Thanksgiving has come to represent many things to many different families but, for the country, the national holiday seems to represent two tenets of American life: food and football.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner. And we all know that means long days of cooking and entertaining, parades and football games drawing folks around the television and, in the best cases, families gathered together in a spirit of gratitude and joviality.
While turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie garner most of the attention, football on Thanksgiving has become an American institution. To the chagrin of many families, a rather innocent sporting tradition has turned into an intrusion. Not only has televised football taken over the sanctity of Sundays, but it has now also become the religion of an otherwise secular national holiday.
It is no secret that television plays a growing role in American holidays. But unlike during Christmas when families often gather around the flat-screen to watch a favorite holiday movie, the football games that dominate the Thanksgiving airwaves do more to break families apart then bring them together. All too often, televised football games separate the fans from the disinterested, usually with one group monopolizing the sofa for the day.
Family members who would like to see a holiday free of televised football shouldn't hold their breath. The NFL has scheduled three nationally broadcast games for this Thanksgiving Day and the tradition has simply become too profitable for it to stop anytime soon. Nonetheless, households have a few options in dealing with football's growing Turkey Day insurgency. Of course, there is the option to simply turn off the television for the day, which may or may not be feasible depending on the intensity of your guests' fandom. Perhaps a better option for most families might be to constructively and harmoniously integrate the sport into their day.
Three games of televised NFL football amount to about nine hours of programming so attempting to watch every minute of every game is probably a bad idea if you want to make time for a proper sit-down dinner. A better idea might be to watch one full game as a group, depending on the time you plan to eat. Families can choose a team to root for and discuss the rules and objectives of the game.
Many high schools throughout the region hold annual Turkey Bowl games on Thanksgiving morning to wrap up the local season. Attending these annual matches is a wonderful way to connect with the community and engage with the sport in a more meaningful way than through a television screen. Some friends and families also make time for a football game of their own on Thanksgiving Day, which can easily become a positive annual tradition. An active toss of the football is often welcome after the overeating and lethargy that can set in.
Avoiding football on Thanksgiving Day, like the post-turkey snooze, is no easy task. But that does not mean that the day has to be defined solely by tryptophan and touchdown runs. Families eager to come together during the holiday should do their best to compromise on the issue. Just make sure you shut the television off during dinner. After all, turkey is still the king of this American holiday. And there's always TiVo.
How to make the game fun for the whole family:
Watching the game on Thanksgiving Day can quickly become a family tradition, especially if you happen to be a football fan. Here are a few tips on how to get your children interested in the sport (you're on your own as far as your significant other is concerned):
- First, pick a team. It's tough for any viewer to be engaged in a game without some kind of investment in its outcome.
- Avoid lengthy explanations of rules. It is important to explain the rules and practices of the game to children but remember who your audience is. Little kids aren't interested in listening to a lecture about the improbability of the throw Eli Manning just made, so don't give one.
- Keep it fun. When a good play happens, jump up and cheer, hug and high five the child next to you, or give the dog a kiss. When things don't go your team's way, however, refrain from shouting curses, clenching your fist and thinking about kicking said dog. Show your kids that you know it's just a game, after all.
- Turn the volume down. We know how you like to create that "stadium atmosphere" but children have fragile eardrums and little voices. Keep the volume low so that your child can feel free to ask questions or talk about the game. Also, mute the game during the commercials. It will allow time to discuss what's happening in the game and will shield precious ears from the myriad beer and truck commercials.
- Just because you're a fan doesn't mean that your child will be. Don't force it on him or her. If you do, it will probably alienate them from the sport. Watching the game should be a fun bonding experience, not one that will come up in a session with the shrink 20 years down the road. So go easy on the kids if they decide to do something else.