Cancellation of Turkey Bowl Spoils Thanksgiving for Men

Thanksgiving without football is like dessert without pie for these near-middle-aged men

All across this great land, where buffalo once roamed and Indians had homes, in every mangy park, and on every windswept field, in open meadows at forest preserves, and expanses of lawn beside church parking lots, men prepare for an annual battle known as the Turkey Bowl. The footballs are inflated, the flags found, last year’s cleats are chiseled loose, ankle knee and wrist joints are wrapped all snug in their braces, and months of trash talking and game day predictions are tossed to the unforgiving ground. Less a contest of athleticism than one of wits and endurance, the morning Turkey Bowl is a proving ground that enables one more helping at dinner and as many cocktails as will take away the pain. On this day of thanks, these armchair gladiators must earn their gratitude.

But this year, one field is empty: no middle aged men nipping from flasks or tokeing onies; no former athletes rehashing ridiculous pregame routines as if there were a chance to attain their former glory; no beautiful pigskin pigeon, with its pointed ends and bulbous body, spiraling through the air. On this quiet, fog fallen field, host to the past five years, a tradition firmly entrenched after the early, itinerant years, the Northwest Suburban Jewish & Token Gentile League has failed to show.

How could it be? The turnout had been so great in recent years—furthered by the bitchslapping on social media—that subs were appointed. A Thanksgiving morning without a Turkey Bowl? Why, that’d be as unholy as a Thanksgiving feast without that fowl beast! What malevolent misdeeds hath wrought such vile misfortune on this star-crossed crew?

“They are tremendous pussies who are worried about getting hurt,” lamented Scott Shamberg, NSJTGL Commissioner.

Alas, the equalizer of all mortal men, dread age! Just last year, I suffered an ankle that swelled to the size of a turkey, and was carted off the field by the slurs and sneers of my peers. Hamstrings have been pulled, spines have been wrenched, fingers sprained, faces bloodied, fat parts bruised, all in the name of football.

“We all want to be the hero or make the big play that everyone talks about the rest of the day,” says the NSCA Athletic Recruiting Network, “But you have to remember that you’re not out there competing for the state championship.”

No NCSA, whoever you are, we’re competing for bragging rights for one whole year, and the only athletic championship that we qualify for. That’s why it’s a bowl, bitch.

A three-hour seven-on-seven overly competitive game, that for one brief moment out of one long year, made you feel young(ish) again. (Such delusions we accept paying for later.)

It’s not just the physical challenges but geographic dislocations have rendered the once formidable group impotent, as well. What does this portend for the decade-old tradition? How will Thanksgiving be without the glory and the grousing of the game? “There will be a game next year,” Shamberg promises. As Chicago sports fans, we’re used to waiting for next year.



—Photo Elvert Barnes/Flickr

About Robert Duffer

Robert Duffer ( is the editor of the Dads & Families section of The Good Men Project. Winner of the Chicago Public Library's writing contest, his work appears in the Chicago Tribune, MAKE Magazine, Chicago Reader, Curbside Splendor, Time Out Chicago, Chicago Public Radio, Annalemma, New City, and other coffee-table favorites like Canadian Builders Quarterly. He teaches creative writing at Columbia College Chicago and lives in the suburbs with his wife, two kids, and their minivan. Follow @DufferRobert, Google+, facebook.

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