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This time, it wasn't my fault.

For the past few years, I have started a more shameful Christmas tradition than spiking eggnog: endlessly playing the current "NCAA Football" video game for Xbox (now in its 2005 edition, although it uses the season schedules and players from the 2004 season). The first year my brother and I had an Xbox, we bought the 2003 version and quickly developed a physical addiction to the game. I was so appalled by my lack of productivity over the break, though, that I vowed never to play that devil game again. That vow, of course, carried little weight when the next Christmas came around.

For Christmas 2003, I gave my brother "NCAA Football 2004" as a gift; I ended up playing it more than he did (aren't I a selfless gift-giver?). The 2004 version, of course, only further entrenched me in the cycle of addition: playing--feeling shame--vowing never to play again--picking up the controller for just one more game--etc...

Although there can be no excuses for my behavior, there certainly are reasons: this game simply rocks my socks off. The graphics are amazingly realistic (in fact, when you play at Memorial Stadium, you can see Oldfather Hall looming over the east stadium). The coaching responsibilities now not only include play-calling, play-making, recruiting, and working to keep a contract, but the 2005 version has now added disciplinary responsibilities to a coach's job description. Also, there's nothing like getting a freshman phenom and playing him through his senior year, watching him grow and mature into one tough football player. I sometimes have a tough time graduating my seniors.

But even so, I really didn't want to play football this Christmas; I had a reading list, and I wanted to work on various other projects I hadn't gotten to during the past semester (and things I probably won't get to during the next semester). Furthermore, my brother has recently gotten really into Halo (and the new Halo 2), so I didn't think he would be too interested in playing football; I really didn't think he would be too interested in buying "NCAA Football 2005." Unfortunately, due to a series of unfortunate events, my Christmas break productivity was not meant to be.

You see, a couple of weeks ago, my dad dropped our TV on the Xbox, damaging the TV and destroying the Xbox. Fortunately (or perhaps I should say "unfortunately"), our warranty on the Xbox covered such accidents (with about three weeks to spare), and Best Buy replaced our gaming console. With the Xbox, though, came two sample games: one being a tennis game that I refuse to touch; the other, quite anti-serendipitously, "NCAA Football 2005."

So what am I supposed to do here? How could I possibly avoid creating the Lincoln College Cardinals and beginning to take them from a B-rated team to a national championship team? The crowd noise alone at Bird Cage Stadium seems to be sufficient proof that my coaching skills are needed.

But is this round of addiction my fault? I cannot possibly see how it could be; after all, I wasn't the one who dropped the TV.

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For the past few days Joe has lost quite a bit of sleep staying up playing halo 2 with some other guys. It must be a male thing.

My brothers got an Xbox for Christmas...there is quite a bit of Haloing, footballing, and bonding (James bonding) going on in our house.

My brother has been to several all-night Halo parties with his friends. Apparently, there's a way to get sixteen people playing at once on four different TVs. He is apparently getting really good, which is nice because he has to start filling out college applications soon, and I think that Halo skills go a long way on those things.

And yes, I think that this sort of activity is a male thing--if we can't be out hunting buffalo with nothing but a loin cloth and a Bowie knife, we sure enjoy doing that sort of thing virtually.

Do your brothers have the new James Bond game (Rogue Agent)? I played it about a week ago (well, exactly a week ago, I guess), and it was incredible! I still think that Goldeneye 007 was the best game ever made, but this new one might give its older counterpart a run for its money. I didn't get much of a chance to play Rogue Agent, though, but I sure would like to.

On second thought, I probably shouldn't ever play it again. I really don't need another video game in my life.

(By the way, I shut out Nebraska--at Memorial Stadium, even--with a score of 31-0, but I just got schooled by Oklahoma something like 48-14. I'm quitting for the day, though, to go start my Christmas shopping. I hope Wal-Mart is still open...)

Shut out Nebraska at Memorial Stadium? Boy, those games get more realistic every year...

Yes, it is Rogue Agent which they received. One of them misread it aloud as "Rouge Agent," which led to a lot of gay jokes in my head that I refrained from speaking aloud in front of the small children.

Jacob, Wal-Mart is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That's the beauty of it.

I've seen a Halo extravaganza involving over 20 TVs and I don't know how many players in the atrium of one of our dorms. I didn't know whether to be in awe of this Xbox phenomenon, or disgusted. I think I'll opt for disgusted.

I will keep praying for you.

I am pretty sure most of the jokes that went through your head went through mine when I read "Rouge Agent."

Ah, but Wal-Mart is not a 24/7 store in Hastings, NE. They are building a supercenter, but it is not yet finished. Thus, we have a regular Wal-Mart (no grocery store, and just all-around smaller). But yes, a fully functional Wal-Mart is a very beautiful thing.

20 TVs? That sounds interesting on its surface (what I mean is, if you could do something like that in a Goldeneye level, I would be all-up-ons about it), but I'm really not good at Halo, so I'd just get fragged to death.

What was really fun was playing Andrew in sniper vs. sniper games on Ghost Recon. We used to sit in our dorm room with our backs to each other, shades drawn, lights off, respective headphones plugged in, shifting around an electronic jungle floor waiting for the other to make too much movement and give away his position. Then, when a head surfaced, it was quickly dropped. He beat me in every single game, but it was still quite a bit of fun.

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