The cashmere fields of fall have given way to the icy pavements of midwinter. The NFL wild-card games begin this week, and forecasters are predicting a polar vortex and possibly the end of the world.
That seems silly, because the end of the world will come only if the Patriots get knocked out early — every movie needs a villain — or if the Raiders move back to Los Angeles.
My Dear John note to the city of Oakland: Keep your Raiders and their frightening fans. We don't want them. The second they arrive, property values will plunge, mayhem will ensue, birth rates will drop and all the significant indices of a good life will begin to slide. Pastors will preach tolerance, but even tolerance requires common sense.
Oakland, please keep your Raiders. If they were so wonderful, you would build them a stadium in Oakland. Fact is, their whole outcast persona is wearing thin.
Please, Raiders, stay away from L.A. Most of us aren't desperate for an NFL team in any case, but we certainly don't want to stoop to having you around. The Rams are the No. 1 preference, with the Chargers a distant second.
Honestly, few fans I talk to care deeply about having the NFL back at all. We're the only city with two major college teams in close proximity. College teams never abandon you. Loyalties span generations, and aren't compromised by greedy whack jobs who flee when they don't get their way (Georgia Frontiere, Robert Irsay).
We also are fortunate to have two pro baseball teams, two pro hockey teams and 1 1/2 NBA teams. And on any given Sunday, we can hike, ski, surf, golf, hang glide, troll for tacos, fish for tuna, read a book, attend the Oscars, take a nap — all of which would be preferable to spending time at a Raiders game.
So stay away, Raiders. We're done with you.
Kirk Herbstreit won't shut up.
Maybe it was the excitement of the semifinal game. Maybe it was too much pregame coffee. But Herbstreit would not shut up during the Alabama-Michigan State game on Dec. 31. He chattered on and on about substitutions and defensive alignments, cover twos, cover fours, barely pausing to breathe. When he ran out of something to say, Herbstreit kept talking anyway.
Lots of football fans worship "Herbie." Indeed, he has a passion for and knowledge of the game. But he needs a producer to caution him that less is more; to let the visuals tell the story; and to, once in a while, just shut up.
My top 10 announcers for the 2015-16 football season, pro and college, play-by-play and color analysts:
1. Al Michaels
2. Cris Collinsworth
3. Brad Nessler
4. Jon Gruden
5. Brent Musburger
6. Sean McDonough
7. Verne Lundquist
8. Todd Blackledge
9. Gary Danielson
10. Joe Buck
1. Phil Simms
2. Phil Simms
3. Phil Simms
4. Phil Simms
5. Phil Simms
6. Phil Simms
7. Phil Simms
8. Phil Simms
9. Phil Simms
10. Kirk Herbstreit
Finally, America has gone from "everybody gets a trophy" to "everyone gets a bowl game." In the last few weeks, college football has featured too many half-good teams playing to half-full stadiums.
I don't ever want to look back and think: "I wish I had done more for people." So here's my latest college bowl playoff plan:
• At the end of the regular season, the 20 top-ranked teams make the playoffs.
• The top four receive byes.
• Round 1: The other 16 teams play.
• Round 2: Eight teams play.
• Round 3: The Round 2 winners play the original four bye teams, in seeded regionals.
• Round 4: Semifinals feature four remaining teams.
• Week 5: College football championship.
That's 19 bowl games compared to the current 41. Not every one needs a bowl game. Not everyone needs a trophy.
Sometimes less is more.