I served my Thanksgiving dinner in a 70,000-seat stadium. It was billed as a grudge match.
And yesterday, just as he finished the meal I cooked, Ron Artest exclaimed, "That sure was great baloney sandwich!" Then he gave thanks as I hoped he would because I had already hired a lawyer.
It started with a dispute over how I served his beer and the next thing I knew, the fans were involved.
We ate in an elevated ring, much like an old Jack Dempsey fight and Don King offered it live on Pay-per-View because I promised, like every year, to play the part of a battered and shell-shocked Luis Firpo.
Holiday dinners sell out because the action is special in an All-American guilt-trip kind of way. That's right, my holidays are like Las Vegas. What happens here, stays here – forever and ever. Decades later, much like an old John Elway drive, people still talk about it.
So I sell tickets.
COLTS AT LIONS – I am predicting that Peyton Manning will throw six touchdown passes yesterday. What other prognosticator has the courage to make such an outlandish prediction? Colts 41, Lions 9.
BEARS AT COWBOYS – Drew Henson is pulled after the first half, so this former baseball player quits football to play in the NHL. NHL? Oops. That's sort of like his professional batting average and gridiron career – pointless. Cowboys 21, Bears 7.
BROWNS AT BENGALS – Randy Lerner fires Butch Davis but by the second quarter, as Butch is cleaning out his office, the owner vaguely compliments the coach in a press release. At halftime having seen more pathetic football, Lerner again fires Butch. This time he changes the locks on the doors. But just as Butch reaches his car to drive back to Florida, Lerner sends a flustered courier (Tim Couch got a job!) to give Butch the new keys to the old office. By the fourth quarter (key Indonesian sources tell me), Butch begins to sense his job might be in jeopardy so he benches Kelly Holcomb and signals for Bob Wickman from the bullpen. Wickman gives up a walk and two hits, before he settles in and starts throwing touchdowns. That's right, in no time, he throws three strikes. Wickman, carrying a baloney sandwich into the huddle, turns out to be the greatest athlete since Bo Jackson. Browns 26, Bengals 10.
BUCCANEERS AT PANTHERS – The Panthers are using their sixth-string running back. You might think he doesn't know if he is coming or going. But he is Nick Goings. Twice on Sunday, an announcer says, "Goings is gone!" Panthers 14, Buccaneers 6.
TITANS AT TEXANS – "I like the character of our football team," said Texans' coach Dom Capers. Losing builds character. Titans 31, Texans 13.
CHARGERS AT CHIEFS – If Randy Lerner had changed the locks a couple of years ago, Marty Schottenheimer could be coach of the Cleveland Browns right now. I don't care that he's goofy. He is a great coach who can certainly win it all. Chargers 25, Chiefs 23.
JAGUARS AT VIKINGS – Randy Moss is back and he plans to let people know. The Jaguars let him. Vikings 32, Jaguars 22.
EAGLES AT GIANTS – Eli's throwing, Jeremy's dropping. It's, like, Biblical man. Eagles 23, Giants 10
REDSKINS AT STEELERS – The Steelers have to lose soon. But the Redskins have to lose usually because it's a Karma thing and Joe Gibbs preached that he knows the best way one time too many. Steelers 32, Redskins 10.
SAINTS AT FALCONS – Hollywood has done movies about Superman, Spiderman and Batman. Next up, Michael Vick. Falcons 31, Saints 10.
RAVENS AT PATRIOTS – When Ray Lewis gets off the bus, the ghost of the turkey from the very first Thanksgiving poops on his head. That's some old, smelly poop. Afterward, people compliment Ray for smelling better than he ever has. Patriots 31, Ravens 17.
JETS AT CARDINALS – Dennis Green is a really smart football coach who can't seem to inspire his team to march through a sheet of paper. Herman Edwards is a really inspirational football coach who might be able to inspire his team to march through a brick wall but isn't smart enough to know that his team could just walk around it. Smart versus inspirational. Who do you pick? I say the home team plays smart. Cardinals 25, Jets 22.
DOLPHINS AT 49ERS – Grief counselors are being provided to fans of both teams. Dolphins 1, 49ers 0.
BILLS AT SEAHAWKS – Scholars are at a loss to explain how Drew Bledsoe can still throw four touchdowns in a game. Bills 35, Seahawks 12.
RAIDERS AT BRONCOS – Why are the Raiders at the Broncos? Why? Broncos 41, Raiders 0.
RAMS AT PACKERS – If you watch only one NFL game before the playoffs, watch this one. This is going to be fun in that OK Corral-shootout kind of way. Brett Favre is my favorite NFL player since Bernie Kosar or Leroy Kelly. The Rams, on a losing binge, will not roll over in this one. They'll lose, ultimately, because Brett Favre is playing on Monday night. Packers 37, Rams 34.
I had a festive day yesterday with all of my imaginary friends. We talked about an imaginary good football team and all of its imaginary wins. I would have cooked an imaginary turkey, but my imaginary oven in my imaginary home is broken. I can't imagine who broke it. (Ron Artest!)
So, okay, I may not have an oven or a home or friends but I do have a cardboard box from an oven that I sleep in out in the woods where I talk to the squirrels and for that, I am thankful. Yes, life is about appreciating the small things – or, in my case, the imaginary ones.
For instance, I imagine the Cleveland Browns will be good again. As for the current version, I think I speak for all of my friends when I say, Thanks a lot.
The team seems broken. I can't imagine who broke it.
Finally, I leave you with this advisory from the box office: Tickets to watch my Christmas dinner are selling fast!
This column is sponsored by The Mortal Majority.