Ah. Feel the adrenaline rush.
It's the time of year for competition in the rawest form.
It's the ultimate test of athleticism, commitment, drive, will and ego.
It's not the pressure-packed final weeks of the NFL's playoff chase, nor is it the back-room drama of baseball meeting's hot-stove maneuvering. And it sure isn't the ruthless moves at the yearly Disney-on-ice show.
It's Christmas shopping.
When else can you cross-check to get the perfect cheese straightener, throw a crack-back block to get the last hokey-pokey Elmo, or make an inside move to get that Eminem and Yanni CD: "A collection of angry rap and a c-word that rhymes with that."
It's also a chance to practice the old down-and-out moves around checkouts and for parking spaces.
But the key to all of this is to make a list ahead of time. Like this:
- North Hagerstown's football team - 25 percent off coupons. If the Hubs had only played a 36-minute game at South Carroll, they would have had a chance at a state title. It's unfortunate that North dominated 47 out of 48 quarters it played, only to have Cinderella lose her slipper in a four-minute stretch of the Class 2A West region final.
- Ralph Friedgen - A new pocket organizer. If you haven't noticed, the Maryland football coach has spent three years with a definite plan on how to get the Terrapins into a bowl game. It's worked every year.
- Scott McBrien - A tape recorder. For the third time, Maryland's quarterback has had to answer questions about how it feels to play against West Virginia, the school he transferred from. The first time was an event, the last two don't mean anything. And to his credit, he has graciously answered those questions over and over.
- The Tom Balistrere family - Clear vision and a virtual scrapbook. Last week's loss of Balistrere cost area athletics one of the pillars of the community. He had a rare gift for fielding successful teams while teaching lessons in life. If everyone can step back and watch, his memory will live forever because of the lessons he taught to the athletes that he coached.
- Steve Spurrier - Ammunition. The Ol' Ballcoach is painfully realizing it takes two things to win in the NFL: A running game and defense. He has neither. His Fun 'N' Gun offense is shooting blanks, as proven Sunday in the shutout loss to Dallas. This can easily be traded in for a U-Haul certificate.
- Brian Billick - A zebra gun, what with his recent run-ins with NFL officials on replay challenges which have constantly gone against him. If he chooses to, he can return this gift for a red-flag dispenser.
- Gary Williams - A breakfast nook. For him, it's like eating in bed when Gilchrist passes the biscuit for some Strawberry jam.
- USC's football team - Computer chips. It's a travesty the Trojans are not in the national title game - at least in place of Oklahoma. If they decide, they may select a declaration of independence from the PAC(-it-in) 10. If it wasn't for their weak conference schedule, they'd probably be in that championship game.
- ESPN announcer Stuart Scott - A "Boo-yah!" constrictor. Self-explanatory.
- Nick Adenhart - A clear blueprint, a neck wrench and good mechanics. He's my version of the Olsen twins. He's grown up before my eyes. Hopefully, now that baseball's becoming more of a business than a game, he'll have a clear plan and a good head tightly placed upon his shoulders.
- Notre Dame football - Dome polish. The Irish need to buff things out after getting paid all that money by NBC for lackluster play.
- Joe Paterno - A stopwatch. Penn State's legendary football coach needs a way to stop time in its tracks. The athletes of the 21st century seemed to have outgrown his 20th-century tactics.
- And, as usual, to all the readers of The Herald-Mail, may the holidays be joyous and prosperous and your Christmas shopping have the thrills of victory before you suffer the agony of the feet.
Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org