Monthly Archives: November 2016

FOOD FAMILY AND LOTS OF FOOTBALL

As I write this the  American tradition that is Thanksgiving weekend is winding down.  I have to say I am very thankful for all I have been blessed with. I have a loving family, great friends and a love for sports.  The Good Lord blessed me with the ability to write about it too!  That being said, what a time to be a sports fan!

A tradition arose in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day in 1934 when the hometown Lions took the field against the Chicago Bears.  It was a gimmick introduced by new Lions owner G.A. Richards to draw fans for the newly relocated franchise.  The Bears were the NFL defending champions that year and they won the game 19-16 in front of the largest crowd of the season.  26,000 fans showed up at University of Detroit Stadium, thousands more were turned away.  The contest determined the NFL’s Western Division Champion for 1934.  The Lions and Bears would face each other every Thanksgiving up until 1938.  Due to World War II there were no games between the teams from 1939-1944.  The Lions would pick up the tradition in 1945, but without the Bears.  Their first post war opponent was the then Cleveland Rams.  Football has been played in Detroit on Turkey Day ever since.

With the advent of television in the 1950’s the NFL has been a living room staple alongside the turkey and trimmings on the dining room table. The first football game to be televised was on November 22, 1956 when the Packers defeated the Lions 24-20.

This year we had three games on Thanksgiving all with playoff implications.  The aforementioned Lions would win on a game ending field goal to take sole possession of first place in the the NFC North.  The Minnesota Vikings strange season continued with a loss in Detroit. After a 5-0 start the Vikings have now slipped into second place with a record of 6-5.

The middle contest was a renewal of one of the NFL’s storied rivalries.  The Dallas Cowboys, who have hosted the second game on the Thanksgiving schedule since 1966 (except 1975 and 1977 when the late afternoon game was hosted by the then St. Louis football Cardinals) played their arch-rivals from our Nations Capital.  The Cowboys 31-26 victory over the Redskins was their 10th straight.

In 2006 the NFL added a third contest on Thanksgiving in conjunction with scheduling games on Thursday night throughout the season.  The Pittsburgh Steelers victory over the Indianapolis Colts catapulted them into first place in the AFC North (at the time of this writing they were tied by the Baltimore Ravens with their win earlier today).

With the development of Black Friday, and the four-day holiday weekend the sports world would grow too.  Friday and Saturday has long been a staple of college football rivalries.  Over the years matchups such as Alabama vs. Auburn, Florida vs. Florida State, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech and Notre Dame vs. USC came about.

The oldest rivalry played annually on Saturday after Thanksgiving is Michigan vs. Ohio State.  This year’s game didn’t disappoint.  In an epic double overtime thriller Ohio State defeated Michigan 30-27.

Not to be outdone, the National Hockey League has made a tradition of holding afternoon games on Black Friday.  The tradition originated in Boston over the years with the Bruins hosting an afternoon game on the day after Thanksgiving.  This year the executives at NBC along with Gary Bettman’s wonderful scheduling committee broke with the New England tradition.  The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers played on national television to kick off a full NHL schedule on Friday.  By the way the Bruins played a night game and lost to the Calgary Flames 5-1.  I’m thinking the hockey gods weren’t smiling on the break with New England’s afternoon hockey tradition.

As this great American break winds down and we resume business in workplaces other than retail tomorrow there will be plenty to discuss around the water cooler.  Sports will always have a place alongside the food, family and the insane amount of holiday shopping that takes place in the United States on November’s final weekend.

 

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WHO’S NEXT ON HISTORY’S RADAR?

After a three-week hiatus I’m back.  I spent the past two weekends having fun with good friends and family celebrating my birthday and my wife’s too.  That being said, what a time to take a vacation!

While I was gone, America elected an unlikely president.  Even more eventful, however, they will be raising the World Championship Flag above the iconic scoreboard at Wrigley Field next spring.

Anyone who is a sports fan, and a baseball fan in particular, has to be happy about the outcome of this year’s Series (unless you are from Cleveland and possibly St. Louis or the South Side of Chicago).  Even some of the White Sox faithful may have gotten swept in the “fly the flag” hysteria that swept the Windy City following the Cubs victory.  Congratulations goes out to the Cubs organization and their long-suffering fans.  To quote New York Rangers voice Sam Rosen “this is one to last a lifetime!”

Since 1994 we have seen three so-called curses broken.  The Rangers broke the National Hockey Leagues longest drought of 54 years by defeating the Vancouver Canucks in a gripping seven game final that year.

In 2004 we witnessed history on many levels, courtesy of the Boston Red Sox.  Trailing the Yankees 0-3 in the American League Championship Series it appeared to be another Boston nightmare.  The beloved Sox seeing the Curse of the Bambino advance to year number 87, while the hated Yankees head to yet another Series and possibly another MLB leading World Championship.  This self-proclaimed Cast of Idiots chipped away at that lead one game at a time and would win the series in seven dramatic games.  The World Series would result in a four game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, who, by the way own the second most titles behind the Yankees.

No other organization in professional sports has been associated with more curses than the loveable losers from the Near North Side.

Consider the following:

  • 1945  Billy Goat Tavern owner William Sianis is asked to leave Game 4 of the World Series by officials at Wrigley Field due to the odor of Murphy, his pet billy-goat.  Sianis was so incensed that he proclaimed “Them Cubs aint gonna win no more!”  The Cubs would lose the 1945 Fall Classic and not make another appearance until this year.  The loss would continue the famine that began following the Cubs 1908 World Championship.
  • 1969 The Cubs lead the National League Eastern Division by nine games over the New York Mets.  Chicago had a chance to put a nail in the Mets coffin during an August series at Shea Stadium.  During the series a black cat mysteriously ran on the field.  It passed behind Ron Santo in the Cubs on deck circle.  The Mets would win that game and go on to win all but five games the rest of the way.  The Cubs collapsed and saw the Mets win the division and go on to defeat the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles to win the 1969 World Championship
  • 2003 Six outs away from finally breaking the curses that followed them, fate would strike again.  Florida Marlins shortstop Luis Castillo launched a foul ball down the left field line at Wrigley.  Cubs left fielder Moises Alou had a beat on it and poised to catch it and record the first out of the eight inning of game six.  Cubs fan Steve Bartman snatched the ball from his seat overlooking the left field line.  Alou was incensed, Bartman was escorted out of Wrigley, like William Sianis, but this was for his own safety.  Castillo would hit a grounder to shortstop Alex Gonzalez, however it went between his legs.  Florida would go on to score eight runs to win game six.  They would come from behind the next night to end the Cubs season.  Oh, and by the way the Marlins defeated the Yankees in six games to win the World Championship.

In a hard-fought series this year, Cubs fans had to be wondering once again.  Holding a 6-3 lead over the Cleveland Indians, six outs away from breaking all of the curses, a gasp can be heard around Wrigley Field all the way from Cleveland.  Brandon Guyer’s RBI double drove in Jose Ramirez to bring the Indians within two runs.  Rajai Davis’ home run to left field brought a chill to Waveland Avenue as the Tribe tied the game at 6.  A rain delay and an extra inning later history was made!

Five million fans crowded downtown Chicago to celebrate baseball’s version of Sam Rosen’s iconic hockey call.

So where does history go from here?  The longest baseball drought now belongs to the reigning American League champions.  The Indians last won the World Series in 1948.  Can this team follow the Cubs and end their drought?  There aren’t any storied curses affiliated with this team, just years of bad baseball.  They did make World Series appearances in 1995, 1997 and this year losing to the Braves, Marlins, and Cubs respectively.

The longest drought in professional sports belongs to the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.  The Cardinals last won the NFL Championship (way before the AFL, AFC and Super Bowl)  in 1947 as the Chicago Cardinals  They defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 28-21.  Since then the Cardinals franchise have called St. Louis and Arizona home.  By the way the last time the Eagles won a championship was 1960, seven years before the advent of the Super Bowl and the same year as the birth of the American Football League.

So who’s next to make history and how long will it take?

I want to take this time to wish all of my readers a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!