On Thanksgiving, Americans fall asleep on their couches after succumbing to two of nature's most powerful sedatives: Tryptophan and the Detroit Lions. This combination of gluttony and monotony demands a new word -- monuttony? -- to describe the state of a nation narcotized by food and football.
If you've seen yourself in the mirror on any given weekend, you know that most sports are narcotizing -- from the Greek word narco, or "stupor-inducing." Yes, sports are very often very boring. Which is good and necessary: If games were one long highlight, we wouldn't have any highlights at all.
It's been said that the Kentucky Derby -- or David Ortiz's home run trot -- is the most exciting two minutes in sports. But what are the least exciting moments in sports? (Besides this column, Dad.) Let's list them in reverse order of excruciating tedium, building to the dullest of all possible finales:
10. The conference on the mound. This would be interesting if it were an actual conference, and the players wore nametags on lanyards and carried matching tote bags and broke for lunch at Applebee's. But they don't. Just because they're on a summit doesn't make it a summit conference.
9. The play is under review. If you long to see a befuddled man stand under a hood for half an hour, watch me try to change a spark plug. What makes the NFL "challenge" truly stupefying is the lawyerly language, which requires "indisputable video evidence" to overturn, so that the NFL has a higher legal standard than that of the U.S. justice system. (This would be the most boring moment in sports if not for its saving grace: The challenge flag itself, which coaches frantically rip from sock-holsters, shirt pockets and waistbands, as if the flag is a pair of tearaway boxers worn specifically for that purpose.)
8. The second quarter. The second quarter of what, you ask? The second quarter of everything. The first quarter is exciting: You've just arrived, adrenalized, and anything can happen. In the third quarter, you've returned to your seat, refreshed and relieved. In the fourth quarter, the game is either on the line or so far out of reach that you're allowed to leave. But the second quarter? The second quarter is, in every single instance, a small death.
7. Icing. In any other context icing is a great and exciting word: The proverbial icing on the cake, for instance, is a bonus -- a wonderful thing on top of another wonderful thing. But in hockey, icing merely results in the referee's raising his right hand, as if swearing an oath to the deity of downtime.
6. The throw to first. Baseball consists of a million threads of dullness, on a loom of ennui, woven into a tapestry of tedium. But its most boring moment is surely the pro forma throw to first to hold the runner on base. It is significantly more boring than its nearest contender, the intentional walk, which at least requires the catcher to hold his left arm out and keep it there, in an act of utter futility, as if trying to hail a cab at rush hour.
5. The short corner kick. This one is particularly insidious, because it turns a moment of potential excitement, the corner kick, into a moment of pointless -- and always goal-less -- frustration. Much of soccer is delayed (and often denied) gratification. But the short corner takes this notion to new depths.
4. The Favre ticker. When the stand-alone header FAVRE appears on the ESPN ticker, I know that whatever follows is going to drive me to existential despair. When my wife finds me watching Premier League soccer on Saturdays, she says, she feels a little piece of her soul die. That's the way I feel when I see any and all Favre-related news appear on the ticker. You might think the FAVRE ticker -- along with the quarterback himself -- will be phased out by next season, but I'm skeptical, and fear that Favre will continue to have direct access to the ticker from his Hattiesburg home.
3. February. The shortest month is of course the longest month, and moving the Super Bowl to February only makes it worse somehow -- a patronizing attempt to "cheer up" a month determined to be depressed. Some things are so exciting they become boring over time. (Witness the NBA Dunk Contest, held every February.) Some things are so boring they become exciting over time. (I give you the press conferences of Bill Belichick, practiced studies in non-disclosure that rise to the level of performance art.) But February is in neither of these categories. February is just so boring that it's boring.
2. The drip torture of a basketball game's closing minutes. If this nearly finished column were a basketball game, I would deny you the final paragraph for the next 10 minutes until I'd unnecessarily spent all my timeouts. My spirit briefly flees my body every time a coach calls time with 17 seconds left, and his team down 8, in the hope of drawing up a nine-point play. Still, it's comforting to know that if the world were to end today, Larry Brown would call timeout, buying humanity another 110 seconds.
1. And the most boring moment in sports is: As you patiently wait for the kicker to this column -- some kind of big finish to send you on your way -- I'm going to deny you that pleasure, let the clock run out and knock off for the day as I simply -- and anti-climactically -- take a knee.
Steve Rushin is the author of The Pint Man, a novel. Purchase ithere. Also check out steverushin.com.