If there is a one minor drawback to being as intolerably pompous and smitten with myself as I am, it's that when there appears even a remote chance that I am wrong on an issue, readers pounce.

In all seriousness, I welcome the discourse -- all is fair is love and writing, as they say. And such open back-and-forth is the basis of a free and efficient market.

But I've been holding off addressing publicly what many of you have written me privately about: that my conviction about this past holiday shopping season appeared to have missed the mark.

As you know, I said two things -- both as the holiday season began and as it progressed. The first was that we were going to have a really solid -- though not unbelievably good -- holiday season. All the forces were aligned for such. As I summed up on Nov. 26 :
"With gas prices down, the economy in a sweet spot of not-too-hot-not-too-slow growth and the stock market strong, we are going to have a good (but not spectacular, by any means) holiday season."

But as each benchmark day came and went, it appeared to many that the season was all but lost or, at best, mildly disappointing. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Call-It-What-You-Will Wednesday -- which gets me to my second point, more important for long-term understanding than the first.

Here's what I also wrote on Nov. 26 and also expressed several times more:
"In the end, of course, all it means is this: Investors should never take the bait, as each of these tidily named days rolls around, to think that any one of them means anything."

Though the business media can make a neatly packaged story out of a day with its very own name, retailers and shoppers have anticipated these days and plan accordingly, making them irrelevant.

Deals are offered in the lead-up to Black Friday. Discounting is so heavy on Black Friday itself that even if crowds look big, profits may not be. And if Cyber Monday is much more than a figment of the business media's imagination, I'll wrestle a Mississippi eel.

Slippery river animals aside, the larger point is that between wide anticipation on the part of retailers and consumers (early shopping), online shopping (spread-out shopping) and the popularity of gift cards (late, after-Christmas shopping), the holiday sale season has been spread wide, stretched long. As such, we can't make any final judgments at any point during December, much less on those false constructs of days, reported on as if they mean something.

Sure enough: U.S. retail sale numbers for the entire month of December came out on Friday, and they exceeded expectations by a length, coming in at a solid ( told you so) seasonally adjusted 0.9% increase vs. the expectation of 0.7%.

I bring this up only partially as a taunting end-zone dance for all of you who wrote me that I was wrong. Where is my Sharpie? Are there any even left on the shelves?

In all seriousness, I brought this up as important evidence that the shape of the holiday season has undergone fundamental change, with the aforementioned anticipation, online shopping and gift cards.

Rest assured that next year, the business media is still going to send hordes of cub reporters out to cover Black Friday, then start talking about Cyber Monday and all the rest. But remember this lesson and you will be able to make money in that reliable trend we always see between publicly stated perception and eventual reality.

Speaking of last month, let's get one more order of review business out of the way, especially because this one has a great added component this week. I gave out my CEO of the Year award on Dec. 30 amid much fanfare and tears to one of the few truly brilliant visionaries who occupies a corner office in America, Kenneth Lowe.

Haven't heard of him? Well, that's part of the point. The two qualifications for the award were 1) he had to have been basically ignored by the media, which too often declare CEO genius when the only evident talents are self-promotion or getting oneself on the right side of a cyclical run, and 2) he had to be working in an industry that sucked.

Lowe has run E.W. Scripps ( SSP) as the newspaper industry has begun to face potential doom over the past six years he has been in power. But Lowe anticipated the doom and completely realigned his company as a successful cable television programmer. Considering my standards for the award, I noted that if newspapers in some unlikely way became a hot commodity again, Lowe risked having to forfeit his award.

Well, either Lowe did not want to risk giving up his coveted award or he is still busy anticipating. Because do you know his first action of the current year? The company said publicly that it couldn't call a bottom to the newspaper industry's troubles and might somehow separate itself from the business altogether.

Another bumptious move early in the year was the price of oil. Funny: When oil was moving toward $100 a barrel, all we heard about from the business media was how demand from China and India and other large developing countries was driving prices. Speculators, too, were a root cause. As oil heads toward $50 this week and there is now talk -- on CNBC and elsewhere -- of $20, did China and India fall off the map? And what happened to those evil speculators, driving prices up? I think I just saw one of those dudes selling pencils on the street. If you pass him by, tell him he's in luck: The retail sales numbers look good.