I grew bug-eyed when I first saw the schedule in April.
I immediately took to the internet to inform my family by e-mail that Thanksgiving was canceled.
“Thanksgiving dinner. My house. Panthers party,” I wrote.
They ignored me.
So I informed the matriarch of the family. Thanksgiving would get canceled, I informed her. She looked at me funny and turned away. Ignore him and maybe he’ll shut up, she thought.
But now the time has come. I will not shut up. The Carolina Panthers of the National Football League will play the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day in Texas. Game time: 4:30. The family usually gets together around 5.
It’s crunch time.
My family consists of three Panthers fans, two Dolphins fans (the boys first started watching football on TV during the Marino era), one Cowboys fan (she married into the family) and seven who could care less. So I am outnumbered.
The Matriarch doesn’t do much cooking for Thanksgiving any more. The heavy load has shifted to her daughter, who hosts our annual family feast. My stepdaughter has become the Tom Brady of Thanksgiving dinner. She doesn’t care about football, and it’ll be tough to get her to cancel.
Thus, it’s time to suck it up. When times get tough the tough get going. It’s down to the wire and I need to pull a big one out of the back of the playbook.
How am I going to get the family to come and watch and game and ignore the turkey and fixin’s?
How am I going to get Thanksgiving canceled?
These are exciting times. The old high school has its best football team ever, since the program started my freshman year. The team was top seed in the West playoffs and seeking the school’s first state championship.
The old college football team is after its first conference-championship playoff game, while the basketball team was ranked No. 1 in the country preseason.
But when I became a man, to borrow a line from the Bible, I put those childish ways behind me. I pretty much follow the home pro football team exclusively now.
Previously, the annual Thanksgiving Day games in Detroit and Dallas (they’re always in Detroit and Dallas — it’s a tradition) were middling affairs that were useful to watch in fits and spurts as the women puttered in the kitchen cooking and warming up the dishes brought in.
The games were useful in begging off helping with the cooking or setting the table.
I really didn’t care about Detroit or Dallas. And I couldn’t turn the TV off fast enough when it came time to eat.
But this year the Panthers are playing on Thanksgiving Day, for the first time. This is creating havoc with holiday plans in the Carolinas as the Panthers also have their best team ever.
Don’t tell me my household is the only one in conflict over this.
The Panthers have a good shot at their first championship. But the game in Dallas is a trap game, meaning Dallas, the underdog, has a good chance of winning in an upset against the Panthers. The team needs my family’s full attention for support.
Dallas has its quarterback and best receiver back following recoveries from injuries. The Panthers have a short week to prepare, they have to travel for the holiday, and Dallas has a history of playing well on Thanksgiving.
So how to get the women and girls to forget about Thanksgiving and cooking and eating? We can’t have such distractions during the game. How to get them to come and watch? Preferably in silence, without such questions as “What is a first down?” Humm.
OK, I’ve got a play. Huddle up. Here we go: “Twin slot, gun, counter power, Q3.”
And move dinner up to 1 p.m. Detroit’s playing then. Nobody cares about Detroit.
Eat quick and get those dishes washed and put away by 4 and pregame. To get this done it may require me to wash some dishes and help clean up for the first time ever on Thanksgiving. But I’ll take that one for the team.
Next up: my Panthers Super Bowl party. Feb. 7. At my house. Look for my Panthers flag flying beside the front door. See you then.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.