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Late-Night Football

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 3, 2006

As should be evident from the posts just before this one, I returned to work in earnest on Monday. In addition to the things I wrote about, I also watched several episodes of the new season of ''The Shield,'' in anticipation of a press-conference call about the show today. (The series begins its new season on Jan. 10. I've seen four episodes and they're good.) I spent some time in the office, which had a weekend-like emptiness, since many people were taking the holiday; I was trying to clear some of the piles on my desk and gathered mail and videos to organize at home.

Plus I was trying to watch a bunch of football. Especially frustrating was the Fiesta Bowl, with its late-afternoon start pushed later by an overlong pregame show. I managed to watch both teams' initial touchdowns and even made a few notes. (Brent Musburger looked prescient when, after Notre Dame's first score, he assured viewers that the Buckeyes ''are going to move the ball'' -- which they did. He was perhaps less wise when, after Ohio State tied the game, he urged people to ''get out the adding machines.'' Three other bowl games on Monday had more scoring than the Fiesta.)

Football-watching had to take a hiatus, though, since we had a meeting at our son's school in the early evening, so we were on the road, catching pieces on the radio. My wife even offered to eat our fast-food meal in the car so we could keep listening, but that felt counterproductive on a damp and somewhat chilly night.

Of course, we weren't the only ones trying to keep track of the game. When we got to the school, some of the staff had a TV on in the commons; Ohio State was up 14-7 at the time, and I got a glimpse of the score making it 21-7. The meeting lasted an hour, I got another peek at the game (where Ohio State still had a commanding lead) and was home in time to see the finish.

Except that wasn't the end of football. We caught the beginning of the Sugar Bowl, seeing West Virginia go to a big early lead. Then my watching was squeezed around an episode of ''Scrubs'' (see below) and ''The Shield.'' But I found myself pausing ''The Shield'' and going back to football with increasing frequency as Georgia kept making a game of it, whittling the Mountaineers' lead down again and again. Once I was done with ''The Shield,'' I stuck with football through West Virginia's faked punt, which finally sealed the victory.

As I've said before, I'll watch teams I don't care much about if a game is good, and in the case of the Sugar Bowl, I also had a rooting interest in West Virginia (thanks to family ties to a lot of W.Va. fans). And I'm now even more interested in what Penn State will do tonight. I know a lot of people had longed for a West Virginia-Penn State matchup in a bowl -- well, a lot of people other than the geniuses who pick the teams for the bowls -- and West Virginia certainly demonstrated it was ready for a big show.

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