I love this time of year, because, across the country, players participate in a Thanksgiving Day football game that is either a rivalry match-up or decides a championship. From Pop Warner to the Pros, the Thanksgiving Day game is very important to players and provides them great memories for years to come. Players’ families and friends, as well as fans, show up to cheer on their favorite team then go home to stuff themselves with delicious food, like sweet potato pie, and more fun. A good time to be had by all. Few sports are so intertwined with a great holiday tradition as football is to Thanksgiving.
College football generally schedules rivalry games for the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving, which extends the party atmosphere a few more days. It’s probably no coincidence that these games are scheduled for the last weekend in November since this time of the year generally provides “football weather,” a brisk, but not extremely cold, day. This year there were a lot of upsets in these college rivalry games, especially for ranked teams, reeking havoc on the BCS standings. Teams who lost this weekend, but remain in the upper echelon of their conference, are now in the unenviable “win and you’re in” position this weekend if they want to extend their season. Nail-biting time indeed!
On the professional level, two teams have a lock on hosting Thanksgiving Day games – Detroit and Dallas. Schedule-wise, the Lions and Cowboys have a distinct advantage over the other Turkey Day participants because they have a home game the Sunday prior, host the game, and then have 10-days at home to recuperate. For years this schedule has benefited Dallas tremendously as they gear-up for showdowns with NFC East opponents, normally with playoff implications. There has been a lot of discussion about allowing other teams to break-up the monopoly Dallas and Detroit own and play on Thanksgiving Day. It doesn’t help that Detroit has lost the last six or so Turkey Day games. I understand the chatter, especially now that the NFL Network has a night game, but, I like the tradition just the way it is. If Detroit doesn’t play, when can I bake my pies?
Some of my fondest Thanksgiving Day memories revolve around the Cowboys. If you ask someone about Dallas’ traditional game, they often talk about Clint Longley’s historic comeback against the Redskins. While I loved that game, every year as a kid I actually looked forward to the clips showing Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, his wife Marianne, and their kids wishing America a Happy Thanksgiving. I can’t tell you why that made such an impression on me, but, it did. Fast-forward 20 years and I still got a kick out of Roger, sans his wife and children, wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.
Football has truly taken over as America’s favorite sport. It brings out the passion in both players and fans. Let’s start planning next year’s football-related Thanksgiving festivities right now!