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Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Don't be a turkey: plan feast around NFL

By Melissa Jacobs

"Can't you just watch the second half?"

Those were the seven staggering words that came out of my mother's mouth during our recent discussion ... er, negotiation of when exactly the turkey would be served on Thursday.

This somewhat contentious call has now turned into an annual event. Every year I have to remind her there are football games on Thanksgiving, and they need to be watched. On a television. With high definition.

Yet every year, she insists that family mealtime trumps football time. This fall she even made the preposterous suggestion that I "watch the late game on the computer," even though I am a diehard 49ers fan, and the Harbaugh Bowl would be must-see TV even if the Niners were 1-9, not 9-1.

Luckily, the pigskin remains undefeated against the turkey skin. I have successfully lobbied to squeeze in our Thanksgiving dinner between the overanalysis of Tony Romo's legacy in the Miami/Dallas postgame and the rollout of the weren't-they-cute baby pictures of the Harbaugh boys in the San Francisco/Baltimore pregame.

Two things I'm thankful for: the ability to play the "it's my job" card when my mother and I argue football vs. dinner; and my ability to impersonate my mother when I call her local cable company and get NFL Network added to her package. (For the record, I will offer to pay the $5.99 when she receives her cable bill and is "shocked beyond belief" at the charges.)

I know I sound like the worst daughter ever, and perhaps on Thanksgiving I am. Fortunately, there are plenty of other holidays during which I can help out in the kitchen and be forced into excruciating conversations with weird uncles I haven't seen in 10 years. But Thanksgiving is for football, and this year more so than ever.

The early game, a divisional showdown between the Packers and Lions, is considered by many to be a potential roadblock in Green Bay's pursuit of a perfect season. This also is the first year in eons that the Lions deserve the Thanksgiving Day stage.

Sure, they are part of a Turkey Day tradition that dates back to 1934, but watching the Lions lose seven Thanksgiving games in a row, most in blowout fashion, has been painful for football purists -- and, of course, Lions fans. Even the greatest Lion of them all, Barry Sanders, told me in 2009 that he understood the growing clamor to kick the Lions off the Thanksgiving program. But that was then. Times have changed, and the 2011 Lions finally bring the ideal combination of intriguing players and a winning record (7-3) to the fourth Thursday in November.

The 49ers/Ravens nightcap between the Harbaugh brothers is being billed as a potential Super Bowl matchup. I wouldn't go that far, especially considering the recent downward trajectory of the Charm City Harbaugh's team (that of the elder, John), but this is an intriguing game nonetheless. The clash of siblings (San Francisco's Jim is a year younger) and two elite defenses makes for a perfect Thanksgiving night battle.

Then there's the middle game, Dolphins/Cowboys -- also known as a good time to take bathroom breaks, catch up with family and change into pants with an elastic waistband.

After all, you're going to need room for that Thanksgiving feast. Even if, like me, you're looking forward to Harbaugh pie for dessert.

Thanks for understanding, Mom.