Tight Ends?

A Dummies Guide to the NFL’s Thanksgiving Day Games

Sujay Kumar on how to avoid embarrassing Tebow comments and questions about what ‘Redskins’ really means.

Like that one pilgrim who led the Mayflower to Plymouth Rock, Chad Kroeger will try to snap an eight-year losing streak and ferry the Dallas Lions to Turkey Bowl victory.

Wait, that’s not right at all.

The estimated 30 million who will tune in for football this holiday aren’t fooling anyone. Nobody really cares about the NFL’s Thanksgiving Classic games. As one hardcore football aficionado chatted to me, “the teams blow, so really who cares.” And without expensive commercials, palpable stakes, and a Puppy Bowl, casual fans are left wondering why they should bother.

That’s exactly why the biggest story at this time last year was how singer Kroeger and his band, Nickelback, fended off an inspired movement to stop the Canadian rock/grunge group—and frequent butt of jokes—from performing at the halftime show of the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers clash.

It wasn’t always like this. Long after the pilgrims made their voyage, Yale and Princeton’s football teams squared off in a Thanksgiving grudge match in 1876. And who can forget the Buffalo Prospects’ 0-0 thriller with the Rochester Jeffersons in 1919’s New York League duel?

When the NFL launched, the Lions quickly turned into regular host of the tradition in the early ’30s. The Dallas Cowboys followed as cohosts in 1966. And in 2006, a third wild-card night game joined.

Since this tradition is more than just plunking down on a couch in a tryptophan-induced haze to watch big men in tight pants vie for the elusive “Turkey Leg ” or “Galloping Gobbler,” the day’s unofficial and seemingly useless most valuable player trophies, here’s a guide to the games.

Houston Texans vs. Detroit Lions (12:30 p.m. EST)

The Lions haven’t won a Thanksgiving fight since 2003. And even though they’ll once again be gracious hosts this year, chances are Detroit’s finest 4–6 team won’t be knocking off the 9–1 Texans. But who knows, years of being a doormat may finally erupt, much like Ndamukong Suh did last year when he stomped on another guy. Or, you know, maybe he was ticked off that he was forced to play football instead of pounding turkey. Or maybe he was reeling from Nickelback’s killer performance.

What to say: The Lions are a good team … somewhere in there.

What not to say: Is Nickelback performing?

Halftime show: Kid Rock, Detroit fan and repeat performer. He’s not as dangerous as Nickelback—no chance fans will revolt. Great time for a bathroom break.

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Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys (4:15 p.m. EST)

If you can get past the unusually obvious racial undercurrent of the Redskins playing the Cowboys, this midlevel matchup promises to be the most exciting of the trio. Watch for the announcers to go gaga over RGIII, who is not a character in the Star Wars reboot but the phenomenal rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III (the other guy in those Subway commercials).

What to say: Tony Romo’s playing like Jessica Simpson’s watching.

What not to say: Redskins: racial epithet or a celebration of Native American culture?

Halftime show: Kenny Chesney. Does country trump the Nickelback song “Photograph”?

New England Patriots vs. New York Jets (8:20 p.m. EST)

The sound of the Patriots fighting the Jets conjures thoughts of traditional Americans rising against the industrial machine. Instead, this game will likely be boring. As sure as turkey on a table, Tom Brady and the 7–3 Patriots will likely trounce Mark Sanchez and the woeful New York Jets.

What to say: It sucks that Gronkowski got hurt.

What not to say: How about that Tim Tebow guy?

Halftime Show: Lenny Kravitz, hardcore Jets fan. If the score gets out of hand by the time he performs, this could get ugly.

Bonus Points

If you really want to impress this holiday season, drop a line about the Canadian Football League’s Thanksgiving games.

What to say: Boy, those Saskatchewan Roughriders really kicked the crap out of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

What not to say: When do Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving?

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