Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sports Give Thanksgiving Weekend Greater Meaning

Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday.  It's not even close.

As a naturally slender person, I use the day as a personal challenge to try and add at least a few pounds.  I eat a little in the morning and then sit back and wait to feast in the late afternoon.

The day really begins at noon when I watch the annual Lions' game with my dad.  Most years we can turn it off around halftime because the Honolulu Blue looks like the tryptophan effect kicked in too early, but really it was just because of a serious lack of talent (damn you Matt Millen).  Not this year though! (Brace yourself Rodgers, a SUHnami is coming).

After about three-and-a-half hours of screaming and pleading with the TV for my home team to play better ball, I've built up a pretty hardy appetite.  That's the cue to head over to my aunt and uncle's for dinner.

My family's Thanksgiving meal is pretty traditional, but no less awesome.  Turkey of all sorts.  Mashed Potatoes that are Melyssa Ford-thick.  Pies that are as sweet as a Selena Gomez smile.  The dinner is perfect.  The time with family is better.

I've missed out on these annual turkey day traditions for the past three years.  My work schedules forced me to stay in Indiana and Minnesota, so I am greatly looking forward to Thanksgiving 2011.

I don't really think I ever took the day for granted - how could you with my Aunt Jen's homemade apple pie? - but being away for awhile gave me a greater appreciation for it.

Just like sports.

There is a lot to hate about pro and college sports right now.  Scandals cover college athletics like a blanket. The  NFL can't decided what is a hit or a catch with any type of conviction.  The MLB will now start testing for Human Growth Hormone, don't be surprised if a few batting averages take a 2008 stock exchange type nose dive. And the NBA...there is too much.

But, like the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, sports may make you roll your eyes and shake your head, but we still watch and listen because the entertainment value is unparalleled.

One of my favorite sports personalities is Scott Van Pelt.  He is one of the few broadcasters on ESPN who I can still stomach.  Every now and then, usually on historic nights, he will drop this gem, "At it's best, sports is better than anything."

It's true.  For all of the flaws in sports, there is still nothing better.

Sports unite communities like they did in Joplin, Missouri.  They inspire people to push harder and love deeper, like Dick and Rick Hoyt.  They force us to take a better look at ourselves and society.

And above all, sports make life more fun in so many ways.

I am spending the Thanksgiving holiday going to three different football games.  Thursday, my dad, grandfather, and I are heading to Ford Field to watch the Lions dominate the once unbeaten Packers.  The following day, I will be back at Ford Field, watching my high school football team compete for the State Championship.  Saturday, my friends and I will be in Evanston, IL for the Michigan State - our alma mater - and Northwestern game.

Three days.  Three games.  And each gives me a chance to reconnect and spend time with the people I care about most.

Could I do this is other ways? Sure.  We could play chess or go shopping on Black Friday, but bonding through sports is different.  A game means a few hours of camaraderie at its best, moments of great passion, celebrations that end in awkward bro-hugs and high fives.

No other events could make these days so memorable.

Sports are not perfect.  They never will be.  But, during this weekend especially, I am reminded about why they are important, why I love them dearly, and why I am so THANKFUL to be a sports fan.

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