First of all, let me wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year!
And second, my grandson Brice Fought and I will be on our way early (7 a.m., yikes, that's before the sun's up yet!) Sunday morning to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl Tuesday night in the Superdome with Ohio State taking on Arkansas.
Back when the bowl pairings were announced, my wife Jenny - as she does every year - said, ''Why don't you go to the game.'' This year, I took her up on it.
Now I've been to bowl games before, but only in official capacities - as a team manager with the Buckeyes at the Rose Bowl twice and as a member of the working press covering WVU in two Peach Bowls and a Hall of Fame Bowl - and never strictly as a fan.
So this trip via a bowl travel package will be a new experience for me - and for Brice, 10, who just went to his first college football game this season at OSU, but has never been in an airplane before. So he'll get a thrill when the jet takes off. Wonder if he'll be a white-knuckle flier.
Of course, what would a little trip be without some changes even before you get going. What was supposed to be a non-stop flight from Columbus to NOLA Sunday and back to CMH on Wednesday turned into a Columbus-to-Tampa-to-New Orleans-to-Orlando-to-Columbus round trip. OK, no big deal, when you fly out of Wood County or Charleston, you always have to first get to bigger cities - usually Pittsburgh or Columbus - to catch connecting flights, no matter what direction you're eventually headed.
Then when we get into the Big Easy from Tampa Sunday, it will be 12:10 p.m. CST (Central Standard Time) in New Orleans, 10 minutes after kickoff at the Superdome between the Saints and Tampa Bay in a key NFC South duel in a final regular-season game. That should make for an easy - good pun for New Orleans - drive from the airport down to the French Quarter to our hotel.
But just about the time we check in, the game will be letting out and the crowd be heading to where we are, only a mile away, to either party or drown their sorrows over the outcome.
From what I hear though, and saw - and experienced just a little of - when we visited New Orleans one afternoon some years ago and spent most of it in the French Quarter absorbing the festive atmosphere, the Big Easy is a place just looking for a party, something to celebrate and somewhere to have a good time.
So we'll enjoy all the sights that the Big Easy has to offer for three days, and see all the things that make New Orleans what it is, along with attending what I understand is always a hit with Ohio State bowl fans - the day-before-the-game Buckeye Bash pep rally.
After that, there's only one thing left to make the trip complete - a win over Arkansas to put an end to that 0-9 bowl record vs. the SEC.
Contact Steve Hemmelgarn at email@example.com