The best part about Thanksgiving is the cornucopia that will undoubtedly take center stage on the dining room table. This symbol of abundant harvest harkens back to Pilgrim* times when to express gratitude, one was forced to fill an odd-shaped basket with fruits, vegetables, nuts, and flowers. That’s right, times are hard, but we’re cool with that. After all, check out the size of the cauliflower in this thing; we have it pretty good despite freezing to death.
*Secretly, QAnon and the Masons go to great lengths this very day to hide the fact the percentage chance the Pilgrims placed horn-shaped anything on their dining tables is zero, given these English settlers thought it was much too suggestive a symbol to a place near food based upon their morbid fear of wanton lust breaking out, a paranoia spawned from their own unusually high levels of randiness. Plus, there was no room at the table as it brimmed with Pilgrim weaponry, including rifles, muskets, pistols, and Blunderbusses, all of which gave teeth to Pilgrims’ belief in Predestination – kind of like, “Yo, we’re predestined to deliver God’s grace, as evidenced by all the murder weapons God gave us to point in your face.”**
**Furthermore, the Wampanoags, the native Americans in this tale, taught these prudish yet conflicted, fashion-forward foreigners (who instinctively knew black and white are both timeless and the universal answer to every dressing dilemma, and gigantic stove pipe hats make calves appear more muscular) how to plant corn. So *boom* these pasty white folks instantly put corn syrup in every food and beverage product possible, inventing two of the marketing world’s most sought-after problems to both create and solve; addiction and obesity.
But we’re talking about modern Thanksgiving traditions here, not the start of a genocidal rampage, why Critical Race Theory makes people uncomfortable, or how empty calories combined with a lack of portion control makes Americans fat. And nothing screams Thanksgiving more than literally screaming at the television as we watch the annual, NFL-sponsored battles between (this year) the Detroit Lions/Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys/Las Vegas Raiders, and in the late game Buffalo Bills/New Orleans Saints.
All while ignoring everyone around us to the degree we get in trouble with our spouse for not helping with the dishes, parenting, or otherwise being “present.”
Editors Note: The Dallas game will likely start late because the Raiders love those Vegas prostitutes so much.
The Turkey Day football tradition began in 1975 when Dallas missed its first-ever Thanksgiving Day game, then again in 1977 when they missed their second-ever Thanksgiving Day game. Wait, what? Oh, in 1975, the NFL commissioner forced Dallas to surrender hosting duties to the then St. Louis Cardinals because he was mad about being brushed off by several Dallas Cowgirls. But St. Louis proved to be a total drag to watch – both in a competitive sense and a lusting sense given their cheerleaders loved barbecue so much it was not uncommon for their uniforms to be splattered with unsightly amounts of the city’s iconic, very sweet, slightly acidic, sticky, tomato-based sauce, with one cheerleader by the name of Lorena M. Fiddlebots famously gnawing on a rib on the sideline on live TV.
Which of course, led to several inter-state conversations/battles about who has the best barbecue, whether liquid smoke should be involved, etc., further complicated by detailed explorations of regional differences between the Carolinas (North favors thin, vinegar-based sauce, South champions a mustard-base with sugar and spices) with even more mind-numbing, intra-Carolina-state variations surfacing based on latitude and longitude – all of which ended up detracting from the NFL’s broadcast advertising revenue, so *boom* Dallas resumed regular hosting duties in 1978 and everyone was asked to shut up.
But we’re jumping the gun here. Technically speaking, Thanksgiving Day football games (as we know them and not how the rest of the world knows them because to them it’s all about football being soccer, measuring distance and volume through the very confusing metric system*** and not celebrating Thanksgiving) date back to 1876, shortly after the game was invented
***Remember when the US tried to incorporate the metric system via the aptly named Metric Conversion Act of 1975, and people in rural areas – for sure – and maybe in urban areas – hopefully not – actually shot the new speed limit signs? With guns? Leaving ample bullet holes? Message received.
The chronology goes like this: Yale and Princeton played each other on Thanksgiving in 1876, mostly to take a break from talking about how they go to Yale or Princeton. Then a bunch of other institutions followed suit, so truly we have collegiate athletics to thank for this new addiction. Exactly when football became a professional sport is apparently debatable, but basically, the first pro-Turkey Day game dates to the 1890s.
However, real football, with the familiar levels of organized violence we’ve come to expect, began in earnest in the 1920s. The first owner of the Detroit Lions started the tradition of the Thanksgiving Day game in 1934 as a gimmick to drive attendance. He’s undoubtedly turning in his grave given their consistent awfulness, current 0-8 record, and newest gimmick to drive attendance: Giving away unsold Pontiac Azteks.
A bunch of stuff happened between then and 1966 – including an understandable hiatus between 1941-1944 due to the whole World War II thing – with 1966 beginning the tradition of Dallas hosting Thanksgiving Day games. Today rumors fly that Jerry Jones’ ancestors demanded hegemony over the event that year, or they’d “eat the world.”
This is only partly true: In 1978, Dallas requested, and received, a game on Thanksgiving Day “forever,” after demonstrating legally enforceable contracts signed by every Dallas Cowgirl promising to abstain from barbecue for the duration of their employment.
Since 1978, Thanksgiving games have been hosted in Detroit and Dallas every year, with Detroit in the early time slot and Dallas in the late afternoon slot because they’re always hungover.
Previous television network commitments insisted one of these games featured NFC opponents and the other AFC-NFC opponents. Thus, the AFC showcased only one team on Thanksgiving, and the AFC team was always the visitor, which the conference felt a little insecure about, and never treated through cognitive therapy, so to this day, AFC people don’t speak up at league-wide meetings since everyone else is so brazen, loud, and busy establishing their dominance it’s rather intimidating, but they (ironically) only do this because they too are insecure.
In 2006 the NFL added a third game on Thanksgiving, played in primetime, in response to the surprising number of families who eat the famous meal at 6:00 p.m. instead of noon (like heathens do) and thus need something to distract themselves from their immediate families and still be able to drive home. In 2012 NBC began broadcasting this game as part of Sunday Night Football which is great as Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth are simply lovely, handsome commentators with strong-seeming hands. The league can place any matchup in this relatively new slot – often favoring divisional rivalries to mirror sibling rivalries taking place at millions of dinner tables across the nation – since there are no complicated and headachy conference tie-ins.
Alas, this is because starting in 2014, Thanksgiving games were no longer legally bound to balance matchups between the AFC/NFC, or otherwise suffer from weird contractual rules or ties, including those spiked leather bracelets one finds in various adult stores that come with a “safe” word which we forgot so now we’re scared. Nay, it’s now a free-for-all (the broadcast structure), with games on FOX remaining all-NFC contests and Tucker Carlson rants.
Holy smokes, what a confusing mess. Who knew the genealogy could be so complicated? The point is Thanksgiving Day is a day to give thanks because there’s football to watch, food to eat, people to ignore, and work to take off – except for certain NFL players, turkey farmers, and grocery store personnel.
So buy a cornucopia at the local farmers market, stuff it with some cauliflower, say “you’re welcome” despite what the host says when you present it and get on with getting’ on doing nothing. But be thankful for it. Feel free to start practicing now.