• Image about Shahin Takes Off 12-15-2006

PRETTY MUCH everyone agrees that this time of year is special. There is even the song that goes, "… something or other … whadda whadda ... It's the most wonderful time of the year."

And indeed it is. And do you know why this time of year is so special?

"Because families get together from near and far?"

Um, yeeeah, okay. Anybody else?

"Because everywhere you go, they're playing 'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town' and the malls all smell of potpourri?"

Uh, sure. Any other guesses?

"Because it's the best time of the year for football?"

Fa la la la la, bucko! Notice the four "la's"? That's so you can sing it to the tune of the Monday Night Football theme music - da da da da.

You got your NFL playoffs and your college bowl games. All those wild-card pro teams and lower-ranked college teams scratchin' and clawin' like cats and dogs in a clothes dryer. It's the most wonderful time of the year, all right. Special? Life doesn't get more special - unless, of course, you have enough potato chips and beer that you'll never have to leave the house.

Couch quarterbacks hurl festive language at the TV. Beery carolers make merry with melodious taunting. And gifts exchange hands from those who, in the spirit of the season and the Vegas betting line, give more than they receive.

But, amid all this wonderment, I have a question. Is there, for a true sports fan, any such thing as good cheer?

While we may celebrate the holiday season with goodwill toward man, is it possible to have goodwill toward men? Men, that is, who don't root for the same team that we do? More precisely, men who root against our team? Is there, in other words, any such thing as a good sport?

Earlier this year, that question was tested when close friends invited us to their house to meet another couple and, after dinner, watch a football game. The game was a rematch of the 2005 University of Texas-Ohio State game, which Texas had won. The husband we were meeting was an Ohio State graduate and a Buckeyes fan. I was rooting for the Texas Longhorns.

I was not born in Texas and did not attend UT, but I did live most of my adult life in Austin and, more importantly, married a Texan and sired a Texan. State law requires that - well, let me quote from the statute: "Any person or persons moving to the Great Republic of Texas and residing therein and marryin' and/or sirin' a Texan shall root for a Texas team in a Sporting Contest against any and all teams from outside aforementioned Republic or be subject to a penalty of not less than seven zillion listenings to the Texas fight song, which is actually 'I've Been Working on the Railroad' with different words."

But law or no law, I would have rooted against Ohio State because my alma mater is the University of Michigan. The enmity between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines is ancient, bone-deep, and tribal.