When we lived together while in college, I marveled at his “to-do” lists that covered every bit of his daily routine, no matter how seemingly trivial. Part of me found it ridiculous, but part of me was extremely impressed at his attention to detail.
Well, although I eschew them most of the year, during the holiday season the utilization of at least a few lists is almost mandatory. A list for who will receive a holiday card, a list for whom to buy for, a list for what to buy them, a list for what you want. A list for groceries to buy for holiday gathering, for liquor to buy for holiday gathering, liquor to consume at holiday gathering...
With all of those lists, you don’t want to forget perhaps the most important one of all: The What to Watch on TV While on Vacation (or Furlough) List.
Since most programs are in reruns this time of year—still looking forward to that Survivor finale this weekend—that list can be almost strictly sports.
So here’s what to watch this holiday season. And if you’re lucky, you’ll have a new HDTV set to watch it on (if you can get the kids to give their new Wii games a rest).
Saturday, Dec. 19
College Basketball: Duke vs. Gonzaga, 3 PM, CBS
Don’t go trolling for meaningless college football bowl games just yet. This matchup of top-15 teams is a great way to spend time waiting for Big 10 conference play to start. The Bulldogs have been better than anticipated, and Duke is, well, Duke. They're currently sitting at No. 2 in the RPI rankings despite their lone loss to the Badgers.
NFL: Dallas @ New Orleans, 7:20 PM, NFL Network
An intriguing game unfortunately buried on a Saturday night, on a channel many people don’t get. But if you can watch it, it’s a can’t-lose proposition for most football fans: Either the Saints lose, which would be great because all of the perfection talk is tiring, or the Cowboys lose, which would be great because they’re the Cowboys.
Sunday, Dec. 20
NFL: Miami @ Tennessee, 12 PM, CBS
Interested in wading through the quagmire of mediocre AFC teams fighting for a wild-card spot? Here’s the game for you. Beats wading through the quagmire of shoppers fighting for the last Elmo’s Tickle Hands at Wal-Mart.
NFL: Green Bay @ Pittsburgh, 3:15 PM, FOX
Two of the NFL’s most storied franchises facing off in December with playoff implications on the line? Sounds like a terrific game. And it should be. The problem for Steelers fans is, with the way Pittsburgh is playing, Steel City sports fans are beginning to pine for the Pirates to open spring training.
The problem for Packers fans is that the Steelers, who simply have to be a better team than they’ve recently shown, are at home and should be more desperate for a win than Spencer Pratt is for publicity. The problem for Packers fans is that Green Bay is due for a bad game.
The problem for Steelers fans is the Packers just had one, barely beating the awful Bears. The problem for Steelers fans is the Steelers have a lot of problems. Look for the Packers to officially end the Steelers’ hopes of returning to the Super Bowl.
NFL: Minnesota @ Carolina, 7:20 PM, NBC
This is the best game NBC could get this week?
Monday, Dec. 21
NBA: Milwaukee @ Indiana, 7 PM, FOX Sports Wisconsin
If the playoffs started today, the Bucks would be in as the sixth seed. But these are the Bucks and the playoffs are eons away. But any Bucks game now is worth watching to see rookie Brandon Jennings in action, and that’s huge.
Tuesday, Dec. 22
College Basketball: Michigan State @ Texas, 6 PM, ESPN2
Texas has been rolling, beating opponents by an average of almost 32 points. Devotees of the Big 10 will learn a lot about how good No. 12 Michigan State is by how close they can stick to the Longhorns.
Wednesday, Dec. 23.
College Basketball: UW-Milwaukee @ Wisconsin, 8 PM, Big Ten Network
It’s highly doubtful that the Badgers, after their surprising loss to UW-Green Bay on Dec. 9, will take the Panthers, another in-state Horizon League team, lightly.
Friday, Dec. 25
NBA: Cleveland @ Los Angeles Lakers, 4 PM, ABC
Those upset about not getting the "Kobe vs. LeBron" finals last season can finally get a taste of what they missed. Those upset about not getting what they wanted for Christmas can start berating those people who failed to come through.
Sunday, Dec. 27
NFL: Seattle @ Green Bay, 12 PM, FOX
Former QB backup Matt Hasselbeck returns to Green Bay again. If the Packers wrap up a playoff spot by beating Pittsburgh (with some help), that’s probably the only storyline in a game lacking any real drama.
College Basketball: Illinois-Chicago @ Wisconsin, 2:30 PM, Big Ten Network
If the Packer game is a dud, consider flipping over for this final non-conference game of the season. Even if the matchup isn’t intriguing, Trevon Hughes and Jon Leuer are always worth a look.
Tuesday, Dec. 29
College Football: Champs Sports Bowl (Miami vs. Wisconsin), 7 PM, ESPN
Déjà vu time. Make no mistake about it, that loss to Northwestern really stung, as the Wildcats accepted their invitation to the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl and the Badgers were relegated to the Champs Sports Bowl for the second year in a row despite having a much better team this season.
In addition to going to the same bowl, the similarities to last year’s game are eerie: Wisconsin is again playing a team with a very efficient quarterback and skilled receivers that will enjoy a distinct home-field advantage.
While the Badgers secondary was inconsistent all season, they did finish the season strong with a shutdown performance against Hawaii. Add to that the presence of Scott Tolzien instead of Dustin Sherer, and you have to like the Badgers’ chances more than last year. It’s probably still Miami in the end, but, in what should be an entertaining, high-scoring game, it’s close.
Thursday, Dec. 31
College Basketball: Ohio State @ Wisconsin, 1 PM, ESPN2
The Buckeyes without Evan Turner is like The Electric Company without Easy Reader. The Badgers should get a nice win to start the Big 10 season.
Friday, Jan. 1
College Football: Outback Bowl, Capital One Bowl, and Rose Bowl
Rooting for the Big 10? Good luck. Auburn (playing Northwestern in the Outback), LSU (playing Penn State in the Capital One), and Oregon (playing Ohio State in the Rose) all look like winners.
Ohio State in particular is in danger of embarrassing themselves yet again and single-handedly bringing shame and disgrace on the conference in much the same way that the induction of ZZ Top brings shame and disgrace on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Be sure to check my always-updated sports on TV schedule for a complete list of what to watch. And here’s hoping your teams come through for you this holiday season.