Reliving a memorable Turkey Bowl

Kevin Wandra's picture

Aside from Christmas, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. There is nothing like sharing a large feast with my immediate, loving family and watching football all day.

Eating succulent turkey and heaping portions of mashed potatoes smothered in gravy, squash, stuffing, cranberry sauce and peas and carrots makes my mouth drool just thinking about. Nothing beats great food, though football comes a close second.

The Thanksgiving Day football games usually are not too exciting, especially the early game, which always features one of the most woeful franchises in NFL history, the Detriot Lions. But it’s football, my favorite sport, so it’s still must-see TV.

The best football on Thanksgiving I’ve seen has involved neither the Lions nor the Dallas Cowboys, the team that always plays the late day on Turkey Day. It involved me.

Every Thanksgiving my best friend Matt and his brother, Sean, would play touch football on the street in front of my house. I would usually be the steady quarterback as the brothers, separated by only three years, took on each other. It was a bitter family feud that featured plenty of words I cannot repeat here and a plethora of touchdowns.

There were a bevy of memorable battles in our Turkey Bowl on Elm Street.

The best game I was a part of, though, didn’t take part on the street; it was played at one of the football fields at my high school, Roselle Park, on a Thanksgiving Day in my home state of New Jersey. The best part about it was the water-soaked field the day after a heavy rainstorm.

When I stepped on the field filled with Atlantic Ocean-sized puddles, I said to myself, “This is going to be awesome.”

Without a doubt, it was.

Each team, if I remember correctly, had six players, all of whom were either in my class — I was a high school sophomore at the time — or a year younger. All of us were ready to embrace the slop that eagerly awaited us.

I remember racing downfield for the opening kickoff and dragging down a kid — whose name I cannot remember, though I do recall he was a Howdy Doody look-alike — into a massive puddle that consumed both of us and ejected a tidal wave-like splash. I got up covered in thick mud.

I was elated. It’s not too often that you get the chance to get your neighborhood friends together and play tackle football on something that more resembles an ocean than a field.

We continued to play for about two hours, staging an epic battle that left everyone battered, bruised and filthy. Nobody complained, though. We had too much fun.

I cannot remember which team won. I do remember, however, walking home with mud and sweat dripping off my torn, powder blue sweatshirt and faded, black sweatpants.

When I got home, my mother said I looked as though as I had just been through a war.

“Nah,” I said. “I just got done playing the most memorable game of my life.”

“That’s great, Kev,” my mother replied, smiling from ear to ear. “Go take a shower, and get ready to eat.”

I wish I could go back to that amazing Thanksgiving Day game and relive it all over again. If I’m lucky enough to reach Heaven one day, I plan on asking God for a DVD of that unforgettable Turkey Bowl game.

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