Thanksgiving, we’ve heard, may be rough for many families around America this year. But don’t despair. Politics may divide the dinner table. But sports can unite you and uncle Freddie. Here are seven sporty reasons to give thanks this holiday season.
1. Neither The Cowboys Nor The Lions Stink. For once, you might want to fight off the tryptophan and stay awake for Thanksgiving football. The Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings kick off at 12:30: the teams are tied for first in the NFL North division, as both have 6-4 records. At 4:30, the Washington Redskins visit the Dallas Cowboys for an NFC East rivalry game packed with playoff implications. The Cowboys, thanks in large part to two outstanding rookies—quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliot—at 9-1 own the best record in the NFL. Washington’s 6-3-1. The nightcap—the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Indianapolis Colts, at 8:30, isn’t bad either. Both the Colts and Steelers are 5-5, but very much in the playoff hunt, with the Colts trailing the Houston Texans by one game in the AFC South, and Pittsburgh tied with Baltimore atop the AFC North. The NFL’s mired in mediocrity this season. TV ratings, for example, have dropped. This Thanksgiving triple-header’s an opportunity for the NFL to attract an audience for the 2016 stretch run, and for you to escape politics after apple pie.
2. A Big Game Game. When Jim Harbaugh left the San Francisco 49ers to take the head coaching job at his alma mater, Michigan, back in 2014, fans could only hope that Harbaugh’s trademark intensity, and khakis, would make the Wolverines relevant again. They have. Michigan’s ranked No. 3 in the country, and on Saturday, college football gets its game of the season—”The Game,” the annual rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 2 this season. The outcome of this duel will have enormous implications for the College Football Playoff. If you’re going to take a break binge-watching Gilmore Girls this weekend, set aside noon e.s.t. on Saturday, for Michigan-Ohio State.
3. Your Hockey Team Isn’t Called The Golden Knights. Unless you live in Sin City. But really, Las Vegas? Your city, no humdrum locale, gets its first major pro sports team, and you name it the Las Vegas Golden Knights? Because nothing screams Vegas, baby, like medieval armor.
4. You Got To Watch This. It only happened eight months ago. And it’s still exquisite. (Apologies, North Carolina).
5. Go Cubs Go. America fell hard for the Chicago Cubs, who ended their 108-year World Series draught in the most dramatic of fashions. One charming byproduct of the team’s historic victory—citizens from beyond the North Side became familiar with Go Cubs Go, the cheesy, bouncy, and surprisingly addicting anthem written by singer-songer Steve Goodman back in the early 1980s. Members of the team, and Bill Murray, belted it out on Saturday Night Live. Go Cubs Go hasn’t quite reached the saturation point. Let’s hope it stays that way.
6. Golden Days. Nostalgic for a time, in 2016, when national unity was truly a thing? Don’t forget those two weeks in August, when Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps set records in the pool, Simone Biles broke new aerial boundaries, and the United States, in general, kicked butt at the Olympics. (Treat yourself to a holiday gift. Forget about Ryan Lochte). The rest of the world stepped up too: Usain Bolt’s speed was still awe-inspiring, sports with little fanfare produced memorable finishes, and this totally happened.
7. Hoop Dreams. Cleveland broke its own title draught this summer, when LeBron James guided the Cleveland Cavaliers back from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors, the team with the best regular season record in NBA history. The 2016 NBA Finals was the most-watched championship series since 1998—Michael Jordan’s last title-winning year in the league.
This season is shaping up even better. Cleveland’s off to a strong start, the Warriors added Kevin Durant, and teams like the Los Angeles Clippers are stocked with All-Stars. All 30 NBA teams play games on Friday. It’s worth catching one over the break. Even the 4-10 Philadelphia 76ers offer some excitement, thanks to Joel Embid, one of the most promising big men to enter the NBA in years.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Hope you and your family enjoy a calm, cheery day that ends with everyone watching the Cowboys. You could do much worse.