What a great opportunity to talk about Thanksgiving and football and food and what it has meant to this reporter dating back to his days growing up.
Let me start with pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie was the very definition of Thanksgiving to me. Here’s how it started. On Wednesday nights during the football season, I used to faithfully watch a local half-hour show called “Giants Quarterback Huddle”.
It was during the days of black and white TV and the long-time voice of the New York Giants, Marty Glickman would host the program which featured a film review of the Giants game the previous Sunday, a scouting report on their upcoming contest by their chief scout, a fellow named Jack Lavelle, and demonstrations of plays and how they were executed by Giants players in the studio, all wearing jackets and ties.
It was fascinating to see players, including the great Frank Gifford, run a hand-off from the quarterback effectively hiding the ball. They asked the viewers “who has the ball?” and most of the time my guess was wrong. I loved that show.
My father would bring home a pumpkin pie from a bakery, and there I was, sitting on the floor, eating a piece of pumpkin pie, watching “Giants Quarterback Huddle” with my Dad. Nothing was better than that.
On Thanksgiving Day, which turned into my favorite day of the year, we would have turkey with all the trimmings, of course, but the highlight was pumpkin pie at the end.
There was also football.
Imagine, being able to watch a pro football game on a day other than Sunday.
So, my routine, was to sit in front of the TV, adjust the rabbit-ears on top of the set to get the best reception, and watch the Detroit Lions play the Green Bay Packers from what was then called Briggs Stadium (later Tiger Stadium) in Detroit, go out and play two-hand touch-football with my friends and come in from the cold to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner.
Every year, growing up, it was the Lions and the Packers, no one else, always played in Detroit. The Lions were a successful team in the early fifties, even capturing a world championship. The Packers were woeful. They were one of the worst teams in the league back then. The best season they had during that time was 6-6 (teams only played 12 games then). Most years they won 4 games or fewer.
I didn’t care. It was the Lions and the Packers, with an announcer named Van Patrick broadcasting the game. He was a Detroit legend. A great voice. He made turkey day special. I would secretly hope this would be the year the Packers sprung the upset. At times they did. Not very often. But they did.
As the years went by, the nature of the contest was reversed. The Lions had their ups and downs, but the Packers made a coaching change that altered the sport.
They hired a Giants assistant named Vince Lombardi.
Boy, did things change in that traditional battle. After awhile, I was rooting for an upset. I was hoping the Lions would somehow shock the Pack on Thanksgiving Day. On rare occasions they did.
How the cycle turned.
The NFL, and even the AFL, before the merger recognized the value of having the game played and shown nationally on television.
In 1966, the Dallas Cowboys entered the holiday derby. They started hosting the game and have done so ever since.
The Cowboys were an expansion team in 1960, and their management thought it would be beneficial to show their team as they grew.
The rest is history.
Now there are three games on Thanksgiving Day. Starting around noon and ending in prime-time.
As for the dinner, which makes it all a complete tradition, there is turkey, ham is also including, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and you can fill in the rest, according to your wishes and taste.
I prefer dark meat. What about you?
At Ontario’s Grenadier Island Country Club’s popular turkey dinner, held once a year in July, I have inherited the task of serving the dark meat.
Two years ago, most of the members passed on my station, and I chastised them for it.
Last summer it seemed most of the gathering were enthusiastic when they passed by for my serving.
I was delighted.
But all of that was merely a prelude to the main attraction.
The pumpkin pie!
Please don’t ask for it with whipped cream. Just plain pumpkin pie. The way it was meant to be enjoyed.
The way I had it when I watched “Giants Quarterback Huddle.”
Happy Thanksgiving to you all!