The new year and football have more in common than you might think.
It's a brief revelry and a long meditation, New Year's is. It is a time for celebration, and a time as well for reflection. And so it is that during these tender young days of this latest new year, a person looks back and forward at the same time, ruminating on the days just
past and anticipating those ahead, and can't help but wonder, Why does it take so long to play the Super Bowl?

There've been four weeks of preseason, 16 weeks of regular season, and four weeks of playoffs. It's not like the players still need to learn any of the fine points of the game, such as the proper way to shimmy one's shoulders during a celebratory end zone dance or the crucial details of sneaking behind one's coach to drench him in Gatorade. They've got all that down cold by now.

I'll acknowledge that a few of the players remain a little fuzzy about some of the game's particulars, such as when to use which meaningless cliché in press interviews. A player, for example, might slip and say, "If we put points on the board, I think we'll probably do OK," when he really meant to intone, "If we can stop 'em, I think we'll probably put ourselves in a position to win." But fixing such slips is not something that can be taught, not in two weeks, not in two years. They're mental lapses. Just part of the game.

So what's up with the wait?

Cynics will argue that it's all about money, that the NFL uses the extra time to wring every possible nickel from advertisers and merchandisers. Oh, come on now. Professional sports?

I think the NFL has something more altruistic in mind. Hype.

I mean that in its most complimentary sense.

What do people have to look forward to this time of year? Nothing, that's what.