The Agony of Defeat's just a game of inches. And so is football. -Any Given Sunday

It's the rare week that our sports columnist calls in sick but I told him I had it covered.

I could sense him cringing on the other end of the line, but I assured him I had actually attended this weekend's football game and had, in fact, already planned to write about it. He remains dubious. (As well he should.)

I have had many heated exchanges since then, relating to the absolute state of fury I've been experiencing, ever since the fourth quarter.

As my friend Lee noted, somebody, "audibled a pass play on the line because he thought there were eight in the box when in reality they were just in their standard 4-3," but he insists that it was good to be IN the game.

And in response to my complaint that we should never have tried to run the clock out (and shut down our offense) with eight ETERNAL minutes to go, I received this insightful response: "the 3rd down you are referring to came with about 3:45 in the final quarter, when we needed one yard for a first down (which likely would have sealed the game - or come close). We passed, instead of running the ball."

But really, who am I kidding?

Most of my knowledge of football comes from dating players in my teens and very early 20s.

I haven't dated an athlete since then because 1. to be blunt, they don't ask; and 2. I'd never (again) let an athlete see me naked. In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to let a CPA see me naked most days.

I also don't really enjoy sporting events, because (as any former cheerleader will tell you), the view is just not the same unless you're on the sidelines.

When you can hear the breath leave their bodies on impact? Now that, my friends, is entertainment.

So, acknowledging the fact that I'm not qualified to cover last weekend's activities from an athletic perspective - I can really only judge it on its merits as a date.

First off, there's "tailgating."

OK...Turns out THAT means something entirely different than I thought it did.

For the uninitiated, it's basically a picnic in a parking lot.

Which is fine (just call it that).

Don't get me wrong, the menu in my truck was superb. It's just that I prefer to fast for at least 72 hours if I'm going to be in any situation that requires me to come within a mile of a Port-o-Potty.

But the biggest problem the game posed for me, naturally, was wardrobe.

I understood that the event was to be held outdoors, and that some walking would be involved, which would necessitate comfortable shoes.

I don't have a lot of those.

I rarely purchase footwear based on its ability to withstand mud, the elements, or an impromptu Bataan death march (should one arise). Instead, I select it on the basis of whether or not it makes me look like I have "fankles" (fat ankles, also known as the phenomenon where your legs come to an abrupt end at your feet).

I do have excellent running shoes, but since I was not planning to A. run, or B. wear sweats (though I've since discovered that "track suits" are the outfit of choice at many stadiums), I thought (misguidedly) that they'd be out of place.

The hike to the stadium was blessedly brief, followed by a moderate climb to our seats. Most of the time, I had my fellow sports fan's hand in a death grip, because I knew if we got separated and my cellphone died, I would still be there. Irreparably lost.

The problem is, he's roughly twice my size (and in perfect shape), so this was no romantic stroll in the moonlight that I'm describing.

I'd say it's more like hopping onto a skateboard and grabbing the back of a semi until you're dragged to your inevitable, yet merciful, death.

At the top of the stairs, he solicitously stopped to ask, "can I get you anything?"

To which, I could barely gasp out, "fast-acting inhaler."

I was trying to catch my breath and walk off a charley horse, but other than that, I was fine.

Then we get to our seats. If you could call them that.

They are actually numeric decals glued to an aluminum bench.

They are glued there with absolutely ZERO regard for this country's national epidemic of obesity.

The first half was, by anybody's standards, a yawn - affording me some much needed spare time to balance my checkbook; talk on the phone; and grab a few Zs.

It also gave me time to contemplate a phenomenon I vaguely remember from psych class about "identification" and how impotency goes up (so to speak - because nothing else does) in towns with losing sports teams.

Apparently, when the team wilts, so does the citizenry.

It was around this point that I became suddenly interested in a victory.

By the beginning of the second quarter, I was in abject fear that nobody was gonna be dialin' zero on the pink telephone that night.

By halftime, I was all but sobbing openly.

Against all odds, we stayed.

I prayed... I grew increasingly impatient with the flaccid offense.

Then, miraculously, we rallied.

I grew hopeful. I was on my feet, screaming at the officials, just like a real fan (with admittedly more selfish motivation).

Then we choked.

I was despondent.

Fortunately, Mr. Impressive remained remarkably... sanguine about our defeat. And I do mean remarkably.

I'm not over-confident though.

I never thought I'd say this, but. Thank GOD for basketball season!!!

I just have to see if Prada makes a blue track suit (to match the paw I plan to paint on my face).