11/26/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak
What is it about Thanksgiving and sports that just mixes so well together? Everybody has holiday traditions, and in a lot of cases sports is a part of them, especially on turkey day.
For me, the sports tradition starts the night before Thanksgiving. I'm from Pittsburgh, and my tradition starts with hockey on Thanksgiving Eve. For as far back as I can remember, the Pittsburgh Penguins game the night before turkey day has been tradition. I remember being a kid in the 1980s and listening to the Penguins games on the radio. Yes, there was a time before not just smart phones and internet, but a time where every game wasn't on television. So I'd listen with my brother in the basement to the voice of Mike Lange bringing the game action to us over the radio. I don't remember the year exactly, I want to say it was 1987 or 1988, when the Pens battled back from a 4 to 0 deficit to beat Quebec 6 to 4. Yes, back in that time before smart phones and the internet there was an NHL team in Quebec City too.
That's the first year I remember the Thanksgiving Eve game being a part of my holiday tradition. But for some reason, as I think back right now, I can remember who the Pens have played the night before Thanksgiving going back the past 15 years without much effort. Something about that game is just special. It's more special now that I'm a season ticket holder and usually get to go to the game. Maybe it's the time spent with friends either at the game or watching it somewhere. Or it's knowing that the day after is Thanksgiving. But something about that combination just makes it special.
And of course there is the tradition of Thanksgiving Day and football. Now that I'm closer to 40, that tradition is watching the now full day of NFL football with family and friends. But back in my teens and 20's, it was the excitement of playing football on Thanksgiving that was tradition. As I mentioned, I'm from Western Pennsylvania, which is a football hotbed. I remember getting excited the week leading up to Thanksgiving for our annual turkey day game, which we called the "Toilet Bowl", because the winning team got a gold painted toilet seat to keep until the next year. Something about getting up early and playing tackle football with friends then going home to family for Thanksgiving dinner was just something special. In my 20's we gave up the tackling for flag football, but it still was tradition to get together and play. No matter what the weather was like. No matter how late we were out the night before. We still got together on Thanksgiving morning to play football, then go home and enjoy the day with family and friends. I played football on other days or weekends, my Mom made a big family dinner every Sunday too. But something about football and Thanksgiving just made it more special.
If your holiday tradition incorporates sports and Thanksgiving, you know where I'm coming from. So whatever your tradition is, may you enjoy it and have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving. And most importantly enjoy the "3 F's" of Thanksgiving...food, football, and family.
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