The Christmas gimmick column is one of the most celebrated in the sportswriter's arsenal. Likewise, many a radio station and department store loudspeaker has switched over to the all Christmas format.
Can you blame them? Christmas music makes one feel warm and fuzzy and prone to purchase things.
But we're not in the Christmas season yet. We're in the Advent season, which more about waiting and light then it is running over your fellow man for discounted laptops. This might be the first Advent gimmick lead in the history of journalism.
So, let's save the 12 Days of Christmas for the actual 12 days of Christmas. In this way, winter sports teams are preparing for March Madness. Advent is four weeks, the season is a little less than four months (if one counts preseason practice). Here's an opportunity to prepare yourself as you head out to the gym, rink, pool and/or hill.
The National Federation of State High School Associations has made its annual rule tweaks, several which have already surfaced thus far.
The goaltender's crease in the high school game has been redrawn to look like that of the college and NHL game, well, as soon as they start playing NHL games.
Also, that crease is a little more visitor-friendly. The NFHS has decreed that a player may visit the crease without a whistle provided he (or she - Lake Superior State coach Jim Roque's daughter made the varsity team at Sault High this year as a freshman) does not visually or physically impede the opposing goaltender.
I'm a little concerned about this rule change if for no other reason than the NFHS release on the subject uses the word "goalkeeper" throughout. For shame.
Another difference in the high school hockey world is an ongoing emphasis on outlawing any and all hits from behind.
A hit from behind, even in open ice, will be penalized with a minor penalty and a 10-minute misconduct, while a hit from behind along the boards or into the net will be a ticket to the showers.
"Because of the attention being given to dangerous play, the committee really took a hard look at the severity of injuries caused by these hits," said Dan Schuster, NFHS staff liaison to the Ice Hockey Rules Committee.
"The reason behind the rule is more about addressing a change of culture in high school hockey, and players, coaches, officials and fans need to understand the consequences of these hits."
If this doesn't get hits from behind out of the game, I hope the next step is having players (or perhaps just the perpetrators) wear those "STOP" sign patches you see on the back of developing mites jerseys. I find them rather adorable, actually.
If there's time to throw those in the next equipment order, they can throw the patches in with the half-shields for the referees, who will be required to wear them starting in the 2013-14 season.
The rules for basketball this season are basically the same as last year, though the official scorer must now wear "a black-and-white vertically striped garment."
I will have to contact the NFHS to determine if this means Houghton volleyball coach/P.A. announcer/scorer John Christianson can fulfill this requirement in a pinstriped suit or at least a zig-zagged necktie.
In the same way that I find Advent has all sorts of liturgical charms when not overrun by Christmas claptrap, the regular season can be quite extraordinary entertainment. In hockey and girls' basketball, the fun has already begun, while the boys basketball season tips off Monday. Enjoy it, but please leave the wreath full of candles at home.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/redveale.