By Chad Robert Snyder

Pilot staff writer

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm feeling the cold for the first time this year.

In previous weeks, we got a moment or two of chilly dampness, but only of the sort that inspires me to throw on a sweatshirt.

Today makes me want to drape myself in several animal pelts.

Another glorious late summer/early fall, with all its soft and fragrant pleasantness, gone the way of the Dodo. Oh, well.

But while I may be sitting around right about now, commiserating the loss, my mind is also bringing back pictures of past holiday seasons, rife with goodwill, good friends, good food, and, wouldn't you know it, good sports.

Ah, it's a blessed season.

In my family, sports and holidays go together like, well, candied fruit, nuts and cake. Or, let me modify that, turkey and stuffing. They're actually good together.

Throughout the fall and winter, we'll gather and share a sacred moment or two heckling, Monday-morning quarterbacking and second-guessing every decision made in the arena of sport.

It's a profound bounding experience. All the shouting and ranting and criticizing adds up to a family utopia, a place and time where all differences are tossed aside, and everyone, even if just for a moment, can agree on the fact that they know more than any given coach or athlete and that, moreover, given the chance, they'd do whatever it is better.

And maybe it's just me, but doesn't our collective expertise also increase during the holiday season? If asked any other time of the year, I doubt any of us would know so much or be able to bestow so much wisdom on the world of sporting at large, such as what play they should have called, or when to use that timeout. It's like the crackling fire and finger foods bring out our inner Nostradamuses, and he's as unquestionable as that feeling in your stomach when it's decided upon that you're up to do dishes.

I think, too, that family discourse is elevated year-round by these moment of unrestrained catharsis. Say you encounter a situation next June, when a sticky political issue comes up between you and a normally loving member of the family. Refer back to that Ducks game. Although both parties had different four-letter-word-laden andquot;suggestionsandquot; for Mike Bellotti, you both wanted the same team to win, right? Of course you did.

One last item that's important to note: Don't let any game or match go by without at least a smidgen of quality assessment. Nothing dampens the season more than someone failing to put in 2 cents.

Now, you may ask, what if I don't know anything about the sport? Fear not. Focus on the rudiments that are obvious. In curling, for example, the participants are sliding an object over ice toward a target, so concentrate on the elements you understand. In this particular case I'd suggest something along the lines of andquot;push it harder, you ignoramusandquot; or, if it appears to be headed long, the ever-popular sarcastic quip, andquot;Nice shot.andquot;

Editor's note: When attending games live, you may want to curtail your outbursts and stick to under-your-breath mutterings.