As I am sure some of you are already aware, this year the Super Bowl falls close to the beginning of Lent – everybody’s favorite 40 days and 40 nights of fasting and austerity.

The reason I mention this holiday – perhaps best known by college students as a time to give up chocolate or other vices – is that for me, the beginning of Lent also marks the beginning of concentrated sporting excitement. Whereas with actual Lent you have to give something up, with Sports Lent, you are getting something new almost every day.

Lent actually starts this year on March 1, but my season of sports bliss always starts on Super Bowl Sunday and ends 40 days later with the beginning of March Madness. While many will argue that regular season games in college football, pro baseball and maybe even the National Football League can boast more entertainment value over a longer period of time, I challenge any reader to find six weeks that are more chock full of such diverse sporting excitement than Sports Lent.

While Ash Wednesday is best known for the cool ash crosses the Catholic faithful receive at Mass, the first day on my Sports Lent calendar, Super Bowl Sunday, is known for the five hours of pre game coverage, an absurd halftime show, occasionally hilarious commercials and – I almost forgot – the most important football game of the year.

What better occasion could there be to start up the year’s best stretch of sports events? Any event that allows me to spend five hours with the always-eloquent Shannon Sharpe and his pre game buddies on “NFL Today” already ranks pretty highly in my book, but Super Bowl Sunday does not stop there. We will be treated to a football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears that, at the very least, has enough interesting history to keep Jim Nantz and Phil Simms occupied.

While the beginning of Lent signifies 40 days of semi-fasting and varying degrees of asceticism, the beginning of Sports Lent signifies the end of football season, which – while sad in its own right – allows the other great American sports that everyone has been ignoring to get some attention.

For example, the stretch from Feb. 4 to March 15 promises some of the most exciting NBA action of the season. While it really depends on who you root for, this crucial period in the season is when the real elite teams in each conference are separated from the weak teams likely not destined for greatness (the Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz, for example).

In the middle of all that action is arguably the most entertaining all-star weekend in professional sports – the NBA All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas from Feb. 16-18, which boasts a dunk contest on the rise and perhaps one of the most compelling Rookie-Sophomore challenges in recent years.

The NBA action is certainly exciting, but for the avid college hoops fan, it does not get any better than the games during Sports Lent. The Georgetown Hoyas have exciting home matchups against arquette and Pittsburgh during this stretch that will go a long way toward their placement in the Big East tournament. Speaking of the Big East Tournament, it also occurs during this period, starting on March 7 and running for three exciting and hopefully win-filled days, for the Hoyas.

For the East Coast sports fan, Sports Lent helps to fill the void left by the absence of the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry. The first few games for the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams start on Feb. 24.

This, of course, all leads up to the “Easter” of Sports Lent, the 2007 Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. The fun starts with the Play-In Game (the “Palm Sunday” of Sports Lent), and the excitement stays high from there. For the true basketball fan – the true sports fan, really – it really does not get any better than 64 teams playing 63 games over three weeks, with every game shown by our friends over at CBS (unfortunately no Shannon Sharpe).

Perhaps a dedicated baseball fan may contend that playoff baseball provides the best 40 days, while an avid hockey supporter would argue for whenever it is that they have important games, but the diversity and volume of this period of time is hard to dispute.

So this Super Bowl Sunday, when all of the chips have been eaten, you feel a little sick and football season is officially over, don’t throw away your remote and cancel your TiVo subscription. Take a little break, do a little work and get ready, because for the next 39 days, you are going to be busy. Happy Sports Lent!

Jamie Leader is a sophomore in the College. He can be reached at leaderthehoya.com.

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