STEIMER: Football traditions deserve some Thanksgiving love

In November of 1621, William Bradford organized a celebratory feast for the harvesting of Plymouth’s first crop and invited some local Indians – Thanksgiving was born. The real father of Thanksgiving, however, was George Richards. It was Richards, after all, who organized the first radio-broadcasted Thanksgiving football game. Richards, then owner of the Detroit Lions, sparked the great American tradition when he got the Chicago Bears and the National Broadcast Corporation on board for the inaugural game. And what would Thanksgiving be without football? If it weren’t for Richards, America wouldn’t have been able to witness Barry Sanders on Thanksgiving, and who knows if annual Turkey Bowls would take place nationwide? I remember my first Turkey Bowl. It took place the Saturday after Thanksgiving when I must have been no older than 8 or 9 years old. As my dad is a youth pastor, I went out to play in the youth group’s perennial Turkey Bowl (winner received a bowl with a turkey painted on it). Nobody bothered to block the little kid, and the only thing I remember from the day is that I sacked the quarterback twice (in two-hand touch, of course). These are memories that last a lifetime. The more traditional Turkey Bowls, of course, are played in the backyard on Thanksgiving Day. Playing against cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews is a tradition that will always be fun for families all across America. After all, what is more fun than juking your uncle, or intercepting your papa? While it may be different for those who choose to eat their Thanksgiving meal at lunch, the traditional Turkey Bowl has always been a great joy to come right after everyone watches the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and right before everybody settles down to watch the big boys in Detroit and Dallas. And while, for most of my lifetime, the Detroit game is the less competitive of the two, it is always the game that seems more peaceful. They have always been the loveable losers and are nigh impossible to root against on Turkey Day. Cheering for Detroit to make a comeback is a long held, comfortable tradition. In fact, it will feel like the tradition has been broken a little bit when the Lions (7-3) play the Packers (10-0) on Thursday – this year, the Detroit game actually matters. The great tradition of playing America’s game on America’s holiday is an almost perfect tradition. It just works. The two things, Thanksgiving and football, simply jive together. They run simultaneously through the blood of each and every American. So this Thanksgiving, if anyone asks me, I’m thankful for George Richards. Jacob Steimer is sports editor and a senior columnist for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK, and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.