I've lost interest in Thanksgiving football games. Once the NFL took over the day of football, the charm of football on Thanksgiving Day was lost for me.
Maybe I was spoiled. Maybe I feel like NCAA football on Thanksgiving was like having a favorite cafe with excellent food and solid tradition, but that fine diner got bulldozed by a bully franchise strip mall restaurant like Chilis or Red Robin and the new place has more glitz and more buzz and more sizzle, but it's a little too packaged, the whole atmosphere too forced, and so I went to the new bully on the block at first, but it didn't serve anything that really satisfied me, so I took my business elsewhere.
For me, the NFL on Thanksgiving is like that Appleby's or that Olive Garden that came in a few years back, and the bottomless salad or the gallon-sized Mageuritas were okay, but you want that old cafe back. I want NCAA college football back on Thanksgiving: Texas v Texas A&M was a fine traditional game on Thanksgiving. There were others. The best of all time, though, was on November 25, 1971. Oklahoma v Nebraska. The game of the century. Two long-time Big Eight rivals, both undefeated. Both gunning for a national championship. Watch this video,patiently wait for seventy seconds, and then watch Johnny Rodgers run a first quarter 'Husker punt back seventy-one yards in Nebraska's 35-31 victory:
This is one of the very best touchdown runs in the history of football, especially the move Rodgers makes after he's eluded the first defender, unloosed himself from a grab around the ankle, and then takes a huge stride straight at the Sooner coverage team and somehow takes that stride back, reverses it, and in the same motion scurries to his right, jets around the corner and he's off with a zag to the left, around another corner, and speeds to the endzone.
And, get this: an NCAA football game of this magnitude was played on Thanksgiving Day. That means that when I saw this punt return and the see-saw battle that followed, I was at Jerry Turnbow's, with my dad and all his friends, and the air was thick with turkey and sweet potatoes and gravy and rolls baking and this "game of the century" was the climax of the 1971 season, as well as the climax of Thanksgiving Day. Who cared that Dallas beat the Rams 28-21 later in the day? Our commitment on that day was to the college game. Having such a college game on Thanksgiving in the 21st Century is beyond my imagining.
You watch Johnny Rodgers return that punt and you get a sense as to why the NFL wants Thanksgiving Day to itself. The NFL offers nothing that exciting, that electric.
So, this year, on Thanksgiving Day, I'll be home in Kellogg. I'll be with my mom. I'll have dinner with her and my sister's family. I'll walk Snug. I'll go up and visit my dad's grave site.
But, I doubt I'll watch much football. It'll be the NFL. I don't want to go to Appleby's on Thanksgivng. I'd rather eat a the good stuff at the old diner the erecting of Appleby's tore down.