When You Think Thanksgiving, You Think…

For most people, the first association with Thanksgiving is food. For me it’s secondary. It was always about the football. Even when I didn’t care much about watching the sport on TV, I liked playing in the family Thanksgiving game. I have an aunt and uncle who live in Baton Rouge. We’d rotate every year, and “Red Stick was where we had our most memorable contests. The lot next to their house was empty, and made a perfect field. We initially divvied up teams by age. My dad drafted my older cousin and me and my uncle got my older brother and my younger cousin.

We played three on three semi-touch (will explain later) with my uncle and dad as all-time QBs and no rush. I don’t remember the plays being too complicated. I do remember that we were the victorious team every year. We’d play and when we were done we would come inside, watch the early game in Detroit and eat at halftime. I’m not sure if we showered.

My younger cousin Josh was the target of a lot of abuse in these games. I would match up against him, and at the time I was around 12 and he was 7. Talk about a mismatch. He was fast and managed to get open a lot. Here was the problem. He’d catch a pass and maybe get past me, but when my dad got into the picture, suddenly the game wasn’t touch anymore. It was tackle. My dad was in decent shape in those days. I’d say that he had 100 pounds on Josh. He’d tackle Josh, and sometimes the rest of us would pile on. Josh would start crying and we’d have to talk him into continuing. The next time he caught the ball, he’d get pummeled again. Sometimes even my uncle, who was on his team, would join the pile.

In our final matchup, we played family versus family. With a couple of outsiders, we were playing four on four. My uncle, who was a turnover machine on par with the present Daunte Culpepper, became Terry Bradshaw. Both of my cousins were very good athletes, and we got smoked. The following year we didn’t play and no one talked much about it. Now everyone has their own family so we don’t even get together for the holidays. I’m thinking that there will be a reunion soon.

We also were big on the 80s video games. I remember in particular the Ice Hockey game on the original Nintendo system. I was the best player, and boasted that I would never lose. It came down to a shootout with Josh, and I lost. I never heard the end of that. I’m going to track down that game and upload it to my parent’s Wii, because it was the most fun hockey game I ever played until the Sega game where you could start fights and make the other guy bleed.

Other than Cortland Finnegan versus Calvin Johnson, there isn’t a matchup in today’s game that worries me. Imagine Johnson on a team with a capable QB.

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