By Mark Carpenter –
By the time many of you read this, you will have either already had a Thanksgiving dinner or may be preparing for your feast, and likely will have your television set tuned to some football action. I associate two events with Thanksgiving (other than food), the Macy’s Parade and NFL football.
Many of you may not know that the first Thanksgiving football game was played in 1876, but that was a college game between Yale and Princeton. We have certainly come a long way to the grand holiday productions that we have now. You may have noticed that every Thanksgiving included home games for two teams-the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys. The story for the Lions is mush more interesting than that of the Cowboys, who kind of just horned in on the party.
Professional football was in its infancy in the 1920’s and attendance was struggling on Sunday afternoons, mostly because there was no such thing as a weekend then for most people, they worked seven days a week just to get by. The owner of the Lions, a fellow named George Richards, came up with the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving Day, with the hope that since it was a day that people got off from work, they could be enticed to attend a pro football game. Richards negotiated a contract to get the game televised and the rest as they say, is history, and the Lions will kick off the action on this year’s Thanksgiving Day.
Those of you who know your history will know that the games were disrupted when President Franklin Roosevelt made the controversial change of the Thanksgiving date in 1939 to attempt to boost a sagging economy. (Might want to thank him for Black Friday.) Half of the state recognized Roosevelt’s plan and half didn’t, leading to only the Eagles and Squealers playing on Thanksgiving and then no Thanksgiving games at all during the country’s involvement in World War II.
After the Cowboys jumped in the fray in 1966 and got a guarantee from the NFL for an annual Thanksgiving game (before Jerry Jones ruled the roost), the package was set and Cowboys fans were happy.
There have been some memorable performances on Thanksgiving Day, remembered by those who were not in an alcohol or tryptophan-induced stupor. How about some guy named O.J. rushing for 273 yards in 1976? Remember the 1989 Bounty Bowl where the Eagles placed a bounty on the Cowboys’ kicker? How about 1993 when the Cowboys’ Leon Lett tried to dive on a blocked kick in the snow and cost his team the game? There was the famous overtime coin toss snafu in 1998 when the Squealers’ Jerome Bettis tried to call both heads and tails at the same time and of course, who could forget the infamous “Butt fumble” of 2012.
Luckily for Bengals fans, the orange and black have only bee invited to play on Thanksgiving Day one time, that in 2010 and it was what you might expect, a 26-10 loss to the Jets, where the Bengals led 7-3 at halftime and then were outscored 23-3 in the second half. Stop me if you have heard that before. The Bengals’ leading rusher in the game was Cedric Benson with 41 yards and quarterback Carson Palmer threw for a grand total of 135 yards with two interceptions. The only Cincinnati touchdown of the day belonged to receiver Jordan Shipley.
When I was growing up in Ripley, the youngsters in town looked forward to another Thanksgiving night tradition, deemed the “Turkey Bowl”, where under the lights at the baseball field, which was within walking distance of my house, a group of men who may or may not have indulged in a bit more than turkey that day, battled to see who could break the most bones and give the most business to Hayswood Hospital in Maysville.
It is my understanding that on Thursday, West Union will be hosting their own traditional “Turkey Bowl.” Now, this game is just two-hand touch and is played on the old baseball field near the Defender office. If you have some extra time on Thursday, you certainly will want to check out the annual quarterbacking heroics of “Galloping” Joe Kramer. That is, if you have the energy to pull yourself off the couch by that time, I’m guessing I won’t, so the exploits of Mr. Kramer and his troops will once again become myth or legend and stories to be told at Thanksgivings to come.
Enjoy your day and a Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the Defender!