Giving thanks, but not for the Lions

I have plenty of wonderful Thanksgiving memories, and plenty of ruined Thanksgivings because of my favorite football team.

As a Detroit Lions fan, every Turkey Day I’m treated to (or punished by) being able to see my team play on this great national holiday, which just happens to be my favorite holiday of the year — including Christmas.

What isn’t there to like about the day? My parents always made sure to get a 20-pound butterball turkey (they had seven kids, after all), my mom managed to outdo her homemade stuffing from the previous year, and my dad would always buy one too many pies from the bakery — pumpkin, apple, cheery and chocolate cream. We had every possible Thanksgiving fixing — you name it.

Being raised in a family of nine was great because there was always enough food at the table for an army, and it was considered a sin in my family if food was wasted. Bottom line, you had to eat.

So when I discovered Lions football at the age of seven and continually saw the team play on Thanksgiving every year, I realized just how lucky I was. The combination of pigskin and food was overwhelming.

But then we entered the 21st century, and the Lions became the Lions.

The team has won just twice on Thanksgiving this decade, including dropping the last five Turkey Day contests.

For every jumbo-sized turkey leg my dad would drop on my plate, I can remember Peyton Manning and Tom Brady methodically dinking and dunking passes downfield, taking the life out of the home crowd by halftime.

As much as I would devour an entire plate of stuffing — seriously, a whole plate — I would always find myself shaking my head every few minutes following a terrible missed tackle by Terry Fair or Bryant Westbrook.

How about Lions backup QB Mike McMahon trying to rally the Lions past Green Bay in 2001 after replacing Charlie Batch? His go-to target? The forgettable Scotty Anderson. It goes without saying that the McMahon-to-Anderson connection didn’t really take off in Motown.

But last year may have been the worst, because it was only during that Turkey Day classic that I realized the team was indeed capable of going 0-16. LenDale White and Chris Johnson absolutely thrashed the defense, combining for 231 rushing yards in a 47-10 Titans win.

This has epitomized Thanksgiving for me the last decade or so.

And it hurts.

I used to get upset that my family would somehow manage to serve dinner in the waning moments of the third quarter every year — just about the time you want to plop on the couch and enjoy the last quarter of the game. During the Barry Sanders years, I missed plenty of spectacular runs by No. 20 because of our unfortunate dinner time.

As I grew older and the team became awful, I was more concerned with the food.

This year? Well, after last Sunday’s performance against the Cleveland Browns — wretched defensive performance aside — I at least expected an exciting shootout between two of the league’s better quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford.

But of course, the odds of Stafford playing appear bleak as he’s dealing with a separated non-throwing shoulder, an injury that occurred on the second-to-last play of the game on Sunday. To make matters worse, Calvin Johnson is banged up again.

So it looks like we’ll be showcasing — to the entire nation, no less — Daunte Culpepper and Derrick Williams.

It figures.

There’s been a lot of talk — within the media and league circles — of yanking the Lions from their annual Thanksgiving slot and rotating teams every year. As poorly as the Lions have played in recent years, I must say this would kill me because the Turkey Day game, as sad as it sounds, has become my Super Bowl. It’s become every Lions fans’ Super Bowl because it’s the one time of year when we know everyone’s watching us — even if it’s the only game on at the time and it’s by default.

Yes, for three hours on Thanksgiving Day, the Lions are America’s team. That is, until the afternoon kickoff, when the Dallas Cowboys steal our thunder and bully their way into homes across the country.

But don’t worry, Lions fans. If the Packers are up 24-3 late in the third quarter Thursday, you’re all invited to my home, where dinner will be served just in time to miss that Lions’ comeback.

Follow me on Twitter: Miller_Dave

Dave Miller is Web manager of the National Football Post.

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