Holler: Football overkill on Thanksgiving?

The traditions are evaporating and big business is marching over quaint celebrations. The NFL is here to seize the Thanksgiving holiday from essentially noon to midnight.

There are times when you know you're old.

The first time both of my kids saw a record album and were informed that a literal needle scratched its way across that buffet-style plate to make sound was one of them. That's hard to explain to a child with a credit card-sized I-Pod with 1,000 songs on it.

The "repair man" had a job when I was a kid. The "recycling man" has a similar job today. When asked innocently by my daughter why a computer keyboard isn't designed alphabetically left to right, I brought up that it was patterned by the typewriter.

"What's a typewriter?"

It is comments like that which make a man's hair turn greyer or simply fall out.

As a kid, Thanksgiving at my house was more important than Christmas or Mother's Day. You couldn't miss either of the other two – jail was an acceptable option – but, if you missed Thanksgiving, there was hell to pay. In 1998, my mom actually consulted with me to ask when halftime would be as the Vikings would dismember the Cowboys. The estimate came within five minutes of halftime. Best Thanksgiving ever! The family gorged themselves at halftime and loosened belts as the Vikings completed the beat-down of the self-described America's Team. That day, Randy Moss caught just three passes. All of them went for touchdowns. For those who had to work on Black Friday, it was a day they could enjoy and every Moss catch made it all the more sweet for Minnesotans. Hubris? No question. But it was hubris on Thanksgiving. All was good with the world … at least with Vikings fans.

1998 was just 14 years ago. I've gained a daughter and lost two parents since then – a moral dilemma trade I would accept again even knowing the outcome. As a "kid's table" resident most of my life, Thanksgiving was a big deal. Unfortunately, it has become the phlegm-loosening time between Halloween and Christmas that has increasingly been forgotten.

As someone who equated Thanksgiving with seeing The Wizard of Oz on TV – clearly pre-DVD era – it was a rite of passage, as was watching all or part of football games during the afternoon featuring the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys. It was tradition. So was the rush to stores and malls on the Friday afterward.

However, that has all changed. There used to be an accommodation made for Thanksgiving that you didn't really hit the full Christmas blitz until the day after. Those days have long since passed. In recent years, Thanksgiving also meant the start of NFL Network's coverage of Thursday night games. Those who didn't have NFL Network were missing out on that game or catching it on the radio, but it was a clear sign that Thanksgiving wasn't the same. The NFL was trying to cash in by adding a third game to the Turkey Day slate, which seemed like a bit of overkill. The rest of the commerce-based society would follow along.

Thanksgiving night over the last few years has seen the Black Friday store openings moving earlier and earlier, from 6 a.m. to 4 a.m. to 3 a.m. The push to get people Christmas shopping has seemingly started the day after Halloween, when Christmas displays started popping up. Now it would seem Thanksgiving has been swallowed up by the madness. Stores are now often starting their proverbial "doorbusters" starting at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night.

The NFL is doing the same. CBS will carry the Texans-Lions game early in the afternoon, FOX will carry the Redskins-Cowboys game in late afternoon and NBC will carry the Jets-Patriots Thanksgiving night. If you're a football fan, Thursday won't be so much about Thanksgiving, it will be about watching not two but three NFL games essentially from before noon until almost midnight.

Maybe it's just my own myopic point of view, but I used to love Thanksgiving because it meant being with family and mixing in some football. Now it's wall-to-wall NFL and family members cutting out early to get to the box stores to get the biggest deals they have to offer. Somehow it seems as though we've lost something along the way.

Football fans won't complain, but it seems as though the tradition of Thanksgiving is be co-opted by big business – and the NFL is front in center as part of that process.


  • The Vikings injuries have been laid out by VU already, highlighted by Percy Harvin missing Wednesday's practice, but the Bears have receiver concerns of their own. Not only has rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery been ruled out with a knee injury that has ended his season, but Brandon Marshall (shoulder) and starting tight end Kellen Davis (ankle) both missed practice Wednesday.

  • 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is apparently going to kill off the axiom of a starter not losing his job due to injury, as reports have surfaced that Harbaugh informed Alex Smith that Collin Kaepernick will start Sunday against the Saints.

    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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