You're not alone. The Viacom-owned CBS television network, after all, reportedly had to discount its commercial airtime by about $20,000 a second to sell out its inventory for this month's Super Bowl XLI. Net of the 23-percent discount and a 15-percent standard agency commission, that left a mere $1.7 million per 30-second spot, a paltry buck and a quarter–$125 million–for game-time ads, not including the half-time Pepsi Prince-aganza.

Once upon a time, television network salespeople, especially the ones selling advertising spots for the world's most valuable sports brand–the Super Bowl–were mostly order-takers, too. Typically, they would host lovely lavish lunches for advertisers and their agency representatives at the venerable steak houses on Sixth Avenue in New York. By happy hour, their work was done, and the real celebrating could start.

John McManus But a $2.6-million price tag for a 30-second spot has created television's equivalent of an "affordability" problem. Lots of potential advertisers beat a retreat to the sidelines.

So CBS, which bought telecast rights to the National Football League's annual climactic moment the way many home builders vied with one another for rights to prime dirt over the past few years, had to do what any realistic inventory holder faced with a similar predicament would do–admit "You got me this time," and drop prices to whatever level it takes to burn through the inventory.

Home builders are possibly a little more fortunate. Their inventory doesn't absolutely go up in smoke if they don't sell it by, say, the opening kickoff.

But more important to builders everywhere, by the time Disney aired its "Where are you going now, Tony Dunghy and

Dominic Rhodes, Super Bowl XLI champs?" spot just before all of the night's post-game analysis, a fundamental sociological transformation occurred in the living rooms of millions of households nationwide. Sunday afternoons suddenly took on a wholly different character. From Feb. 11 to the first week of September, they don't belong so dominantly, so inarguably to the NFL. Couples by the thousands will actually have to do things together and talk to one another to make the weekend's time pass as time should pass.

It may occur to them that, after all the headlines on falling home prices and deals, it might be fun to go check out some new-home neighborhoods.

The vaunted spring 2007 home selling season has now begun. Online, we asked a number of you what you reckon the 90-day period from the weekend after

Super Bowl Sunday to the beginning of May might represent as a slice of your annual sales. Responses ranged from as little as 40 percent to as much as 70 percent. Whatever the actual number for you, we know that it's a critical time.

Sales net of cancellations have been slow enough to cause a number of publics to operate in the red on cash flow the past couple of quarters, and private counterparts have no doubt been burning into some of those saved-for-a-rainy-day cash reserves to offset what hasn't been coming in as completed sales.

All the analysts have been harping on the phrase, "spring selling season" for weeks now. So, it comes down to just how prepared your sales associates are for the challenge. With this issue, we're starting a five-part series on what it's going to take to move through the inventory, deal with the glut, and eventually equalize supply with demand in each of your markets.

The way our luck runs, a series of winter weather phenomena will start dumping on us on cue. But sooner or later, it'll be time to sell. And the sales won't come the old-fashioned way, merely by writing up the orders from the waiting list of buyers.

Here's to thick skins, undaunted prospectors, and those who know how to deal well with that couple who hasn't had an awful lot to talk about on a Sunday afternoon for the past five months.