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Will somebody please wake me up before it's over?

January 05, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

Forty years from now, I'll be sitting in the Home and some young orderly will come up and say, "Hey pops, bet you saw the great 2001 Game 7 between the Yankees and Diamondbacks."

And I'll say, "I saw the first half of it."

And he'll say, "But I bet you remember the 'Monday Night Miracle' when the Jets came back from 30-7 in the fourth quarter against the Dolphins."

And I'll say, "I saw the start of it."

And he'll say, "But surely you, a West Virginia University grad, saw the 2006 Sugar Bowl, where ..."

And I'll have to cut him off and say, "Please bring me my strained carrots."

It's miserable being an East Coast sports fan. If the game starts at 7:30 p.m., I have a chance; 8 p.m., an outside chance. If it starts at 9 p.m., I also have a chance - of making it to halftime. Which is what happened in the West Virginia-Georgia game. I couldn't even stay up to see my own team win its biggest bowl game ever. Pathetic.

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But I was up bright and early to see the 6 a.m. SportsCenter highlights. I can't even enjoy the once great pleasure of sleeping in on weekends anymore. Even more pathetic.

I timidly mentioned this phenomenon to a couple of like-aged friends, fearing I was opening myself up to ridicule and abuse. Indeed, they were somewhat amazed.

"You make it up to 10:30? I can't make it past 9:30."

So all you guys in your 20s for whom it's cake to stay up to midnight and beyond, let me wag my wrinkled finger in your face and say, "It will happen to yooouuu."

Now, some may point to my eating habits. I take care to eat the best things at the best time of day - a half-gallon of ice cream right before bed. Well, actually it's 1.75 quarts, thank you very much corporate downsizing. My friend, Bob, theorized over the weekend that this could be my problem, and what I am mistaking for sleep is actually more of a sugar-induced coma.

So, as an experiment, I shunned the sweetened dairy product on New Year's Eve in an attempt to stay up until midnight. Didn't work. Something dropped all right, but it wasn't the ball.

This might have been the first time since age 6 when I wasn't awake to see in the new year. In the end, I didn't even try. It didn't seem as much a new year and a new beginning as it did just one more in an endless chain of strokes of midnight. Midnight on Dec. 31 isn't that much different from midnight on Aug. 12.

I just can't do "eves" anymore. If the Rapture happens in Pacific Time, I might flat sleep through it. Which, come to think of it, in my circumstance, might not necessarily be a bad thing.

Even the Party Animal in High Heels was out. And this, after making a solid determination that she simply had to see "what Dick Clark looks like after his stroke."

But she made the mistake of watching one of those dumb local Washington, D.C., stations where they try to cook up interesting news where there isn't any ("It LOOKS like ordinary bathroom tissue. But it can KILL you! Details at 11!") and that was all for her. She was dead asleep in 10 minutes.

She's a good bit younger and is always on me about my age, like I can do something about it, so it was with no small degree of smugness that I outlasted her.

And it's only my opinion, but I believe that youth is slipping when you stay awake for the express reason of seeing what one of your cultural icons looks like after a stroke.

After some rough calculations, I believe that your nighttime, waking hours erode at the rate of four minutes a year. If you are currently 25 and stay up until midnight, when you hit 45 you will be lucky to make 10:30.

In my case, that means by the time I retire, I'll be retiring at 9. Forget the first half, I won't be able to see the first quarter. Although if I keep gaining time at the other end, I might wake up in time to see the finish.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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