Thanksgiving feast for sports fans

Published Nov. 22, 2010 12:00 a.m. ET

If family gets on your nerves after more than hour or two, be very thankful for the modern explosion of televised sports, which offers the perfect means to avoid them.

Thanksgiving weekend traditionally is supposed to be when we savor family and friends, but it’s also a time for reflection — not so much because of anything the Pilgrims did but, rather, in recognition of the staggering proliferation of games TV now makes available.

Maybe my mind's clouded by nostalgia (memories often are), but as a kid, I distinctly remember two NFL games on Thanksgiving Day — one hosted by Dallas, the other by Detroit — and then some key college football games that pretty much capped the season. Every other year, for example, USC and Notre Dame would close against each other in Los Angeles.

However, those few big helpings of football have been replaced by a nonstop sports buffet, leaving it to the gluttonous fans to push themselves away from the table or curl up on the couch and succumb to a sports-and-food-induced coma.

In the modern age, games spill all over the place, including a whopping 14 college football games on Friday alone, several of them marquee matchups. Indeed, through the vagaries of scheduling, both No. 1 Oregon and No. 2 Auburn play ranked opponents (No. 11 Alabama and No. 21 Arizona, respectively), while No. 4 Boise State seeks to further burnish its BCS credentials against No. 19 Nevada. None of this is great news for those privileged few clinging to jobs that might require them to actually work that day.

On Thanksgiving, meanwhile, Texas plays No. 17 Texas A&M, another reminder that I’m thankful not to live in Texas.

As a side dish, ESPN or one of its satellite channels will fill untold hours with college basketball tournaments, including the preseason NIT, which I like mentioning because the name of sponsor Dick’s Sporting Goods always makes me laugh.


The glut of college games also underscores that however much the NCAA talks about its noble commitment to student-athletes, the group has no compunctions about scattering kids all over the country at Thanksgiving and Christmas at TV’s behest.

Once true fans have finished their Thursday meal, they can start strategizing about the rest of their weekend TV consumption, creating windows to absorb the sports on display.

For starters, generously dispatch your significant other to the shopping malls to indulge in (or endure) “Black Friday” madness, insisting you’re not feeling well, slightly hung over or (better yet) don’t want to cramp their style. Then send the kids, if you have them, to the newest Disney movie, “Tangled,” which is pretty mediocre, so you’re not missing much.

Once the coast is clear, become one with the couch and enjoy hours of mindless, uninterrupted bliss.

Oh, and there’s one new wrinkle on Thanksgiving weekend festivities: It now officially marks the anniversary of the Tiger Woods scandal (egad, has it really only been a year?), which sullied his reputation and messed up his golf game — an event destined to keep yielding magical memories and cable-sports retrospectives for years to come.

While these family avoidance procedures might not be in the true spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s face it, there’s a reason so many people prefer the company of families they see on TV to their own real-life ones. Because the great thing about TV families is that the best of them are entertaining, seldom disappoint you and, after a quick weekly visit, leave.

Admittedly, even talking about the good ol’ days when sports telecasts were rarer and, thus, more special risks sounding like an old coot, yelling about the corrosive effects of the infield-fly rule. Besides, what’s wrong with having more, more, more?

Nothing, really — other than observing how fast things have changed and how much we take for granted in this wired, mobile, overflowing media age. In that respect, the Thanksgiving weekend’s teeming calendar is oddly symbolic.

Still, I would offer one bit of advice: Just like the feast people eat and often wind up regretting, if you find yourself watching Central Michigan vs. Toledo on Friday and have absolutely no interest in who wins, it might be healthier to skip further empty calories. You’ve had enough.