Turkey, stuffing, sweet potato soufflé, some kind of cranberry concoction; family and friends gathered round the table, and a time to return thanks for all the blessings in our lives – that’s what Thanksgiving is all about. Well, that and football. Actually, forget the overcooked bird, Thanksgiving is mostly about football.
No one knows when it happened, but probably a couple of years after the pilgrims decided that squash wasn’t particularly tasty, our fledgling nation resolved to add some entertainment to the Thanksgiving feasting mix. And while I am sure that the traveling bard with his lute smuggled over on the Mayflower was scintillating, we can be thankful football won out in the end.
It started back in the 1800s with those smarty pants colleges on the East Coast having rivalry games on Thanksgiving Day. High schools followed suit, often having rivalry or playoff games. Pro football has always had a game on Thanksgiving with the Lions and the Cowboys.
The tradition has expanded to include cross-town classic high school games, college rivalries across the nation, and an extra bonus NFL night game. Since no one, except my grandmother, wants to miss out on the fun, cries of “Hutt, Hutt!” can be heard from backyards to neighborhood parks coast to coast.
These old-school family/fraternity/youth group grudge matches can last for decades. Most are flag or touch football, but there are also hard-core tackle games where the men are men, and the women are too. Teeth are optional.
Thanksgiving football can divide families, but there’s no reason for that. Just wear your favorite jersey to the table and don’t sit next to anyone who might spill gravy in your lap. If you’re holding the gravy boat and accidentally drop it down your annoying uncle’s back, well, whoops, that sucker is slippery!
Football often dictates the time and place of the meal itself. Deference is always given to anyone lucky enough to score tickets to a game. For the rest of us sorry saps that won’t be anywhere near the live action, forget the fine china, pull out the TV trays. If Mama wants everyone at the table, you can make it work. There’s no rule against eating green bean casserole at 7 a.m.
Whether your family takes their turkey a la TV or pays to watch someone else get their snot knocked, there is so much to look forward to on that fourth Thursday in November. Nothing in the world says Thanksgiving like a nation that puts out enough food to feed an O-Line and rallies around the greatest sport ever invented. And I bet if Mama’s favorite team wins, she won’t even notice when you feed that cranberry goo to the dog. And for that, we can all be thankful.