I have watched every Lions’ Thanksgiving Day football game for the last 50 years. One in the hospital following a ruptured appendix (1975); one in the Silverdome stands (1995) when Herman Moore and Barry Sanders made the Minnesota Vikings look silly in a 44-38 shootout (Could we get Barry to come out of retirement for todays’ game against the Vikings? The Lions could use some help at running back); but the Lions’ game on Thanksgiving 1980 was my most memorable.
The plan was to eat our Thanksgiving Dinner immediately after the Lions’ football game. As mom was busy in the kitchen, the rest of the family gathered around our Philco console color TV in the family room as the Lions were beating the Chicago Bears. It was 10-3 at half time and it wasn’t that close. The Lions were killing the Bears. The great Bear’s running back Walter Payton was looking more like Walter Cronkite and had gained only a few yards. It seemed like the Lions would surely get the win when they entered the fourth quarter leading 17-3. But the Bears scored a touchdown, then got the ball back with about 3 minutes left. They promptly marched down the field and on the very last play in regulation time, the Bears quarterback (a journeyman football player named Vince Evans) scampered like Joe Montana for five yards and scored a game tying touchdown. 17-17! Ugh!
As the game went into sudden-death overtime, my mom was not happy. Not because of her love for the Motor City Kitties, but because her dinner was ready to be eaten and the football fans weren’t ready to eat it. Mom didn’t want to serve cold turkey and warm jello, but we didn’t want to jinx the Lions by not watching and cheering in their time of need (obviously, the Lions don’t need anyone’s help in jinxing them). After the Lions lost the coin-toss (of course), on the opening kickoff in overtime (the OPENING KICKOFF!!!), the Bear’s kick returner (a guy named David Williams, a back-up running back, who never did much in the NFL except for stabbing me in the heart on that Thanksgiving Day) ran the ball 95 yards for a touchdown. The game was over 21 seconds into the overtime (at the time, it was the shortest NFL overtime game ever). Are you kidding me?
My mom was the only one smiling during that particular Thanksgiving dinner. Her meal was delicious. The hot food was hot and the cold food was cold. But you couldn’t have proved it from me. The game left me with such a bitter taste in my mouth, the turkey tasted like liver and onions and there was not enough cool whip and pumpkin pie in the world that could sweeten my football sickened heart.
Why tell you my Lions’ woes this Thanksgiving Day? Just to remind us don’t let anything (especially not the Lions) spoil your thankfulness. Instead live into Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks!” Let’s be thankful and show our gratitude in word and deed both to the Lord and our loved ones on this Thanksgiving Day!
Happy Thanksgiving! Go Lions!