A sad day is approaching.
I'm not talking about Valentine's Day, when millions of single people across the United States will lament their misfortune of having no one to buy them chocolates and stuffed animals on this lover's holiday.
Nor am I referring to the end of the current school year, when millions of parents will watch their offspring walk across the graduation stage and wonder where the time went, and how their baby will make it on his or her own out in the cold, cruel, adult world.
I do not speak of the upcoming Spring Break, when millions of fathers cringe at the thought that THIS is the year their precious princess ends up featured in the latest Girls Gone Wild video series.
No, the dark day I refer to is Super Bowl Monday.
Super Bowl Monday, the first day of the week that precedes the Sunday AFTER Super Bowl Sunday, when millions of football fans wake up and have no clue what to do with their time.
In the spirit of helping my fellow man, I hereby offer this list of time-killing activities to engage the attention of America's fanatics while we await that glorious day of days, Week One of the preseason. This list is in no particular order, and you are free to pick and choose which one to pursue.
No. 10—Watch NASCAR
Yeah, I know, the format is simplistic: 43 rednecks driving in a circle for three hours, burning up fuel and damaging the ozone with every lap. Big whoopty-do, right?
But look deeper: It's 43 rednecks driving at BREAKNECK speeds only inches from each other, and the potential for mayhem is milliseconds away—particularly at places like Daytona, Talladega, and Atlanta. That's what 73 percent of NASCAR fans watch for in the first place, the chance to see some screeching metal.
They don't really care who wins, they just wanna see a big wreck.
It's on just about EVERY Sunday from February to November, with the occasional night race on Saturday to pay homage to the "good ol' days" of racing.
If you've never been to a race, consider attending one in your area. I promise you, the smell of raw fuel and exhaust fumes is enough to bring out the aggression in most red-blooded American men, and the female fans in the summer occasionally leave little to the imagination, if you catch my meaning.
Plus, it's a great excuse to barbecue the flesh of a small animal and drink beer. What's not to like about that?
No. 9—Attack the Honey-Do List
It's gotten longer, guys, and if you're at all like me, you have some hangers-on from last year's list. Approach them with wild abandon, throwing yourself into the task as if to say to your significant other, "I was simply building up my energy reserves so that I could more efficiently complete these projects and bring joy to your life by doing the things you have so patiently waited for me to do."
We all know you won't get them done, but the trick is to LOOK busy.
No. 8—Reaquaint with Family
You've seen them on Football Sunday; vague shadows milling about the room, trying not to walk in front of the TV or disturb you when the Steelers are at fourth-and-inches on the goal line, or talking in hushed tones when the Dolphins are driving for the game-winning touchdown.
The field trip your daughter is taking over Spring Break? You signed that permission slip during a timeout somewhere around Week Five, if memory serves correctly.
These mysterious people have names. The big one is probably your wife, and the little ones who sneaked papers in front of you to sign all season? Those are likely your children, unless your house is like mine, in which case some of them are neighborhood kids who took advantage of your distraction to squat in your children's room all season.
And that four-legged critter yipping about your ankles? That's the dog; you acquired him during the bye in Week Six.
He needs to go outside for a walk. You remember outside, don't you? Fresh air, sunshine, and grass?
Of course you do.
No. 7—Try a new "Sport"
With our weekends free, now is the perfect time to try our hand at a few things.
Bowling comes to mind; there are weekend leagues at every venue in America, and most of them are co-ed. And, bowling is another good reason to tip a few back.
Golf is another past-time that might merit attention; there's grass, fresh air, and a defenseless little white ball upon which to unleash your aggression of not having football to watch.
You can usually get on public courses without a tee-time after 3 PM at a discount, and some of the beverage cart girls are pretty cute.
Plus, there's always the chance that THIS YEAR will be the one where you inexplicably make that hole-in-one while finishing with an overall score of 143.
No. 6—Take up gardening
Hey, watch it now, there is nothing more manly than being secure enough in your manhood to nurture small plants into maturity. None other than football great Bubba Smith displayed his penchant for flowers in the Police Academy movies, so it can't be all bad; in fact, I would bet it's rather therapeutic.
Of course, Bubba was 6'7" and weighed 260 pounds, so he had that going for him, too.
No. 5—Read a Book
You're reading this, so I know you have the ability. Plus, there are PLENTY of books out there documenting the glory days of your favorite football team, and enough football fiction to tide you over for the entire summer.
I recommend Sal Paolantonio's How Football Explains America. You will learn all sorts of things, like "How Football Explains Manifest Destiny", "How Football Explains Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett", "How Football Explains the Battle of Midway," and ultimately, "How Football Explains Us All."
A great read for history buffs and amateur philosophers alike.
Besides, football players read too; ever heard of a playbook?
No. 4—Play Flag Football
You've doubtless seen these guys too: sometimes overweight, mostly past-their-prime groups of men who gather in the municipal park on Saturday afternoon, lining up like the pros, but instead of helmets and pads they wear shorts and t-shirts and have strips of cloth stuck in their waistbands.
Unless they're skins; then it's just shorts. And some of then should have been on the shirts team in the interest of dignity and public safety.
They run a 5.9 40-yard dash, can't throw it more than 15 yards, and need frequent "water" breaks.
But when they are out there, it's Super Bowl Sunday, and they are gamely trying to emulate the moves they saw their favorite player make last year.
Vicarious living at it's pinnacle: that 43 year-old guy wearing the Randy Moss jersey, who just caught the lame duck pass from his 42-year-old quarterback wearing the Tom Brady jersey for a touchdown (marked by the discarded shirts of the skins team)?
In that moment, they ARE Moss and Brady.
No. 3—Dissect Highlight Films
All of us are expert analysts of the armchair-quarterback variety, and each one of us knows that if we watch the videos enough, we will be able to figure out where the pass protection broke down on that one play that cost our team a sack and a chance to win it all, or which open area in the zone that the receiver missed running to for the pass that would have changed the season.
And, of course, once we figure it out, we can most assuredly send that e-mail to the fansite's administrator, with the recommendation that he send it on to the coaching staff so they can make the appropriate adjustments.
They read ALL those e-mails, you know.
No. 2—Fix the Car
The check engine light has been on for five months, the starter grinds when you turn the key, and there is a funny odor that smells suspiciously like fuel emanating from the air vents when you run the heater.
Break out the old jeans, throw on the old t-shirt and get greasy. There is nothing that will establish your manhood better than lifting the hood, looking inside, and figuring our how in the hell the engineers fit all that crap in such a tiny engine compartment.
Fear not the squealing brakes; jack it up, pull the wheel, and change those pads!
Do not cower in fear at the thought of replacing the starter: disconnect the negative terminal, pull the air filter box, remove the sensor plug, shift the wires and cables out of the way, disconnect the power connector to the starter, tag the vacuum tubes (whatever those are), break loose the retaining bolts that were inserted with a hammer drill, and pull that starter (then install the new one following the above steps in order)!
Do not shrink away from adjusting the timing: laugh in the face of the challenge! Learn Greek, buy the repair manual (available at Autozone or Advance Auto Parts), decipher the codes, plug in the timing light, start up the engine, and get those plugs firing properly!
Don't forget the Lava soap and a fingernail brush; the grease you will get under your fingernails has the sticking power of Super Glue.
No. 1—Pout and Mope about
The most likely of scenarios, I fear. Many of us will probably sit in the easy chair, aimlessly flipping through channels looking for something, anything, remotely football related. It won't matter if we've seen it before; if they replay the AFC Championship game on the NFL channel, we're watching it.
With 100's of available channels, many an hour can be passed seeing if we can master the technique of changing from program to program without having to watch a single commercial.
Besides, the draft will becoming soon, then training camp reports, fantasy football previews will hit the newsstands, rookie contract signings will get coverage, and finally, after months of waiting, things will be right with our world again.
Preseason practices will start, with the requisite holdout by last year's star looking for a bigger paycheck, disputes will be resolved, free agents will find new homes, and we can get back to business.
Preseason game or not, there is nothing like that first kickoff that heralds the beginning of another fabulous journey towards fame or infamy.
Do you think the Lions will turn it around this year?
Who cares: IT'S FOOTBALL, baby!