Mom got my Christmas list late again this year, but soon enough to avoid Dad's threat of a "bathroom cleaning supplies-themed Christmas," I hope.
As I was putting it together, I came to a realization: I never did get around to buying any Detroit Tigers AL Central Champions gear.
After all, postseason champions gear constitutes the ultimate impulse buy, but also a gamble: Buy the division champs shirt or double down on the ALCS? Buy the World Series gear before Game 1 or wait until the champions stuff at the parade?
The trouble is that the Tigers hung around long enough that I could transition seamlessly into the Packers' still-perfect season or the Red Wings' new campaign without getting retail fever.
After the Tigers went down in flames in Game 6, I even tried to observe a theorem I made in college after one too many Red Wing flameouts: The One-Round Rule. The One-Round Rule states that, after the elimination of the team you support, avoid getting involved in that sport's playoffs for a round. It gives the fan a chance to boil off the bile.
I was looking forward to ignoring the World Series. I told everyone it was going to be awful and that the Rangers would sweep.
Michigan Tech at Northern Michigan (Friday)
Even when Tech wasn't faring so well in the past few years, the Huskies have always brought their best game against NMU. Tech has won or tied the season series with the Wildcats in each of the last three seasons. This year, with the Huskies on the upswing, I like their chances. If they can win at Mariucci, they can win at the Berry Center.
The Verdict: Tech 3-1
Colorado College at Minnesota State
At the beginning of the year, I picked CC to finish first in the WCHA and Minnesota State to finish last. As we pull into the halfway point, I'm half right, as the Mavericks have just five points from 12 conference games and are two points adrift of Alaska Anchorage at the bottom. CC has yet to realize that potential and is in a tie for fourth. The Tigers do have two games in hand on the field, but can't afford throwing away any more points, like they did by losing at home to those very same Seawolves last Friday.
The Verdict: CC sweep 5-4, 5-2
Denver at St. Cloud State
Speaking of teams below expectations, St. Cloud State is in ninth at 4-5-3 in league play. With two games in hand, the Other Huskies can rise as high as fourth this weekend (with help), but no one wants to start the second half playing from behind. Denver is in a similar situation - tied with Tech for sixth now, but with an option to get as high as a tie for third with four points. Denver's talent edge combined with its road mediocrity combine to ensure no one gets what they want.
The Verdict: DU 4-3 Friday, SCSU 5-2 Saturday
Alabama-Huntsville at Bemidji State
Back in the days of the old College Hockey America league, this was a heated conference matchup. Now, it's hopefully not a chance for the Beavers to wish farewell to their struggling brethren. UAH's brief resurgence against Nebraska-Omaha ended with a thud against Minnesota State in a 9-1 Saturday beating. Life doesn't get much easier for the Chargers against a better Bemidji team.
The Verdict: BSU sweeps 6-3, 4-2
Last week: 5-6-1
For the season: 58-45-13 (55.6 percent)
I think I made it two or three games before getting embroiled in what is likely to be the best World Series of my lifetime (Well, at least until the Tigers win one.)
From a neutral fan's perspective, consider the absurdity of what took place in October: The Cardinals were down to the last strike of the season, saved themselves, gave up a home run in extra innings to storybook hero Josh Hamilton, went down to their last strike again, and won on a walk-off home run by a guy who grew up in the St. Louis area.
If that had happened to the Red Sox, New England may have just huddled in a corner and wept for the winter.
As the "hot stove league" began, even the champions were forced to suffer. Albert Pujols swings with the Angels - no, he's not dead, just on the West Coast. As a fan of an American League team, I'm not exactly thrilled about the move.
At least he didn't end up with the Miami Marlins, though it appears everyone else did.
Ryan Braun has tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. No one seems to know if it was "the clear" or "the bratwurst," but I'll tell you what: I'm not getting the secret stadium sauce at Miller Park anymore.
The Tigers haven't done much yet, other than help Octavio Dotel in his quest to play for every Major League team at least once, but I'm sure by the end of January, Jose Valverde will have done something crazy.
Normally, it takes me a few months to miss baseball season. This year, MLB Network was airing old World Series videos over Thanksgiving weekend and I got a twinge. Then I saw an "inning" of Ken Burns' "Baseball" over the weekend and confirmed it.
I've transitioned into round-the-calendar baseball obsession. May God have mercy on my soul, for it's a long way to April 5.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @redveale. For this week's picks, check out mininggazette.com.