For 43 percent of American adults - the ones who describe themselves as loyal NFL fans - this might be the most painful weekend of the year. They're oddly disconcerted and sometimes break into cold sweats while palming the remote control.
It's little wonder why. For 25 straight weeks the NFL has been feeding their addiction, beginning with the oddly named American Bowl Aug. 6 in Japan (Atlanta 27, Indianapolis 21, for those who might have forgotten).
Summer turned into fall and then became winter. The seasons changed, but there was always one constant. Every Sunday, you could count on the NFL for a quick fix.
Those glorious days are over. The Super Bowl looms, and, for one weekend, television sets are silent across our great land.
So why does the NFL insist on adding an extra week before the big game? Turns out there are plenty of good reasons, some of which you may not have thought about before.
Among them, it gives:
¢ Matt Hasselbeck and Terry Bradshaw extra time to make a commercial and fully capitalize on their follicly challenged heads. The two gave bald men across America a boost, showing you don't need hair to succeed, when they gleefully rubbed their shiny heads together after Seattle's win over Carolina
¢ The NFL additional time to find and remove all the Matt Millens hanging in effigy at Ford Field.
¢ Jerome Bettis another week to savor what may be the last game of his career. Bettis has the rare chance to do what few athletes can - go out on top in the biggest game he ever has been in. That didn't look so promising only a few weeks ago when his untimely fumble against Indianapolis nearly ended his career prematurely.
¢ Indianapolis Colts fans a chance to unload the hotel rooms they booked a few months ago when their team was undefeated and seemed certain to be headed to the Motor City.
¢ Vegas betting parlors and offshore Internet sites another week to rake in Super Bowl bucks. Last year, gamblers wagered $90.7 million in legal sports books in Nevada and untold hundreds of millions more online in books of questionable legality.
¢ Another 200 or so Detroiters the chance to pack up their U-Hauls and leave town. Detroit's population has been cut in half over the last 50 years, and some 10,000 people leave every year.
¢ Two of the NFL's most deserving owners more time to enjoy the spotlight they usually shun. Dan Rooney is a league icon and son of one of the founding members of the NFL, while Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen kept the Seahawks in Seattle and remained patient with Mike Holmgren when things weren't going so well.
¢ Holmgren another week to continue the molding of Hasselbeck into one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Ben Roethlisberger gets the publicity, but Hasselbeck manages his offense well and completed two of every three passes he attempted this season.
¢ The Rolling Stones more time to remember what city they are in and what the lyrics are to "Start Me Up." Think a Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction was shocking? Keep your eyes on Keith Richards during halftime.
¢ Seemingly ordinary people enough time to do silly things like rename their towns for a week like Washington, Pa., did when it adopted the moniker Steeler, Pa. Then there's the Pennsylvania couple who dress their 15-month-old son in a No. 7 Steelers jersey and make sure he never misses a Steeler game on TV. The boy's name? Seven.