The best thing about the Ohio State-Michigan game is the early start. If you were going to plan your day - and the night before - around it, your daily planner might look like this:
9 p.m. - Watch "Friday Night Lights." Or, better yet, actually get out and attend a high school playoff game.
11 p.m. - Last call.Â Not for everyone, just for me. As a punishment to myself for bagging it early (which everyone else around the table doesn`t know about yet),Â I buy the round.Â Say it loud, say it clear. "Round`s on me."
11:30 p.m. - I am so outta there. Say it loud, say it clear. Say, "I`m outta here. Big game tomorrow. Gotta get my rest." Everyone will mockÂ me - and then they`llÂ remember that I bought the last round.Â The hisses will die and they`ll giveÂ me a hearty send-off. Maybe.Â And if they don`t, (bleep) `em.
Midnight - TuckÂ my own self in bed.Â Leave scarlet and gray night-light on.Â Will help ward off little wolverines that want to attackÂ my toes in the middle of the night when the covers ride up overÂ my feet.
12:10 a.m. - Say prayer to St. Woody, whose photo is Scotch-taped just above the headboard. (Who says Buckeye fans don`t have class?) Also -- jiggle the head onÂ my Archie Griffin Bobblehead doll onÂ the nightstand.
12:30 a.m. - Count sheep. Keep counting until every last one (each wearing an adorable scarlet and gray pullover) is over the fence and there is nary a wolverine, with teeth bared, inÂ my mind`s eye.
10 a.m. - The Howard (Hopalong) Cassady alarm clock goes off. Turn off alarm and climb into cute-as-all-get-out scarlet and gray slippers.
10:30 a.m. - Fix he-man breakfast.Â Gotta stoke up for the The Game. (When a little voice inÂ my head says, "Real he-men don`t wear scarlet and gray slippers,"Â I reply, "some do" and proceed to slather big fat strips of Canadian bacon and sausage into a heavy iron skillet.)
11 a.m. â€“ Eat`um heap`um big breakfast. Make it a three-egg omelet with cheese and red and green peppers -- a rasher of sausage and bacon -- side of pancakes with syrupÂ -- toast --piping hot black coffee.
11:30 a.m. - Go outside for a roll in the hay, er -- autumn leaves. Have a friend stashed nearby that you can toss a football around with.Â If the friend slept over, play some touch-tackle in a big pile of gold and rust leaves with her. Or him. Whatever.
12:15 p.m. - Into the house.Â Hit the sofa.Â Turn on flat screen.
12:20 p.m. - Watch game.
1:14 p.m. - Try, with allÂ my might, not to hum the really great Michigan fight song when the Wolverines score.Â Admit it:Â It`s even cooler than that "Hang on, Sloopy" thing. IfÂ I can`t get the Michigan song out ofÂ my head, try singing "The wheels of the bus go `round and `round --"
3:30 p.m. - Game`s over.Â Hit the leaves again.Â Throw the football around.
3:42 p.m. - Slap the palm ofÂ my hand very hard upsideÂ my forehead and exclaim, "Ohmygosh.Â I blew it.Â Widener was playing Case Western Reserve today.Â And it was at Case!Â And here I was sitting indoors watching Ohio State-Michigan!"
3:44 p.m. - Sit right down in the leaves and have myself a good cry.
3:46 p.m. - FeelÂ better now.Â Throw the ball around some more until the next game starts on the tube.Â (Recommended:Â LSU at Mississippi.)
E - BONDS, BASEBALL
The Barry Bonds saga is ending precisely the way we expected it would. As Big Grasshopper said to Little Grasshopper, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step."
And so today baseball begins to heal and cleanse itself after years of playing ostrich to the steroids problem.
Barry Bonds did this to himself.Â But the real shame is the pass Bud Selig and theÂ players association gave him - and to McGwire and Sosa and the rest - all those years because the home run craze fattened all their coffers.
The worst is still to come. Will come when the Mitchell Report becomes public - inevitably naming some names of major league ballplayers we won`t like to read.
As much as fans are applauding the indictment of the arrogant fathead that is Barry Bonds, the Mitchell Report will likely be met with a "kill the messenger" attitude.Â Having Bonds - always an easy target - as a villain is one thing, naming some of our favorite players is a whole other kettle of fish.
Mostly, fans just want to rush past this whole steroid thing and get on with the sport of baseball.Â But first, we`re going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming through some muck.
BASEBALL, PART II
While our heads were turned toward the diamond this season, the commissioner of the game and guardian of our national pastime was scheduling a series of games on Japanese soil for the 2008 season. Not exhibition games, mind you, but regular-season games.
Baseball - the game that is as American as apple pie, hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jacks - will actually open the season in Japan in the week prior to the customary Opening Day, which is Monday, March 30.
Look, the Land of the Rising Sun is a swell place and all.Â For exhibition games! In November! But can`t we keep our national pastime on good old U.S. of A. turfÂ for the games that count, for cryin` out loud?
To me, this "globalization" quest of Bud Selig`s is every bit as attractive as putting franchises in, well -- Tampa and Miami and Colorado. Just plain dumb-headed is what it is.
When it comes to baseball, count me as a red-blooded isolationist. Baseball belongs in the Americas - and that includes Latin America and Canada, in case anybody wants to know.
While I`m at it, let me throw another high, hard one at you:
When Selig finally leaves his commissioner pedestal and totters off to a Used Car lot in Milwaukee,Â MLB could do worse than name George W. Bush (yes, him!) as its next czar.
I always felt that Bush - a baseball traditionalist - Â had right-headed thoughts on the game of baseball back when he owned the Rangers.
The poor guy just wound up in a job that was wa-a-a-ay over his head, is all. And that`s on us more than it`s on him.
* On the day the Bonds` indictment broke -- and the day A-Rod came back to the Yankees with his tail between his legs (but still wagging cuz of the $270 million and all) -- the Derek Jeter story got overshadowed.
Seems the feds are claiming Jeter owes a cool $10 million or so in back taxes because, they say, he really does live in New York most of the time - and not in Tampa, which Jeter says is his residence.
"Oh, he lives here, all right. We see him coming and going all the time!" a woman in Trump Towers said, ratting out the Yankee icon.
It is the first taint on the gilded image that Jeter enjoys wherever he goes. There has been no suggestion of criminal wrongdoing, however.
The winners: Ohio State, Widener, the Ravens.
Contact Doug Clarke at email@example.com.