December. The days march forward without mercy. Mother Nature brings a bitter chill whose frigidity is matched only by Father Time’s indifference. Frost coats the flora and hardens the earth; pray it does not penetrate our very souls.

Also, in two weeks either Mike Locksley or Dave Doeren is going to get an upsetting quantity of mayonnaise dumped on his head.

Bowl games are some of the most meaningless, vacuous, financially motivated spectacles in all of sport. They are also quite possibly the best thing in the world, so you need to be prepared if you want to enjoy them maximally.

Here are five steps every college football fan must take before the most wonderful time of the year officially kicks off.

Have an honest conversation with your family

Unfortunately, not everyone understands the compulsive need to watch two 6-6 schools duke it out for a $20 trophy at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday in late December. Your loved ones might never understand you, but you can at least be honest with them.

Tell them you realize you have a problem. They’ve been very supportive and you recognize that. But if you spend the next three hours watching your four-month-old, who’s going to be there to watch Iowa and Kentucky combine for 16 yards of offense?

Your diseased obsession with the dumbest sport on the planet may one day tear your family apart, but until that day comes, there’s no reason you can’t put the “fun” in dysfunctional.

Drink the Haterade

The novelty of bowl games is what makes them special, but it can be hard to get amped for a matchup between your favorite school and the third-best team in the Mountain West. That’s why you need to do plenty of research beforehand and pinpoint the reasons why you should detest that 7-5 directional school as much as you would a conference rival.

Unless their coach won a Nobel Peace Prize and their quarterback is researching a cure for cancer in baby seals, you can find a reason to hate them. And even then, keep digging. I don’t know, maybe their third-string QB has a funny last name or something.

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Decide how important money is to you

Confidence pools. Family pick ‘em pools. Pools of your tears after you bet your mortgage on a MAC team to cover the spread. Bowl season is one of the most active times for sports bettors; you need to decide how active you want to get.

To be clear, you aren’t going to win. You just have to determine how much you’re willing to lose. Picking games played by 18-22 year-olds is already a bit of a fool’s errand. Throw in the added unpredictability of bowl season — last-second opt-outs, interim coaches, one team really making the most of the local nightlife 18 hours before kickoff — and you’re basically throwing cash into the void a la Texas A&M.

Do some corporate research

We all know the Tostitos and the PlayStations of the world, but bowl season brings us face-to-face with many companies of which we’ve never heard. It’s important to do some cursory research and determine whether your team’s bowl sponsor is more “coach gets a Gatorade cooler of a condiment poured on him” or a bit more “murky history of human rights violations.”

Sure, American capitalism is a complex, messy ecosystem in which labels like good or bad are insufficient. Just make sure you can notice a difference between the fast-casual restaurant chain Bread Bowl and the nondescript foreign oil company Workers Exploitation Classic.

Learn to deal with opt-outs

Yeah, it kinda sucks when your favorite players elect not to play in a bowl game. They’re already 12 or 13 games of brutal contact football deep, so what’s a few more miniature car accidents? Still, sometimes you just have to respect their decision and learn to love the backup linebacker that now has to start at wide receiver.

Really, those players aren’t so different from the average American. Think of all the college kids checking out mentally before finals week. All the couples breaking up to avoid painful family introductions and halfhearted gift searches. And what about the exasperated relatives at Christmas dinner walking away from a politically-charged conversation and into a hazardously strong mug of eggnog?

If you’ve never tried opting out, I highly recommend it.

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