Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving Thanks on Turkey Day

The best holiday of the year is upon us (gorging on food & football, how can you top that?), so I thought it would be a good time to go over the Top 10 things a sports fan has to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day 2006:

10.) Terrel Owens is playing football on the biggest day for turkeys in all the land

9.) The Red Sox turning into the Little Empire, tossing around $50 mil of the Nation's money just to talk to a Japanese pitcher. Like that great Alice in Chains song goes, "No Excuses"

8.) Tiger Woods racking up tournament wins like Michael Richards racks up racial epithets. Folks, we are witnessing the one of if not the greatest player ever in his prime. Don't take him for granted. Even if he is a robotic jackass(but his wife's smokin')

7.) That the players involved in that horrific on campus shooting at Duquesne two months ago are now all recovering nicely, including the one with bullet fragments in his brain

6.) That TomKat finally got married. Maybe now we can stop hearing about that Sine-O Freakshow for a while

5.) That Indiana football head coach Terry Hoeppner recovered enough from his second brain surgery to return to the sidelines and guide his team to a respectable 5-7 season, including wins over #15 Iowa & Michigan State

4.) That we have had more great college football games in one season than the past 6 years combined (Ohio St./Texas, Louisville/West Virginia, Louisville/Rutgers, Ohio State/Michigan)and there's still plenty to come

3.) That we get to see LaDanianTomlinson play on a weekly basis (see #8)

2.) That the Stankees went another season without winning a World Series (new Bronx cheer: "Stuck on 26, stuck on 26...")

1.) That because of our superhuman troops I am able to spend the holidays with my family in a comfortable environment. We love you guys and give thanks every day for what you are doing for our country. Be safe and come home soon.

If I could add an 11th entry it would be that we get a healthy dose of pigskin on the day we stuff ourselves with turkey. Of course the Lions & Cowboys are playing (when that tradition ends will truly be the sign of the apocalypse), but this year we have an added treat: a rematch of the classic 1984 Thanksgiving Day tilt, Boston College/Miami, 22 years ago to the day. Growing up in Beantown that game, where BC won on a last-second Hail Mary pass from Flutie to Phelan, was one of my earliest college football memories of the greatest game ever played at that time.
Let's take a look at the games and break them down, Turkey Day style:

-Miami Dolphins(4-6) @ Detroit Lions(2-8) 12:30 CBS
The team that started the tradition of playing on Thanksgiving Day takes the field against the quarterback they had high hopes for but who was unceremoniously dumped after last season, his 4th with the team. When Detroit took Joey Harrington with the 3rd overall pick in the 2002 draft they envisioned him as a leader of a high powered offense for a decade to come. Despite drafting high-flying wide receivers as his targets three years in a row, Harrington & the offense never material materialized as any kind of force, let alone a potent one. In the off season the Lions granted Harrington's request to be let out of th personal hell he was in and the Fins picked him up as insurance for gimpy Duante Culpepper. Wouldn't you know it Culpepper went down in the 3rd game and Harrington has guided Miami to 3 straight wins to get the disappointing team back into playoff contention. So the game has that acrimonious backdrop: Harrington desperately wants to show Detroit they were wrong for hanging him out to dry for all of the teams woes, and Detroit will want to smack down the QB who couldn't get the job done and then asked to be let out of Motown. One thing's for sure: although Miami is streaking and disappointing Detroit is slumping (losses to San Fran & Arizona), jst like Samuel L. Jackson said "never bet against black", you NEVER bet against the Lions on Turkey Day (even though they've lost 4 of the last 5 on the holiday.), no matter how horrible they are. I mean they invented the freakin' tradition for crying out loud. You can't f- with that kind of karma. MY WISHBONE PICK: Lions 23, Fins 20

-Tampa Bay Bucs (3-7) @ Dallas Cowboys (6-4)
All I can think about is how much better this day would be if the Bucs were actually good enough to win this game. They finally get a chance to play on Turkey Day and they are the ones playing the role of gobblers. Although they are coming off that "awesome" victory over the hapless Redskins Sunday they are currently finishing their mind-boggling journey of 3 games in 11 days. Whoever made this schedule should be taken outside and forced to watch T.O.D. press conferences for 72 hours straight. The Bucs come limping into this game as well, with Simeon Rice being placed on injured reserve, ending his season, and fellow defensive players Shelton Quarles, Juron Bolden and Ellis Wyms inactive for the game. On the offense TE Alex Smith will also miss the game after injuring his ankle in the Skins game. Meanwhile, four weeks ago Dallas was floundering under the guidance of Drew Bledsoe, who never met an interception he couldn't throw. Romo has come in to guide the team to wins in 3 of the last 4 games, and his one loss was that crazy last-second FG game against the Skins. There is legitimate ROMO Fever taking over Big D, and there might be legitimate reason to get excite. The kid is smart, mobile, accurate, and efficient and his teammates, especially Owens, have embraced him as the true leader of the team. With him and receivers Owens & Terry Glenn carving up the Bucs horrendous secondary like birds it could be an ugly holiday for the Boys from the Bay. Caddy won't be able to run against the tough Cowboy running D, which will force Rocket Gradkowski to throw like 50 times again. MAYBE, if Dallas has a hangover from handing Indy its first loss of the season Sunday, the Bucs can keep it close. IF Caddy can duplicate his 100+ yard performance of last week, and IF Gradkowski can hit Galloway on a deep pass or 2, and IF A-Train rumbles around Texas Stadium like the A-Train of old, and IF Bucs DB's Cox, Phillips and Will Allen don't get burned like Grandma's stuffing, then MAYBE they have a chance to steal this one.
Just in case perhaps Dallas can re-sign Leon Lett.
MY PICK: Dallas 31, Tampa Bay 13

- 18 Boston College (9-2) @ Miami (5-6) 7:30, ESPN
Like I said up top this game is a rematch of one of the greatest college football game ever played, known simply as "The Miracle in Miami." On that night 22 years ago today the Boston College Eagles, led by Heisman Trophy winner-to-be Doug Fluite, staged a last-second comeback on the strength of a Hail Mary pass to pull off what was truly a miraculous win. But the fact that goes unnoticed about the game is that the entire game was awesome, not just the ending. Two great schools led by two great quarterbacks (the Canes had a kid named Bernie Kosar behind center) went toe-to-toe for 60 minutes, back & forth exchanging leads until that final play. The Eagles have not beaten Miami since that game.
In an ironic twist Flutie will be in the broadcast booth for ESPN tonight, the exact anniversary date of the Game, and his nephew Billy will be on the Eagles' bench. Also, BC has a chance to become the first team to win 10 games since that 1984 squad (cue the Twilight Zone music now please.) Miami is reeling from the shock of the death of senior DE Bryan Pata last month and an ugly brawl against FIU in mid-October. And their starting QB, Kyle Wright, was lost for the season 2 weeks ago, so sophomore Kirby Freeman will make his third career start tonight. Coach Larry Coker is all but a dead man walking as he is expected to be canned immediately following this disappointing & tragic season. The Canes have absolutely nothing to play for except pride, the love of their coach, and revenge for heartbreaking loss suffered 22 years ago tonight. Good enough for me.
MY PICK: Canes 27, Eagles 26 (Miracle in Miami II?)

-Denver Broncos (7-3) @ Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) 8PM NFL NETWORK
A new tradition begins as the NFL Network will broadcast its first live NFL game since its inception 3 years ago. Too bad only about 457 people in the US will be able to watch it because half of the country doesn't get the satellite-only channel. That includes #1 media market New York, and yours truly as well.
So in my eyes this game doesn't exist. I surely am not going to be able to drag myself off the couch and head to the local sports tavern to catch the game, although it should be an old AFC West style doozy. Denver needs the win to keep pace with San Diego in the division, but KC is rolling, thanks to the improved play of RB Larry Johnson, who has run for an average of 136 YPG over his last 5 games,and the return of team leader QB Trent Green, who missed 8 games while recovering from the effects of a concussion. But Denver is one of the staunchest teams against the run, allowing just over 90 yards/game, so it will be a test of each team's strengths to decide who will come out on top. If anybody's watching.
Little bit of advice: Never go against KC at home in November & December.
MY PICK: Chiefs 24, Broncos 21

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