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A 3 F Celebration

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Perhaps this tradition-laden late November remembrance is coming at a good time for all of us. Things have not been going all that well in Uncle Sam’s land. Prices are up, long-held traditions are down, social divides are escalating, and not a whole lot of folks can say they are better off than in previous years. But we all can and should get into the true spirit of the brotherhood and thank those Pilgrims and Indians who found common ground to celebrate way back in 1621.

Today, for many, Thanksgiving is all about the three Fs — family gatherings, food, and football. For Jean, it’s the day when the family comes home like they always have. Favorite recipes and dishes make their once-a-year appearance, and the Dallas Cowboys entertain center stage for dessert.

For all you Cowboy haters out there, I am a Thanksgiving Day convert born out of loneliness and a kind Texas family.

During my freshman year at the University of Houston, I was looking at the prospect of spending my first Thanksgiving away from home in a dorm room, dining on a fast-food menu. Most all the students would be going home for the holiday, except those like me living far away from home. A few days before the big day, I was made aware of an ‘adopt a student program’; by which Houston area families would have a student spend the day with them. That sounded good to me, so I signed up.

That Thanksgiving morning, my host family picked me up at school, and the adventure began. On the way to their home, the husband asked if I was a football fan. Excitedly, I said I was a big fan of the Baltimore Colts, in those days featuring the likes of QB Johnny Unitas, running back Lenny Moore, wide receiver Raymond Barry, and a mountain of a man in 6’6, 306-pound defensive lineman Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb, all members of the NFL Hall of Fame. Yes, indeed, the Colts were my team from boyhood.

The response from my host was swift and firm. “Not on this day. After the meal, we’ll all be watching the Cowboys.” I understood the message and joined the family in cheering on the Cowboys. I’ve been doing the same every year since.

The NFL has been playing games on Thanksgiving since 1920, minus a five-year break for World War II. The tradition resumed in 1946, with the Detroit Lions always playing a home game. In 1966, the league added a second game, and Dallas agreed to host it. In 2006 a third game was added, which NBC has aired since 2012.

Those whose Turkey Day includes football no doubt have some special remembrances, and a few of those popped into my mind.
– Colts QB Peyton Manning threw six touchdown passes in 2006 to beat the Detroit Lions 41-9. My old Colts allegiance liked that one.
– After Roger Staubach went down with a concussion trailing the Redskins 16-3 in 1974, Clint Longley, a rookie from Abilene Christian, came off the bench and led the Cowboys to a last-second 24-23 win. His time with the team ended in 1976 when he sucker-punched Staubach in training camp and was released.
– In 1998, the Turkey Day game prompted a change in the NFL rulebook. The Steelers and Lions were tied 16-16 going into overtime. Steelers running back Jerome Bettis watched the referee flip the coin, calling heads, then quickly changed his mind and called tails. Despite Bettis’ protest, the ball was awarded to Detroit, who kicked the winning field goal on its first possession. As a result of that coin flip, the NFL now requires players to call the coin before it is tossed.
– The “butt fumble” in 2012. The Jets’ QB Mark Sanchez took the snap and, on a busted play, tried to run the ball. He ran into his center’s backside and fumbled the ball in a play that still lives in NFL infamy.
– Leon Lett in 1993, still painful for Cowboys fans. A year earlier, in the Super Bowl, the defensive lineman was running for a touchdown with a recovered fumble. Showboating as he approached the end zone, a Buffalo defender knocked the ball away, preventing the TD. Ten months later, on this day, Lett screwed up again. The Cowboys had blocked a Miami field goal attempt. Lett thought he needed to recover the ball and went chasing after it. He slipped and fell into it, making it a live ball. Miami recovered the miscue at the one-yard line and kicked the game-winning field goal.

In both instances, Lett’s mistakes were covered up by Dallas victories, and the team won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1992 and 1993. They won again in 1995, but Cowboys detractors have been quick to point out they haven’t won another one since!

My rooting fervor has mellowed a bit over the years, but the Lowery household game plan for the big day still includes fellowship, food, and football — in that order!

Whatever plans you may have for the day, take time to give thanks and remembrance for the joys you have received, not the ills brought on by others. Perhaps the Pilgrims wouldn’t be able to recognize or understand today’s America they had reached 391 years ago, but you wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t.