Each Thursday, Art Thiel checks out the weekend sports scene and offers more casual sports fans some observations that can get them in and out of conversations without anyone catching on to your, ahem, casualness.
Whether at the water cooler, bus, lunchroom, frat kegger or cocktail party, you can drop in a riposte, bon mot or bit o’ wit to start a conversational conflagration, or put one out. Then walk away.
Void vs. family (Households across America, 24 hours) — Read the crawl across the bottom of whatever screen you’re using: It’s Christmas! Put down the screen, and walk away. Then hug someone.
This day is also known as the dreariest day of the sporting calendar. Aside from the inevitable, insufferable Lakers game on TV — or an even more insufferable Cowboys game — there is nothing much going on in sports, certainly nothing locally. Into this once-a-year desert of vicarious vitality is thrust some people, whom you may or may not know, in your abode or another’s. They are called relatives.
The custom calls for politeness, but there are ways to cut short the endless treacle from Aunt Astringent about her bunion surgery, which is impeding your ability to get to ESPN Classic’s replay of a 1969 Russell-Chamberlain match.
Simply extend your hand as if you cared, and say, “My hand infection is mostly healed too. What was your name again?”
Seahawks football — at Tampa Bay, 1:15 p.m. (Ch. 13): As Foghorn Leghorn once put it so eloquently, “This is the most unheard of thing I’ve ever heard of.” Follow closely:
At 6-8, the Seahawks not only are in the tepid hunt for the title of champions of the NFC West (Motto: “The World’s Least Interesting Men”), they can lose against the 8-6 Bucs and still be in it, as long as division rival San Francisco (5-9) loses in St. Louis to the 6-8 Rams (10 a.m. kickoff).
If St. Louis wins, it eliminates the 49ers and renders the Seahawks-Bucs outcome moot, because the Rams play their final game in Seattle Jan. 2, where a Seahawks win will make the Seahawks, at worst, 7-9 — same as the Rams. The Seahawks would win the title on the tiebreaker of better division record.
That means, by kickoff in Tampa (Motto: “All Nude Strip Clubs and the Rest Are Old People”), the Seahawks will know if SF lost, making the outcome of the Bucs’ game irrelevant. At which point, they could decide to play the entire game, no matter what, with Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback, which is like handing a fork to a toddler near a light socket. Or they could decide to play the entire game with Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback, which is like handing a fork to a toddler near a light socket. Or both could play, which would set off four alarms downtown.
So unless you enjoy the perverse, there is a way out. Knowing the game is likely immaterial, and knowing you need mad make-up points after verbally dunking on Aunt Astringent, you go to the make-up playbook night by telling your spouse, “Honey, let’s go to Wal-Mart to exchange those blue-tarp pajamas from Uncle Torvald.
“There’s always another football game.”