You look tired. And why wouldn't you? You have, for years now, worked nights, weekends and holidays: the NFL on Thanksgiving, the NBA at Christmas, baseball matinees every Easter. So I'm inviting you, and all sports fans, to take a week off. For the next seven days, don't watch sports, don't play sports, don't read about sports. This is a comprehensive blackout—to say nothing of a Brownsout, Blues-out and Redsout. You and sports, after a lifetime together, are about to take separate vacations.
It's only one week. Think of it as 30,240 consecutive 20-second timeouts, a couple of thousand five-minute majors or a 168-hour rain delay. Or rather, don't, because you're not allowed to think about sports until this time next week. Sports will be here when you get back. Pardon the Interruption will pardon the interruption.
We're not asking you to take a break from sports. We're telling you to take a break. It's for your own good. For too long now, you've put the rest of your life on hold. ThunderStix, alas, aren't your only inflatable companion. Getting frisked at ballparks should not be your primary form of human contact. As a sports fan you've worked your finger to the bone—your giant foam-rubber novelty index finger. Now you need a diversion from your diversion.
And anyway, it's the easiest week of the year to go cold turkey. The Stanley Cup and NBA Finals are over, NFL camps have yet to open, golf is between majors, and baseball is, for the moment, without meaning. Which may be why Sammy Sosa's corked bat was given the same hysterical saturation coverage once reserved for presidential assassinations. For several days, all over television, men were sawing into Sosa's bats like magicians' assistants, as you looked on in eager anticipation of... what, exactly? Seeing demons escape from Pandora's barrel? It's time we all stepped back, inhaled and got a grip.
Make sure it's not a Vardon grip. You won't be playing golf, watching golf or driving a Volkswagen Golf at any time this week. If you spill a sport drink on your sport coat in your sport utility vehicle, you'll have failed in your assignment, for you will not aspire, this week, to the sports lifestyle promoted by such products.
Sports will carry on this week, you just won't be allowed to follow them, as you've become accustomed to, on seven consecutive morning SportsCenter repeats. (Which raises a philosophical conundrum: If Linda Cohn falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear her, will she make a sound?)
Frankly, I don't think you'll be able to do it. Sports are a tougher habit to kick than smoking, drinking and gambling combined. Indeed, watching sports frequently consists of smoking, drinking and gambling combined. What we need is our own Betty Ford Center, maybe a Whitey Ford Center, for the hopelessly sports-addicted. For mark my words: Three days into detox this week, you'll literally get the DTs, as half-forgotten sports names- Dave Twardzik, Dick Tidrow, David Thirdkill—visit you in the night and inhabit your dreams.
Sports have become so stealthily pervasive they may be impossible to root out of our lives for even a week. They are now inextricably embedded in the language. If your boss wants a heads-up before you call an audible and raise the bar or move the goalposts on your next slam-dunk sales opportunity, tell him: Not this week. No, this week we'll have to improvise linguistically. Athlete's foot will for the moment be called swamp toe, and jock itch will be known as...pantsfire?
We'll figure it out. Life will require all manner of adjustments this week. If you work at Foot Locker, wear solids, plaids, polka dots—anything but stripes. You'll have to strip electrical tape across the bottom of your TV so as not to see scores tickering across the news channels. Throw away your sports page as it arrives while resisting the urge to finger-roll it into the waste-basket. We're not just biting the hand that feeds us here, we're eating the hand whole, with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. But it will be an interesting sociological experiment that may, in the end, improve the nation's mental health.
After all, think of everything you can do with your week away from sports. Call your Mom instead of the Mad Dog. Spend a day in a park that doesn't charge admission. Visit, if all else fails, a museum. (When I say "Art," you say, "Schlichter." You now have seven days to remedy that shortcoming.)