Is Christmas Over Yet?

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It must have been a slow day for global hegemony. The most disturbing headline on the front page of my hometown (Manchester, NH) newspaper last Saturday had nothing to do with Boy George and the Culture of War Club in Washington. Rather, it was about high school athletics. The schoolboy football season started Friday night.

No, there was nothing about any serious football injuries, or steroids or even a coach creating a scandal by exercising his freedom of speech when talking to the press about a referee’s call — though a coach down the road in Nashua had been suspended for doing just that. League officials have written bylaws designed to protect the helmet-headed youngsters and their fans from the dangerous and potentially seditious idea that people who run things in this country might actually believe in freedom of speech. But I digress.

The headline I found depressing was this: "Fans fall back into football." No, nothing terrible in that. Just another one of those "Summer’s over, fall is here" pronouncements that the world is just chuck full of, starting around the Fourth of July. But it was two days before Labor Day and I was stubbornly refusing to believe the propaganda about the "end of summer."

For one thing, I still have the calendar on my side, which is unusual for a man my age. The calendar says summer doesn’t end until the 22nd of September. Yet every summer we must, by the end of July or the first of August, endure another invasion of the helmet heads — on TV, in the newspapers and on the radio, where the gridiron gabfest goes nonstop from early July until long after the Super Bowl is finally over. It drives me to distraction and I’m not even a football hater. I actually like the sport, but I still regard baseball, not the glorified, over-hyped and overpriced exhibition games called "preseason football," as the summer game. My rule is NFBLD — No Football Before Labor Day.

But Labor Day typically is when half the stars of your favorite NFL team are either going on or coming off something called the "injured reserve" list, having been wounded in the battles of four preseason exhibition games. That, I guess, is the real value of preseason football. It’s a full employment program for EMTs and ambulance drivers.

Now during the course of the season not yet ended (that’s summer in case you’ve lost track), I have sometimes had a sports talk show on the radio so I could catch some scores and other baseball news while I wage my lonely battle for freedom here at Fort Word Processor. And I have grown weary of the talking jocks and their helmet-head fixation. It has been football, football and more football. All about this draft pick and that free agent and every other sentence, it seemed, had "Terrell Owen" — or "TO" as he’s known to the sports cognoscenti — in it. In July and even in June, they were already talking about how "TO" will get along with his new coach in Dallas and what might happen when Dallas meets Philadelphia in "Week Three" of the NFL season.

"Week Three of the NFL season!" I groaned. We had not yet made it to baseball’s all-star break and these guys were already three weeks into the football season. Where had summer gone?

Most school districts now start "fall" classes in August, paying no heed to my frequent complaint that the sound of school bells in August is an abomination in the ears of God. Or so I told a Benedictine monk, who teaches at Saint Anselm College, where they started the fall semester a full week before Labor Day.

"Gee," I suggested to him in a friendly e-mail, "Why don’t you take your Christmas vacation before Columbus Day? That way, you can start the spring semester right after Thanksgiving and begin the summer on Valentine’s Day." I received no reply.

On the same day I saw the depressing headline about falling back into football — the Saturday before Labor Day, mind you — I received an e-mail about Christmas cards. A devout Catholic lady of my acquaintance forwarded me an e-mail suggesting that we inundate the American Civil Liberties Union headquarters in New York with Christmas cards this year — real Christmas cards that actually mention Christmas, the birth of the Savior and other things unseemly to mention when observing the holiday called "holiday" — or, when lumped together with Hanukkah and New Year’s Day, that high holy day set aside for hangovers and more football, "the holidays." The idea, I guess, is to keep the ACLU offices so swamped with mail that the lawyers won’t be able to get to the courthouses in time to file lawsuits against crèches in public parks. I don’t think it will work, but my friend thinks it’s "a great idea."

I wrote back and told her I considered it a vast improvement over her previous "great idea," which was to chop off the heads of Muslims in America — but only if she were "emperor for a day." There’s really no danger of that. Bush has the job now and the "people who matter" in this world are not going to promote anyone like this lady to anything close to the throne. For one thing, she’s an isolationist, interested only in killing people in her own country. Obviously she lacks global vision — "uplift" and breadth of mind. Clearly not emperor material.

No, I don’t think the lady is at all dangerous. She’s just another of those people who like to rush the seasons. It was not yet Labor Day and we were already talking about Christmas. Northern New England is a lot like left field in Yankee Stadium. "It gets late early" up here, as Yogi Berra said. The temperatures have already begun to dip and before long, the shopping malls and the radio airwaves will be filled with "holiday" music: "Jingle Bells," "Silver Bells," "Frosty the Snowman" and that heartwarming "holiday" classic, "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer." After several weeks, yea, even months of Rudolph, Frosty and too many "Holly, Jolly" hangovers from too many "holiday parties," the world will finally stagger to December 25th just in time to declare the "holiday" over.

Even "The 12 Days of Christmas" don’t last as long as they used to.

Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.

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