ONCE AGAIN this Sunday, millions of us will gather in front of the TV to watch a dull, one-sided football game, high-five each other listlessly with our orange, Chee-tos-stained fingers and pretend we're having fun.
This is the rich legacy of the Super Bowl, America's premier sporting event, which combines the best features of modern society: sedentary behavior and the ingestion of fatty, artery-clogging foods and alcohol.
It's a wonder the day doesn't dissolve into a wail of ambulance sirens, as anxious paramedics burst into countless living rooms, slap jellied defibrillator pads to the chests of unconscious patients and scream "Clear!" while Troy Aikman hits Michael Irvin with a 60-yard scoring pass.
The hope this year (as it is with every Super Bowl) is that the score isn't 114-7 by halftime.
Speaking of which, this year's halftime entertainment will be provided by . . . ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Motown legend and international recording superstar, Ms. Diana Ross!
Diana Ross, of course, is best known as the inspiration for the young Michael Jackson, who burst into the offices of a startled Beverly Hills plastic surgeon waving a snapshot of the former Supremes lead singer and shouted: "Here, make me look like her!"
The rest, of course, is history.
Not only did the good doctor make Jackson a dead ringer for Diana Ross, but he also threw in free of charge the features of David Bowie, Lena Horne, Britt Eklund and just a hint of Sting.
Of course, looks only carry you so far in this life. Because Michael's fetching, just-back-from-Planet-Romulus appearance wasn't enough to save his marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, who apparently tired of being herded into the hyperbaric chamber along with one or two llamas and a peacock whenever Michael wanted to hit the sack.
If the Super Bowl is dreadfully dull again -- the Cowboys are 13 1/2 -point favorites, which makes betting the Steelers like taking Italy to win World War II -- we can always amuse ourselves with all the nifty new commercials.
Last year's game, you'll recall, marked the exciting debut of the Budweiser frogs, an artistic Mount Everest from which the country still hasn't fully recovered.
This was the commercial which featured three possibly sedated frogs sitting on lily pads outside a seedy bar in the middle of a bayou.
Following a series of nondescript croaks, one frog laboriously mumbled "Bud," another mumbled "wei" and the third "ser."
Put the sounds together and you had . . . you had . . . I'm sorry. Having a little problem typing here. I . . . I just get a little misty-eyed thinking about all the creative genius on display in this great country of ours.
Makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it?
Here the Japanese are turning out high-speed computers the size of your fingernail, the Germans are working on advanced rocket systems and pollution-free fuels.
And we've got the Budweiser frogs.
The other memorable spot to emerge from that Super Bowl was the one where the guy is dying of thirst, and he keeps sticking a dollar bill in this Pepsi machine out in the middle of nowhere -- and the machine keeps rejecting it.
Me, I'd be paying a quick visit to the trunk of my car for a tire iron that would straighten that machine out, pronto. For God's sake, there's no one around for miles! They dial 911 out there, it takes four days for the cops to show up.
Of course, like every other parent of young children, I'm looking ,, forward to the post-game interviews this Sunday, which, judging from the language emanating from NFL locker rooms of late, could begin like this:
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue: "It gives me great pleasure to present this beautiful championship trophy to coach Barry Switzer and the Dallas Cowboys."
Switzer: "We're deeply [bleeping] honored."
Michael Irvin: "I think I'm gonna [bleeping] cry."
Lets face it, following the AFC and NFC championship games two weeks ago, the only players who weren't cursing in front of the cameras were probably in the shower at the time.
I bet even the team chaplains got into the act ("All right, you [bleepers], everyone gather 'round for a [bleeping] prayer . . .")
Then again, the Super Bowl ends at what, 3 in the morning these days? So the kids should be asleep by the time those snappy post-game interviews take place.
I myself may be passed out in the onion dip by then.
Which would be just fine, as I need the rest.