Before I make a cautioned defense of vandalism AND arson, a note about today’s Big Game.

This is the way football is meant to be played! Frigid! Tough! It’s real. I don’t even want to go out when it’s zero, let alone run, let alone stick out my bare, stiff hands to catch a frozen rock, after which I will be knocked to the rock-hard ground by violent millionaires. It’s possible some of the players will shatter into chunks, for heaven’s sake.

It’s the first mean stretch of feral winter. We thought El Niño would push warm, soppy weather our way all season long, but no: The sharp teeth of arctic air are supposed to return and remind us that June is the debt we’re owed for January’s brutal bite. We accept this. It “builds character,” which implies we’d all have pope-level purity if we lived in a meat locker for a month. But it’s a bleak time, and needs something to build our spirits. Which brings me to wanton arson.

Looked out the window Thursday night, and saw a 10-foot pillar of flame on the boulevard. Thought: Well, that’s … biblical. What happened? A gas leak? No — it was garbage night, so maybe the neighbor had a kitchen fire, and someone shouted PUT IT OUT! PUT IT OUT! So he put it out on the boulevard with the recycling.

I ran out to investigate, and found that a bare, smoking ruined Christmas tree stood in the snowbank, looking outraged: getting chopped down in the prime of life is one thing, but this is just too much. Vandals had set it alight, obviously. It was dangerous and stupid, of course — but for a few minutes it was spectacular. The tree just evaporated in a glorious crackling spasm of pyrotechnic consumption.

IT’S A BAD THING AND PEOPLE WHO DO THIS ARE IDIOTS. But it makes you wish we could celebrate the inevitable stiff hand of January with a communal sacrifice of the castoff trees. Everyone brings them to a field and we light ’em up. It would be the ceremony that signals the end of the holidays, and the start of winter’s mean ration. In our coldest hour, we could watch something flame out.

And for once it wouldn’t be ­playoff hopes.