Will holiday rush end fall fun?

This is the calm before the storm, in more ways than one. There are so many things clamoring for our attention, so many issues to be faced or ignored, as our fancy strikes us.

Mark Richt, for instance, erstwhile head coach of our state's flagship university, who was as recently as four weeks ago being chided in print and on blogs from Rabun Gap to Tybee Light for being too soft and too calm and too predictable is now being chastised for letting his dogs out, in a manner of speaking, and unleashing a red - or perhaps that should be black - tidal wave of (gasp) fun in dear old Athens town.

Yes, I said fun. Richt's Georgia team is being allowed to have fun - running and gunning and dancing and celebrating and having a high old time, while detractors are waiting in the wings, eager to throw cold water on their new found frivolity, if they could only find someone who cared.

And in some twisted and convoluted way, South Carolina's evil coach-formerly-known-as-genius has popped off enough to warrant being challenged to a fist-fight by Bulldog Legend St. Herschel Walker. Speaking of which, if we ever want to even up the national debt or raise enough money to finally cure cancer, we should just persuade Spurrier to actually spar a few rounds with Herschel. They could easily fill Sanford Stadium at a hundred bucks a ticket and the pay-per-view market would extend across the entire Southeast.

Meanwhile, armchair fans from the Institute on North Avenue are clamoring for their coach's scalp - and these are the same folks who would have you believe that their athletes all pass calculus and made superior scores on their college entrance exams and that collegiate sports is about more than winning and losing.

And when we manage to tear ourselves away from the wonderful world of college football, which has always been akin to religion in the South, we are faced with the prospects of another lengthy O.J. trial and the indictment of Barry (Asterisk) Bonds for perjury.

No wonder so many of us turn to the sports page first every morning. It is so delectable - and more so than ever this autumn. But while we have been paying such close attention to blackouts and redouts and end zone celebrations, the thermometer has dropped below freezing, the leaves have changed colors and begun to cover our parched lawns and in five short days the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade will be streaming into living rooms all across this great land of ours and beyond.

I know that it is only the middle of the month and I am aware that some of you haven't put away your beach chairs yet, but ready or not - it's Turkey Time.

Be honest now. Raise your hand if the holiday slipped up on you.

Some of you aren't being honest. I know a lot more people thought the Great American Holiday was still two weeks away. In fact, I got into a rather heated disagreement with a lady last week who was absolutely convinced that Thanksgiving was always celebrated on the last Thursday of November. This year that would be the 29th, I believe.

There was a time when that particular lady, who was anything but lady-like during our discussion, would have been correct. But FDR decided in 1939 that an extra day of shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas might boost the sagging economy and moved it up to the fourth Thursday in November, where it has been ever since.

So here we are. Thursday, Nov. 22, is the fourth Thursday - and the earliest Thanksgiving can be, unless Al Gore convinces someone to change the calendar to somehow slow down the effect of global warming.

But here's the big question, and the reason we are in the calm before the storm. With Thanksgiving a week early, do we extend the Christmas season an extra week or do we hold off a few days before hauling out the candles and greenery and icicle light?

Oh, I know you ladies are going shopping next Friday. I never doubted that for a moment. But what about the rest of the holiday madness? Do the radio stations start in with "Holly Jolly Christmas" now or wait a week? Do I risk life and limb to hang the wreaths from my upper story windows next Friday or can I wait a week? Can I start eating chocolate drops and party mix as soon as the last note of "O Holy Night" is sung at Lenox Square or do I have to wait until Tech's invitation to the Nut Bowl and Chan Gailey's dismissal is official?

See what a quandary this early holiday creates? I wonder if FDR realized what he was doing back in '39.

Well, there's one thing about the early beginning to the holiday season. There are no excuses for not getting those Christmas cards in the mail on time. In fact, I have already signed all of mine. I did it last year during the week after Christmas. Maybe this year I will actually address them and put them in the mail.

Have fun shopping for your turkey and this time next week, when you are up to your elbows in Christmas preparations, don't say I didn't warn you.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.