, it's not always easy to remember who did what.
That's usually the time when we find ourselves at a booth at the coffee shop and taking a moment (over a slice of pie) to recap the staged reading of "Godspell."
We voice our conclusion.
"I thought the actor who played Jesus made some odd choices."
Her (perplexed): "What?"
You (surprised): "Ohh, I mean, I had a great time ice skating."
Of course, for those of us who are married to the ideal sportsworld sidekick the dimension of hilarity is exponentially greater when a Sat. nite is spent watching John L. Smith's brain imploding as his Michigan State team is melting down against the mythical beast which is NotreDameIsAReallyGoodTeam.
The risky downside to such a scenario is the Mrs. received her Master's degree from MSU. Still, that doesn't make her exempt from joining the chorus when the Sparties are clinging to a 37-33 lead and the TV cameras show John L. Smith on the sideline and the Mrs.' hubby remarks, "I don't know what he's looking all worried about. He's right on schedule for his 40-37 loss which'll be discussed at length tomorrow on firejohnlsmith.com."
Her: "Especially when the deciding TD is an interception return."
Bang, pow, zip, boom ... it's an ND INT TD (just like Professor Weis drew up on the chalkboard on the day that ESPN decided that Prof. Weis invented football).
On the home-team sideline, well ... about all ya can say is, "I thought the actor who played John L. Smith made some odd choices."
On the bright side, the headlines on firejohnlsmith.com remained upbeat and hopeful.
"DESPITE SHOCKING LOSS, SPARTANS' BERTH IN MOTOR CITY BOWL UNDAMAGED!"
Exactly ... the bowl-game tie-ins were unaffected by the coach who last year had America in stitches when he came off the field at halftime vs. Ohio State and barked into the national-TV microphone, "The players are playing their tails off, but the coaches ARE SCREWING IT UP!!!"
If we visit the boys in the lab, the examination of MSU's always-collapsing football program was not affected by that backdoor treament from the team from South BendOver.
Let's work our way up the food chain:
The Motor City Bowl pits the Big 11's No. 7 team vs. a MAC opponent ... the Big 11's No. 6 team plays the Big 12's No. 6 team in the Insight Bowl ... the Big 11's No. 4/5 teams are scheduled for either the Alamo Bowl (vs. a Big 12 opponent) or the Champs Sports Bowl (vs. the ACC No. 4) ... the Big 11's No. 3 team meets an SEC foe in the Outback Bowl in Tampa on New Year's Day ... and the Big 11's No. 2 team plays the SEC's No. 2 in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on New Year's Day.
So, for anti-Smithie Sparties, visions of a holiday in Detroit have not been quashed.
There must be five or six Sparties who don't know that Jerome Bettis is from Detroit.
Then again, SpartieTown might use the defeat to ND as incentive to finish in 6th place in the Big 11, which'll equate to a trip to a desert locale known as Phoenix to meet a to-be-determined Big 12 6th-place opponent.
Wait ... is that the Big XII North or the Big XII South?
That's what Sparty wants to know.
So, during a week which offers football every night (except Weds.) to divert our attention from the Phillie photo-finish for a wild-card berth, it's not always easy to stay focused.
The good thing is that we're never more than a few TV-remote clicks away from losing ourselves in Herb Kirkstreit's dreaminess.
The Disney Empire -- the magic kingdom of TV, anyway -- gives us three viewing options: 1) Herbie during the studio show 2) Herbie in the booth 3) Herbie one day appearing on "Dancing With The Stars."
Of course, when it comes to college football on ESPN/ABC/Disney Empire, Herb Kirkstreit is the star.
It was adorable the way that Herbie spent Sat. a.m. on the College GameDay set on the bank of the Olentangy River in Columbus, Ohio -- and then he showed up in the ABC booth on the bank of the Red Cedar River in East Lansing, Michigan to ad his handsomeness, handsomeness and more handsomeness to the prime-time broadcast.
As if Pusberger and Gravy Davie couldn't handle it on their own.
It screamed of "18-34 demographic!" but what America wants to know is if Herbie traveled by jet or if the Disney Empire dispatched the Herbie Helicopter to pick up Hot Hot Herbie.
By the way, the German word for "heart throb" is "Herbstreit."
Sometimes, it's difficult for America to imagine an America without Herbie, who, by the way, was a finalist for the role of 007 in the new James Bond movies.
That's the word on the street, anyway.
However, because Herbie doesn't own the NFL universe the way he does the coll. FB landscape, some of us interested in the big Steelers-Bengals were left a little shortchanged Sunday when FOX's doubleheader meant that, in certain markets, The 'Burgh vs. The Natty was not available.
Probably just as well ... since those B-Roth end-zone INTs and that horrid attempt at fielding a punt by Ricardo Colclough were did great harm.
"Coakley" puts the "mental" in "detrimental."
It's funny, but in the 2005 NFL Films package for the Bengals, there's that quickie shot of Carson Palmer -- just before taking the field before the playoff game -- standing in the tunnel and repeating the mantra, "Put a hurtin' on The Curtain ... put a hurtin' on The Curtain ..."
This time, he did.
But only because Kimo von Oelhoffen wasn't flown in to "roll" into C-Palm's left knee.
So, Cowher Power is 1-2 heading into the bye week.
Cowher Power was 3-4 thru 7 games in '95 ... and he went to the Super Bowl. He was 1-2 in '97 ... and went to the AFC Championship game. He was 1-1 in '04 ... then overreacted by starting a rookie QB who led the team on a 14-0 streak to end the regular season.
Of course, there's the flip side.
Cowher was 7-4 in '98 ... and lost his final five games. He was 2-1 thru three in '03 ... and went 0-5 to dip to 2-6.
Ya just gotta play 'em out.
Oddly enough, the Steelers' early-season woes (against two quality opponents) have been on the back burner for those of us in the Steeler/Phillie Corridor because, well ... sometimes Cowher Power must yield to Howard Power.
At the time that the Steelers were "cowering" to Cin-shit-nati, the baseball club in Philadelphia was resembling the Fightin' Phils more than the latest version of the Foldin' Phils.
The Fightin's finished the Florida Fish, sweeping the series. Sadly, Ryan Howard went 2 for 5 (to boost his average to .314) with a ribbie in the 10-7 rain-delayed win, but since neither of those two hits was a 6-run homer, Albert Pujols locked up the MVP.
And, since Ryan Howard didn't singlehandedly lead the Phils to victory on Mon. and Tues. nites, that simply cost him more ground in the MVP race. Although he hit a 2-run single Mon. to put the Phils up, 2-1, on Monday ... and stroked a solid RBI single to CF for a 2-0 lead on Tues. ... the fact that he's stuck on 58 homers ain't helpin' him.
So, no ... the mini-Mardi Gras which took place in the Superdome on Mon. nite didn't affect those ofus who remembered that a little more than a year ago, that stadium was littered with corpses and fecal matter in the bathroom sinks.
Why more people aren't freaked out by the fact that somebody may've gagged to death on his/her own puke in Section 17, jeez ...
Good for you, Nawlins!
Hooray for you, neighborhoods which were erased forever.
The Saints are marchin' in.
Get over your loss.
The Saints have a Super Bowl championship to bring home to the bayou.
Some of us have our own problems. In fact, the platter may be too full on Thurs. with prep football (Oaks Christian vs. Venice), Auburn and South Carolina (with that USC QB who is a Smelley 'Cock) and Phillies-Nationals from RFK.
This is when worlds collide ... to the extreme.
If Steeler Pitchfork walks through that door right now, he will KILL Phillie Pitchfork!