Thanksgiving Equals Americana and this year the National Football League has three great match-ups with the Texans-Lions, Redskins-Cowboys, and NY Jets-Patriots
(Philadelphia, Pa) —- Football on Thanksgiving is an “Autumn Ritual” to me just like the phrase, “Can you please pass the gravy. And in the spirit of “Thanks” during this holiday, it seems 3 quarters of the NFL’s teams (25) – records from 9-1 to 4-6 — still have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. After eleven weeks of play, “parity” is all over America’s game as shown by the current team standings.
The game of football has aligned itself beautifully with the greatest holiday ever, in my opinion, and it provides an opportunity for fellowship by friends and family around America’s Game. Football games being played on Thanksgiving started in 1887, when Massachusetts high schools, Boston Latin and Boston English, first met on Turkey Day. The National Football League also loves to celebrate the best holiday around by having played a “Thanksgiving Day Classic” game going all the way back to the league’s inception in 1920 – Decatur Staleys defeated the Chicago Tigers by a score of 6-0 in one of six games.
“The Thanksgiving games are quite a tradition, not just in Detroit, but for America,” says NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci. Whether attending a hometown rivalry game – in my town growing up it is Abington (my alma mater) vs. close rival Cheltenham that goes back to 19151915 (see all of the scores from this rivalry) or playing in a “Turkey Bowl” touch football game with friends/family, or just watching the now three NFL games (since 2006) and other college games, Americans like myself cannot get enough Turkey Day football.
My most vivid memories of Thanksgiving are attending the hometown rivalry game in the early afternoon then going over to my paternal grandmother’s house for a celebration like none other with food favorites turkey, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, cranberry, candy yams, sweet potato pie and many other stuff-your-gut morsels while having good fellowship over food and of course football. When I was younger my grandmother’s television was a big cabinet black/white set and I vividly remember watching the Detroit Lions (usually lost) and Dallas Cowboys (usually won) play many Thanksgiving games on that set.
My other favorite Thanksgiving game, of course, involved the classic broadcasting team of John Madden and Pat Summeral commentating a Turkey Bowl classic on November 23, 1989 in Texas Stadium. This game was dubbed “Bounty Bowl I” and featured a Philadelphia Eagles 27-0 shellacking win over the hated Dallas Cowboys, which left me over-the-top giddy. My joy came from the fact that as a one-time long suffering Eagles follower, I finally got to stick-it to the many stinking Cowboys’ fans in my family (brother and many cousins). Funny thing about Philadelphia, there are many “never have been to Texas” Dallas Cowboys fans who year after year love to talk about Super Bowl rings to hometown Eagles fans.
However this 1989 NFC East afternoon rivalry game was something extra special for me to watch as the Birds won handily and the Cowboys turncoats in my grandmother’s suburban Philadelphia home had to eat some crow with their turkey that day. The story of the game was Buddy Ryan’s Eagles defense knocking the stuffing of Troy Aikman as they seemed to sack him a million times. The game ended with my favorite player Reggie White eating the ceremonial Madden Turkey Leg as the game’s MVP.
2012 NFL Thanksgiving Schedule
The NFL will be playing on America’s Holiday for the 93rd consecutive year. And you gotta love this year’s Thanksgiving Match-ups: HOU-DET, WAS-DAL, and NE-NYJ. The six teams are 33-27, which translates to a .550 winning percentage. And 5-out-of-the-6 teams also won in Week 11. And my favorite factor of the early week games is two games in the span of 5 days.
Houston Texans (9-1) at the Detroit Lions (4-6), CBS, 12:30 p.m. ET – The NFL’s currently highest-ranked team taking on the upstart Lions on Thanksgiving… wow it doesn’t get any better. “It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be like a mini-Super Bowl, I think, atmosphere-wise,” Lions DT Corey Williams said. Watch for a shootout as both teams have a strong armed quarterback (Texans QB Matt Schaub and Lions QB Matthew Stafford), a large big-play game-breaking receiver (Texans WR Andre Johnson and Lions WR Calvin Johnson), and are averaging over 23 points per game offensively (Texans — 29.3 and Lions — 23.6)
LV’s Pick: Texans 31-27
Washington Redskins (4-6) at Dallas Cowboys (5-5), FOX, 4:15 PM ET – Naturally America’s Holiday, Thanksgiving, will feature “America’s Team”. The Cowboys – hosted game since 1966 — taking on traditional rival, the Redskins, who are led by former Texas star and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, in a game I will call “RG3 Comes Home Bowl”. Right now the Cowboys, who are making their push to catch the NFC East-leading NY Giants, will be led by an array of stars including QB Tony Romo (record of 21-3 for his career in November), emerging receiver Dez Bryant, and pass rusher DeMarcus Ware. However this game is not a “gimme” as Washington won big last week over the Philadelphia Eagles 38-6, and they will be looking to spoil Dallas’ holiday feast.
LV’s Pick: Cowboys 27-21
New England Patriots (7-3) at New York Jets (4-6), NBC, 8:20 p.m. ET – The NFL really must have been thinking a rivalry theme for this year’s games! To say the least, the NY Jets and Patriots do not like each other. I don’t know if it has to do with the old “Spygate” story, their two polar opposite head coaches (NY Jets “brash” HC Rex Ryan vs. Patriots “reserved and calculated” HC Bill Belichick), the two pretty-boy quarterbacks (NY Jets QB Mark Sanchez and Patriots QB Tom Brady) or the many former players, like Patriots RB Danny Woodhead, that have played for both squads. But this year’s nightcap should be fun as the desperate NY Jets try to gain some ground on the division leading Patriots.
LV’s Pick: Patriots 27-24
•Lets talk about seating arrangements at the 2012 NFL Thanksgiving table. At the “Adult table” for playmakers are Broncos QB Peyton Manning, Bucs rookie RB Doug Martin, Bears defensive stars Brian Urlacher and Charles Tillman, Niners pass rusher Aldon Smith, Lions WR Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, Texans DL JJ Watt (better bring lots of food), Niners emerging potential starter QB Colin Kaepernick, Saints QB Drew Brees, Colts HC’s Chuck Pagano (a lot to be Thankful for… stay strong Chuck) and Bruce Arians, rookie QB sensations (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, and Russell Wilson), Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, Broncos pass rusher Von Miller, Texans WR Andre Johnson, and Texans GM Rick Smith. Spots at the “Kids table” for disappointments should be seated Chargers QB Phillip Rivers, NY Jets QB Mark Sanchez, Eagles WR DeSean Jackson, Eagles HC Andy Reid, Chiefs QB Matt Cassel, Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Lines, and the entire Carolina Panthers squad including HC Ron Rivera and QB Cam Newton.
•Madden and Summerall make the day special – It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving back in the day without America’s former #1 broadcast team with veteran Pat Summerall and former head coach John Madden. Thanksgivings were also a special tradition for the pair as Madden always loved America’s holiday due to his and everybody else’s affinity for filling-up on Turkey and all of the sides. What I liked about the duo was that they were just two men who genuinely seemed to be two friends sitting on bar stools watching the game together. Summerall would feed straight-man lines to Madden and the former coach would go on rambling tangents that somehow made sense of the complicated game of football. The tandem was a Sunday afternoon staple so much so that they worked eight Super Bowls together on two networks (five for CBS and three for FOX). At the end of the Thanksgiving games broadcasted by the duo, Madden would always give the player of the game a turkey leg for their excellence cut from his personal bird that had been prepared by the Madden Cruiser’s chef – Madden even later introduced the country to something called a Turducken (part turkey and part duck).
•There was a time that Thanksgiving football was defined in the African American community by rivalry games like Lincoln vs. Howard. Here is an excerpt from a piece that I wrote on the subject… “The “outside world” of major white college football may have had traditional rivalries like Harvard-Yale, Ohio State-Michigan, and Notre Dame-Army. But to most African American football fans those contests had nothing on the annual Thanksgiving Day clash between the mighty men of Lincoln (PA) and their rival school Howard University. After their initial meeting in 1894, the annual Lincoln-Howard Thanksgiving game quickly became an autumn ritual.” Check out the rest of the piece.
• “Why are we subjected to the stinking Detroit Lions and hated Dallas Cowboys every Thanksgiving??” — The reason is “Carpe diem” as these two teams both had the vision of matching College Football on America’s Holiday and seized opportunities to host football games when everyone else was afraid the crowds would stay away. The Lions were the first in 1934 and the Cowboys followed suit in 1966. The NFL also added a rotating third game in 2006 (Chiefs winning 19-10 over the Broncos) on Turkey Day to help boost their channel NFL Network. Our friends over at Mental Floss give some great background on the subject of NFL football on Thanksgiving.
•The oldest high school Turkey Day Game rivalry is in Massachusetts between Needham and Wellesley, dating back to 1882. Find out everything about Thanksgiving Football.
•You can now see the results for every NFL Thanksgiving game going back to the 1920’s (courtesy of the Pro Footballl Hall of Fame)
Enjoy the best holiday, in my humble opinion, on the calendar everyone! As we all celebrate and give “Thanks” for our passions of food, family, friends and of course football.
Lloyd Vance is the Editor for Taking It to the House , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Lloyd can be reached on Twitter @lloydvance or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org