Thanksgiving Football Equals Americana

 

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The Masters of Disaster (MOD) from a Turkey Bowl circa 1991

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Football on Thanksgiving is an “Autumn Ritual” to me just like the phrase, “Can you please pass the gravy”.   The game 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.  Whether attending a hometown rivalry game – in my town growing up it is Abington (my alma mater) vs. friendly rival Cheltenham that goes back to 1915 (BTW: The Ghosts beat the Panthers 38-3 in this year’s rendition, 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 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 like turkey, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, candy yams and many other favorites 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 Lions (usually lost) and Cowboys (usually won) play many Thanksgiving games on that set. 

The earliest Thanksgiving game that I can remember was the Chicago Bears against the Detroit Lions in the Pontiac Silverdome November. 27, 1980. I remember this game, because Vince Evans was at quarterback for the Bears (rare to see an African-American quarterback at the time) and the great Walter Payton rushed 18 times for 123 yards and I think he even threw a pass.  The ending was everything as the Bears won an overtime thriller 23-17 when Bears kick returner Dave Williams returned the overtime kickoff for a touchdown, completing a Bears comeback from a 17-3 deficit.

My 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 dubbed “Bounty Bowl I” featured an Eagles 27-0 shellacking win over the hated Dallas Cowboys, which left me over-the-top giddy. My joy came from the fact that I was a long suffering Eagles follower, who finally got to stick-it to the stinking Cowboys fans in my family (brother and many my cousins), who year after year told me how much better the Cowboys were than the Eagles.  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.

Thanksgiving Football Schedule
Easton (PA) vs. Phillipsburg (NJ) 9:00 a.m. Lafayette College’s Fisher Field in Easton, PA (the 102nd meeting will be shown locally on WBPH-TV)

Tennessee at Detroit, 12:30 p.m. (CBS)

Seattle at Dallas, 4:15 p.m.    (FOX)

Texas A&M at Texas  at  8:10 (EST) on ESPN

Arizona at Philadelphia, 8:15 p.m.  (NFL Network)

Lloyd’s Leftovers

  • 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.
  • I am often asked, “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.
  • NFL results of every Thanksgiving game going back to the 1920’s (courtesy of the Pro Footballl Hall of Fame)

 

 

 Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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