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NFL playoffs bridge holiday gap

By John Burbridge

Neatly placed on a street block corner within the subdivision I use to live is a Folk Victorian house that stands out during the holidays.

All the holidays.

In and around the Fourth of July it is ablaze in red, white and blue with patriotic pinwheels planted in ordered rows along the front lawn like a miniature wind farm.

The colors turn orange and black leading up to Halloween with an increasing amount of giant jack-o-lantern-illustrated leaf disposal bags surrounding the house as the fall progresses.

The residents even give reverence to Easter by hanging multi-colored plastic eggs from the property’s trees.

But the end of the year is when this corner lot reaches its peak in aesthetics.

Mind you, when it comes to exterior decorating, less is sometimes more. That also goes for the concurrent electric bill. This annual display is clever and efficient in the way it utilizes color and light, yet isn’t ostentatious or pretentious like competing for neighborhood honors.

Though it never dresses up holiday season style a day before December … which would give it bonus points if I was actually keeping score … the corner lot usually doesn’t shed its decorations until about four or five days into the new year.

And that’s when the melancholy sets in. At least for me.

Seeing the house and its surroundings stripped to their normal base symbolizes the end of the holiday season. Though I’m not one to get depressed during the holidays, it’s after the holidays when I arrive at what I call my “Wistful Place”.

Not just at the aforementioned house, but soon all the decorations will be coming down. The color of day will become predominantly white, then grey and then dirty-grey if there is such a term. Only a fresh coat of snow and newly formed crystal-like icicles draping from branches of the trees will make things pretty again — but that will require more snow and ice with the new snow becoming dirty grey like the snowfall before it and the ice potentially becoming dangerously black.

Once again, we’re heading for the winter of our discontent. Before the weather gets better, it will likely get much worse. Thus, we can only look forward to more bitter cold, more dirty grey and more dangerous black without a string of festive lights to brighten our paths.

That’s why I’m thankful I have the National Football League postseason to pull me through this dark period.

Just about every new season … or every new year … there seems to be a new primary beef with the already much-maligned NFL let alone with the sport in general. But professional football will remain the most popular sport in the country through the duration of most of our lifetimes in part because its postseason helps vast dispirited souls like myself get through the crucible we call January.

You don’t even have to have a horse in the race — like I do with the Chicago Bears — to be emotionally involved. For instance, the New England Patriots have conjured up so many haters that an exit short of the Super Bowl may provoke a national holiday … even one to bring out the decorations again.

Most importantly, the road to the Super Bowl — which is scheduled for Feb. 3 — will bridge slightly past the gap to one of my favorite holidays of the budding year.

Groundhog Day Eve.

That would be Feb. 1. What makes Feb. 1 … or Groundhog Day Eve so significant? It comes right after Jan. 31, which based on the cumulative average in the midwest, is the coldest day of the year. Get past that, and it should be all downhill — or uphill — from there.

The road to the Super Bowl also brings us closer to another beloved holiday on Feb. 14. And we all know what day that is.

Catchers and pitchers report to Spring Training.