THIS IS A REPEAT OF LAST YEAR'S THANKSGIVING ARTICLE. I really liked it and it's evergreen, so I'm running it again! Time to help Mama with the turkey ... Gotta go!
Football is huge in my family. And Thanksgiving is our high holy holiday, where we all come from near and far to eat, drink and watch Larry (as in Larry Foote, linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers). Luckily, we all love the same team … wish we could say the same about political parties.
This year, the Steelers don’t play until late on Sunday evening during Thanksgiving weekend. Sigh. So what is my sports-loving family to do when we just can’t get enough turkey, stuffing and sacks?
ALL SEASON LONG: FAMILY FANTASY FOOTBALL! In late August, we start up our annual Boeke Family Fantasy Football League. Since we all live in various parts of the country, we avoid that time-consuming draft and instead, we play salary cap fantasy football on Yahoo Sports. Each week, everyone has a fictional limit of 0 and the value of each player goes up or down, based on his performance last week. So everyone logs on, makes their weekly picks, then talks trash via email all week until the games begin! Good family fun — and even my teenage nieces and nephew get in on the act.
THANKSGIVING DAY: EVERYONE IN THE POOL! There are three games on Thanksgiving Day — one at 12:30pm EST, one at 4:15pm and one at 8:15pm. None of them involve our team, but we create a friendly little pool for each game so that everyone is involved. It’s easy and the kids can even help decorate the pools for each respective team.
- You’ll need three pieces of posterboard, colored markers, a ruler and a deck of cards.
- Make a 10 x 10 grid on each poster, so you have square blocks of 100 boxes.
- The home team goes across the top axis of your grid, the visiting team goes along the side. (The kids can decorate the poster outside of the grid.)
- Decide how much you’re going to charge for each box — you can do a quarter a box, a buck a box, whatever you feel is appropriate and will keep things fun and not too competitive.
- Ask all your friends and family to sign up for as many boxes as they want, until you’ve sold all 100 boxes for each game.
- Decide on a payout schedule. Some people give 10% of the total pot at the end of the first three quarters, and then 70% of the pot for final score. Or, some pay out 25% of the pot after each quarter, and the final score. Still others make the first and the third quarters less important (say 10% each) and half-time and the final score more important (40% each). Up to you, but be sure to choose a payout scenario before the games start.
- Grab a deck of cards and take out one set of ace (1) through 10 cards.
- In order to assign numbers to both axes of your grid, shuffle the ten cards and flip them over in order, writing down the value on the top of the grid (the ace is 1 and the 10 is zero). Repeat this for the side axis, too. (If you don't have cards handy, just write the numbers 0 to 9 on pieces of paper and pick them out of a hat.)
- Your poster should now feature a 10 x 10 grid, with a number on the top of each column and on the side of each row. And your guests’ names or initials should be occupying each box.
- After each quarter, take note of the official score; cross reference the last number of the score on the grid to determine which of your guests wins the pot each quarter!
It’s a fun way to keep everyone (even the kids and my bookworm uncle) involved and engaged.
FRIDAY: FLAG FOOTBALL
Each year, we pack up a stash of leftover sandwiches (with turkey, stuffing, cranberries and yams all on the sandwich … we are from Pittsburgh!), as well as some hot cocoa for the kids, and spiked hot cocoa and pumpkin beer for the grown-ups. We invite a bunch of friends and family over to the local junior high school (which is always empty on the Friday after Thanksgiving) and we play a friendly game of flag football. (I ordered an official flag football set from a school supply company so we’re pretty serious about things.)
We let the kids be Captains, choosing their teams and coming up with a team name. We set a time limit for the game, and the team with the most points at the end of the time wins the annual Boeke Bowl trophy. Both teams head back to the house for our annual Chili Cookoff, while my graphic designer sister sneaks away to the printer to customize a sticker for the trophy, featuring the Captain’s name and team name, as well as the date and score. We also have a Blue Ribbon for the Chili Cookoff winner — so that night, before we play a huge round of Apples to Apples, we have an awards ceremony and award the trophy and ribbon.
SATURDAY: FAMILY FOOTBALL FLICKS
After a day like Friday, we’re ready to relax and watch some movies together. After mom makes us watch “Miracle on 34th Street” or “Meet Me in St. Louis,” we usually pop in one or two of our favorite football movies. There are so many great ones to choose from — and you’ll get a full review of these in our book GameFace — but here are some holiday highlights:
Any Given Sunday
Friday Night Lights
We Are Marshall
Remember the Titans
The Game Plan (good for the kids)
Varsity Blues (including one of my favorite quotes: “I. Don’t. Want. Your. Life.”)
Or some great oldies, but goodies:
The Longest Yard (the old one, starring my beloved Burt Reynolds)
Heaven Can Wait
Semi-Tough (once again, starring Burt Reynolds)
All the Right Moves
Brian’s Song (the old one, warning: it’s a real tear-jerker)
Gus (great for the kids)
Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon (it stars Tony Danza and features the greatest title of all time, leaving us to wonder what collection of stuffy suits gave this the green light?)
SUNDAY: FOOTBALL FEAST
Finally it’s time for our game! Even though we don’t live in the ‘Burgh anymore, we still cook local favorites like pierogies smothered in sour cream, as well as our version of the Primanti Brother’s sandwich (with fries, coleslaw and a fried egg on the sandwich.) (You could also try this version of the Primanti Brother?) But, we also create dishes inspired by the team we’re playing … so we can literally devour the competition. This week, we face the New England Patriots, so we’ll be making some Clam Chowdah in a Bread Bowl. But get creative … if your team is facing the Bears, make (or order) deep dish pizza. Playing the Eagles? Try some Philly cheese steaks. Are the Saints marching in? Make some po’ boys or muffuletas. Are the Cardinals or Chargers coming to town? Try some Southwestern fare. If your team is playing the Niners, get creative (and make your life easy) by ordering in Chinese food in honor of Chinatown.
There you have it. A full Boeke Bowl Thanksgiving weekend, filled with delicious food, amazing family and action-packed football — all things I am truly grateful for this holiday season. Amen and pass the pie (and the remote, please).