Anyone who’s reading this has had one, or if you haven’t, you will eventually. It’s almost unavoidable that, at some point in your illustrious collegiate career, you too will experience the blinding horror that is: The Extended Hangover.

Now, at this point, I’ll bet a lot of you are calling me a sissy. You’ve come to with a case of cotton mouth, an increased sensitivity to light and a hankering for something greasy, and you think that I, like so many media mavens, am taking it upon myself to slap together an easy column by making mountains out of molehills. But here’s why you’re wrong.

I’m not talking about your average, run of the mill, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t have had that last shot of Cuervo’ hangover here, nosiree. I’m talking about a beast of an altogether different stripe. I’m talking about the sort of hangover that leaves motherless babes and burning villages in its wake, the sort of hangover that your ancestors remember in song for seven generations. I’m talking about the sort of hangover that cripples strong men for days on end, and reduces the best among us to whimpering sacks of flesh, fit only to lie on couches in dimly lit rooms, sipping flat ginger ale and moaning softly and swearing off booze for all-time. I’m talking about the sort of hangover that I have right now, and the fact that it’s the least of my worries.

Considering the amount of birthday induced drinking I’ve been doing recently, it’d be easy to trace the origins of this hangover back for days, weeks even, to hectic, half remembered nights of wine bottles and drink tickets. But that would also be unnecessary. I know from whence this foul creature hails, and the name of that soggy, barren land is Super Bowl XLI, from whence my beloved Bears were cruelly vanquished mere days ago. And after a lifetime of waiting for my most cherished team to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, having the crown wrested from the ball club’s waiting head is a wound that will take months, maybe years, to heal.

But as bad as it may be for me, the Super Bowl Hangover is traditionally significantly worse for the team as a whole. The Super Bowl Loser’s Curse states that the loser of the Super Bowl stands an excellent chance of collapsing the following year is one of the more recent sports hexes to rear its ugly head into the collective subconscious of sports fans across our fine nation, along with the much ballyhooed Madden Curse (which broke Ron Mexico’s fibula in 2004 and convinced the Seahawks front office to let Steve Hutchinson go to Minnesota last year) and the slightly less well known Campbell’s Soup Curse, which most recently threw Ben Rothlisberger off of his motorcycle.

If you believe the pundits and prognosticators, my Bears are in for a rough season next year. After all, since 2000, only two teams (the ’00 Titans and the ’06 Seahawks) have made the playoffs the following year, and both of those teams played only one more game before flying home, their heads hung low in shame. But at least these teams put together respectable seasons first; Super Bowl losers in the new millennium lose an average of 5 ½ more games the following year, a dreary statistic that puts my 13-3 Bears under .500 in the coming season. Hell, the Raiders got spanked by Gruden’s Buccaneers in 2003 and haven’t managed to put together better than a 4-12 season since. According to the irrefutable logic of sports curses, I should probably just start drinking and hoping that Tank Johnson accidentally shoots Rex Grossman right now.

But I hold to a cherished tenet of sport, and that’s this – while sports fans have a knack for remembering trivia and statistics that is rivaled only by certain advanced super computers, they are notoriously poor at actually analyzing these statistics. In the case of the Super Bowl Hangover, the analysis problem originates in one of the most common statistical traps – that is, it draws wide ranging conclusions from a very small sample size. Extrapolated over the entire 41 year history of the Super Bowl, the Hangover Hypothesis doesn’t hold water.

We will get a chance to check out another Super Bowl fable, that of the Super Bowl Indicator, a Wall Street bogeyman stating that if an AFC wins the championship, the stock market is in for a down year. Like the Super Bowl Hangover theory, this is completely unscientific; unlike the Hangover theory, it is also right about 85% of the time.

So I can at least hold the cold comfort that as I mourn my Bears season, I’ll be joined in sorrow by millions of stockholders across this fair nation. This makes it all the more confusing that President Bush called to congratulate Peyton Manning on stultifying the economy for the next 12 months and purported to be cheering him on through the game, unless you subscribe to the belief that our sitting Commander-In-Chief is trying to ‘bring the place down from the inside’. Which I do.

And that, folks, makes for one damned fine excuse to start drinking again in an attempt to relieve the viselike grip of dehydration around my forehead. And it’s on that note I’ll leave you with the words and sentiment of a true Chicago sports fan, and that’s a reminder of the one unbreakable law of sport: There’s always next year.