“Football is a great holiday of family, friends, good food and football. How can it get any better than that? One of the all-time greats.” Bill Belichick 11/23/2016
Never is a sport more tied to a holiday than football is to Thanksgiving. I got a Thanksgiving card in the mail last week. (which is more startling: that I got a Thanksgiving card, or that I got it in the actual mail?) The card read, Thanksgiving is great, unless you’re 1. A turkey or 2. A football. I don’t really know where I was going with this other than the fact that I wanted to brag about getting a Thanksgiving card in the mail. Oh, I was trying to show the unique bond that football and Thanksgiving take in the American psyche.
The games are generally ceremonial and traditional but very often, not terribly memorable. I racked my brain and Youtube.com, for my favorite Turkey Day football memories.
I was young but I recall watching the 1993 Dolphins at Cowboys game where it snowed in Texas Stadium. I was at my grandmother’s house watching this one and nobody could explain how the field was covered in snow, despite the fact that Texas Stadium only had that small opening in the domed roof. There are few images more bizarre, even 24 years later, than snow blanketing the field of a dome for a game between teams from Dallas and Miami. It looked so out of place, like there was a glitch in Madden ’93 that created this moment because surely this wasn’t real life. That feeling bled over as the Cowboys blocked a Miami field goal in the finals seconds that caused Jerry Jones to jump up and down in a coat that I’m pretty sure he stole from The Undertaker. Dallas was happy until Leon Lett inexplicably slide into the ball in an attempt to……… Recover it? Rescue it? Steal second base? We’ll never really know what Leon was thinking on this play, but it gave Miami a second chance at the game winner from the one yard line, which Pete Stoyanovich drilled through the uprights. It was a classic game and one of the most unique games in sporting lore.
Rookie Randy Moss carved up Dallas in 1998. There was tons of hype surrounded Moss and he absolutely torched Dallas on three long TDs from Randall Cunningham. This was Moss’s official coming out party and I remember that very day wishing, that a player like that could wind up on the Patriots.
Speaking of the Patriots, they’ve had a few great moments on Thanksgiving Day. I remember the 2002 victory over Detroit pretty well because of the throwback uniforms and Tedy Bruschi’s pick six, but the more infamous moment happened when New England donned the Pat Patriot throwbacks yet again at Detroit in 2010. The Patriots were handling teams with ease that season and should have run through Detroit, but early in the game, the Lions were hanging around and took a lead. I was getting a little frosty with company at this point at which time, “Not Cousin” Pam said the magic words that no sports fan wants to hear during a big game: “who cares, it’s just a game.” This went over about as well as the Bumpus hounds eating the Parker family’s turkey in A Christmas Story. Luckily for all of us, the Patriots bounced back and handled their business in the second half and breezed to a 45-24 win.
Butt Fumble. The most recognizable sports blunder of this generation. BUTT, (not a typo) the Butt Fumble is part of an even more impressive stretch of football. The Patriots scored three touch downs in 53 seconds during that span. So the Butt Fumble, was really sandwiched by two other incredible plays. Shonn Greene fumbled on 4th & 1 and on the next play, Brady threw a screen pass to Shane Vereen that he took 74 yards down the left sidelines to the house. Then Mark Sanchez ran into a butt (Brandon Moore’s butt to be exact), fumbled into the hands of Steve Gregory, who whisked the ball into the end zone. On the ensuing kickoff, Jets returner Joe McKnight was drilled, popping the ball high into the air and the waiting hands of Julian Edelman, who then returned it for a touchdown. 21 points in 53 seconds, which was also a part of a 35 point 2nd quarter for the Patriots, which tied the team record for points in any quarter. The Patriots would go on to win the game in a rout, 49-19.
The memory that I wish I had, but honestly don’t really recall is the one that I should be the most thankful for. It was on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit in 2000, where Tom Brady made his first appearance as a Patriot in an NFL game. I watched this game, I watched all the games of the putrid 5-11 Patriots, and I recall watching this one upstairs at my parents’ house. I’d be lying if I said that I remembered anything of Brady’s performance other than what is replayed from time to time.
This year’s slate of games isn’t the most inspiring, the Vikings and Lions could be good but even I’ll have a hard time getting excited for the Giants and Redskins. No matter who is playing on Thanksgiving, Bill Belichick was right, football is a great holiday. And if you don’t agree, just watch highlights of the Butt Fumble circus music underneath it.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.