Saturday, December 4, 2010

Turkey and Tackles

Thanksgiving is traditionally occupied by three things: families, food and football.

More often than not, those aspects of the holiday converge during the afternoon, as the eyes of the NFL focus on Detroit and Dallas for their annual games. A few years ago, the league added a Thanksgiving night game that would rotate among various cities every year.

Football has been a Thanksgiving fixture for decades

I had always wanted to attend an NFL game on Thanksgiving, and so many questions had entered my mind about it. Was the crowd any different for these games? What was the tailgating like? Can you actually replicate a full holiday meal in the stadium parking lot? How cool would it be if the Jets had a home game on Thanksgiving? I was about to have those inquiries finally answered.

New Meadowlands Stadium shines in Jets' green on Thanksgiving night

Most of the food preparation actually took place the night before.

Thanks to the advice and guidance of my mother, I successfully cooked a 12-lb. turkey for the 1st time, in addition to my great-grandmother's recipe for stuffing. It was more work and preparation than I had previously imagined, and I now have additional respect and appreciation for anyone who slaves in the kitchen on Thanksgiving.

Whether it was toasting and buttering an entire loaf of bread to make the stuffing, or constantly checking and basting the turkey to achieve a perfect tenderness and golden-brown color, there was not much time for relaxation.

The turkey makes its grand appearance

For the night, the four of us were each other's family -- but my mother's cooking advice and my late, great-grandmother's stuffing recipe allowed me to maintain the connection with my biological family. My father, who taught me plenty about both the main aspects and nuances of football, would be on my mind durng the game itself. Even though they weren't in that chilly parking lot with me, they were still there.

The stuffing was my great-grandmother's recipe, passed down through generations

We were not the only ones creating new Thanksgiving memories. Some deep-fried their turkeys in the parking lot itself, while others went with the pre-prepared approach. As the game drew closer, the parking lot became more full -- as those with already-full bellies had started to arrive at the Meadowlands.

Aside from the location, it was a traditional Thanksgiving meal

With only 45 minutes until the opening kickoff, it was time for dessert. In keeping with the traditional meal, there were two options -- apple pie or pumpkin pie. For those who desired, vanilla ice cream was available as a topping. It was the perfect end to a wildly successful meal.

Pumpkin and apple pies were a nice finishing touch

The 1st half of the Jets-Bengals game was played like both teams were in a turkey-induced coma. Defenses and sloppy play dominated, as the 1st quarter featured no scoring. At halftime, Cincinnati, despite its 2-8 record, held a 7-3 lead over New York. The crowd of 78,903, perhaps dazed by their own pre-game meals, was relatively quiet.

Both the Jets' and Bengals' defenses were in-charge early

In the 3rd quarter, however, the Jets showed why they were 8-2 on the season.

Wide receiver/quarterback Brad Smith scored a 53-yard touchdown on an end-around run in the first minute of play, then added an 89-yard TD kickoff return in the 4th quarter, as the Jets ended up cruising to a 26-10 victory. It was one more treat for Jets' fans who took time out of their holiday to watch their football team in-person.

Brad Smith receives a bear-hug after returning a kickoff for a touchdown

As fireworks burst above the stadium after the game, my 1st NFL Thanksgiving experience had concluded.

Fireworks mark a Jets' holiday victory

I'm thankful for the opportunity to attend such a game, thankful for the friends who could come with me, thankful for my family's help throughout this process, thankful for the Jets providing a win, and thankful that the rain held off throughout the evening. Most of all, I'm thankful that these memories will last a lifetime.

The video board at New Meadowlands Stadium says it all

No comments:

Post a Comment