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Christmas and the Most Wonderful Week

Did everyone have a pleasant Christmas? Hopefully, Santa rewarded all for a year of being very good, or even so-so. St. Nick kicks back at the North Pole following his annual whirlwind world tour and recipients of Santa’s largesse cram into shopping malls returning his offerings for something they actually desired. For some of us, the passing of the Day signals what is really important during this holiday season: Bowl Week. We now move into the yearly orgy of college football, one game after another as teams great, good and mediocre receive their reward for outstanding play and creative scheduling. This is indeed the best time of the year.

First, a few words about Christmas 713, to be exact]. I generally receive very few Christmas gifts, mostly owing to living alone with not a lot of extended family and rarely buying any. Circumstances dictated that this year things would be a little different. I was faced with the challenge of actually having to purchase a gift and was expected to put at least a little thought into it. Let me tell you, tracking down and acquiring a first edition of ‘Collected Poems’ by Robert Frost is not the easiest of tasks, which is why I stuck a local SERIOUS book lover with the task.

There was a problem with giving the gist of Frost, other than finding a damn copy. While it was received by the gifted with what turned out to be great joy, it also turned out that somebody had cockamamie ideas about reading it together, aloud, no less. When Frost wrote ‘And miles to go before I sleep,’ it’s a good thing he didn’t have any Frost around; it would have put him out like a light.

Giving a gift implies that one will be received and that was indeed the case. Actually, unlike my narrowing my purchasing down to one specific item, there were several. A statement seemed to have been made about my fashion sense, or what is perceived to be the lack of same. This harkened back to an episode a few weeks ago when an inventory of my clothes closet undertaken by the Teacher listed one suit, mainly for all of the funerals I find myself attending these days and years, a few pairs of paint-splattered jeans worn when screwing with the rentals, a dozen pairs of sweat pants for lounging around the house, twenty-seven pairs of khakis and the comment, “You need more clothes.” The defense that I like khakis, finding them comfortable and easy to maintain cut little ice. I now find myself in possession of ‘dress’ pants, carrying with them the implication that I will be going places suitable for them to be worn. I don’t think she has football games and tailgates in mind.

Of more interest to me than pants that will hang in my closet all times I am not wearing them to some soiree of her choosing is the other, centerpiece gift she gave me. I was delightfully surprised to discover I am now enrolled in culinary classes at a Durham cooking school. I will be wearing khakis when I attend.

There are those who might suggest that giving the gift of cooking lessons is a strong commentary on my existing kitchen skills, even more so than the one made on my tastes in fashion. It would also seem to be recognition of the undeniable fact that, considering the Teacher considers the preparation of a special dinner rummaging around through those Lean Cuisine packages that are stuffed into every square inch of her refrigerator’s freezer until she finds one labeled ‘Spa Cuisine’ [the basil salmon isn’t SO bad], I do all of the cooking.

Actually, I rather enjoy cooking. It was an activity begun out of self-defense when I found myself married to a young lady incapable of boiling water; it would seem not much has changed in thirty years. I found that I enjoyed it and these days spend much of each Dead Zone glued to the Food Network. Attending cooking school was something I had long considered but never gotten around to. ‘Getting around to it’ will now consist of the four Saturdays in January.

The Teacher is perhaps hoping that I can be broken of what she considers my bad habit of automatically doubling the amount of garlic called for in a recipe and adding cayenne pepper to everything. This would be in keeping with her makeover project that so far has involved a strong negative reaction to another of my bad habits, this coming from the daughter of a Pittsylvania County tobacco farmer, although, all things considered, a rather understandable one and her stated determination to do apply techniques in behavior modification that have achieved a degree of success, at least around her, and now my wardrobe. After I have honed my cooking skills, the English Teacher vows to do something about my run-on sentences. Pretty soon, I will barely be recognizable.

So much for Christmas, although January weekends will find the cooking-class gift is one that keeps on giving. We now move on to Bowl Week. There have already been a few played, ones mostly involving the lower-order conferences. They don’t really count. A good rule of thumb is that if you are in a BCS conference and your bowl is played before December 25, you really shouldn’t be in a bowl.

Last week’s bowl games mostly involved teams from the MAC, CUSA, Mountain Something and RUTS Belt conferences; in other words, the have-nots of Division I-A. The games held little interest. Having Toledo and UTEP appear on television suggests three words: last minute shopping. The Las Vegas Bowl contained an element of humor. One can only imagine the economic impact twenty thousand Mormons had on the Vegas Strip. It only took about two minutes of actually watching BYU play Cal to send me channel-hopping to see what Emeril was cooking. He certainly sees nothing wrong with adding extra garlic to most anything.

This week the bowl games get more interesting, involving recognizable teams. Between the post-Christmas Monday morning this is being written to the end of the Rose Bowl a fortnight later, there will be twenty-two games played. Throw out such clunkers as Detroit ’s yawn-inducing Murder City Bowl between Memphis and Akron and the dreary Liberty Bowl between Fresno State and CUSA champ Tulsa . CUSA has an odd bowl pecking order. UCF, the loser of that league’s championship game, got a trip to the Hawaii Bowl while the ostensible ‘champion’ got stuck with Beale Street . This certainly causes one to wonder about the levels of intensity put forth towards winning the game when the better bowl awaits the loser.

Of the remaining twenty bowl games that most care about, eight will involve ACC teams. That ain’t too shabby. The league’s first foray into bowling will be Tuesday night when Clemson tangles with Colorado in Orlando . This game used to be known as the Tangerine Bowl but now is known as the Champ Sports Bowl. Paying good money to hang their corporate name on this mid-level bowl most definitely did not cause me to shop at their store. Orlando-area hookers will receive a reduced economic impact from this game, as former Buffalo coach Gary Barnett was goldsmithed immediately following that less-than-stellar effort against Texas. Sorry, girls.

Wednesday afternoon will find Boston College participating in that most prized of ACC bowls, the Potato in Boise . The forecast is for snow, so the Eagles and their traveling fan base of none will receive the complete Boise experience. Enjoy, Fredo.

Thursday afternoon Georgia Tech will be in San Francisco playing Utah in what used to be known as the Nut Bowl but now carries the moniker Emerald. Multi-Tech AD Dave Braine has been griping loud and long about his team getting stuck on the other side of the continent. It might be misplaced anger. The quality of the GT traveling fan base is such that the Jackets were passed over by a bowl that selected the Hoos, the first time that has happened in the history of postseason football. That is as bad as it gets.

Speaking of the Jeffersons, Friday morning they will be playing Minnesota in the Music City Bowl. I’m assuming by now those stacks of unsold tickets have convinced the boys in Nashville that one team from the Commonwealth of Virginia travels a bit better than the other, and they have the ‘other.’ Activity along Second Avenue will be light, probably similar to what was seen in 1999 when Syracuse was in the game, or 2001 when Fredo brought nobody. Once again, the Second and Goal will have many more empty bar stools than they did back in 1998.

Things will get a lot more interesting Friday night when Miami and LSU get it on in the Peach Bowl. This will be the last Peach Bowl, as corporate dollars will cause it to be renamed the Chicken Bowl in 2006. Those spotted cows holding their ‘Eat more chikn’ signs will now be attempting to graze on the Georgia Dome field turf, but that is next year. This year, the Canes and Tigers will be playing in what looks to be the best of the games not played on New Year’s Day After or in the BCS.

New Year’s Eve will find NC State and a Directional Florida playing in the Muffler Bowl. The Li’l E certainly sent one of their A-list teams. That the bulls are in this game indicates that the Li’l E’s A-list is a very short one. The Wolfpack became bowl eligible due to Chuckie finally figuring out that his offense might be better served utilizing the available talent and trading Ohio State for some I-AA dog on their schedule. It was a good trade. The presence of State in a bowl might be ridiculed by some, especially those wearing light blue, but there are no bad bowls and the extra practice it affords the Wolfpack is a very good thing. That added practice will be worth much more in the long run than will paying a Defensive Coordinator big bucks for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Things get a lot more interesting, at least from this perspective, on New Year’s Day After when Virginia Tech plays old friend Louisville in the consolation Bowl. Tech has sold a bunch of tickets, although it remains to be seen how many Hokies actually make their second trip to Jacksonville in a month. Judging by that letter where Frank begged people to show up, the turnout might not be up to usual Tech standards.

Tuesday night will find the ACC’s champion Florida State playing Penn State in the Geriatric Bowl. I am far less interested in watching all of those sideline shots of the college game’s old guys than I might have been had things not gone so badly in Jacksonville and another team were measuring themselves against Joepa’s team. Oh, well.

Another Christmas has come and gone and another Bowl Week awaits us. Although New Year’s Eve will find me traveling to a location a long way from any bowl destination [Sorry, Frank], I plan on watching what I can, which should be plenty. At least I hope so. This is being written with somebody staring over my shoulder waiting for me to finish so that I might accompany her to the local shopping mall, a place I have never once been the day after Christmas. She might have other ideas. In any event, Happy Bowl Week.

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