Thanksgiving is upon us, and though we aren’t yet fully out of the woods, and folks are still taking precautions, I suspect a lot of Thanksgiving family touch football games are back ON. Woohoooooooo! 


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Illustration by Scott Pollack


So let’s do this. Enjoy your relatives, be smart—and do not let your brother pass into triple coverage, because there is absolutely no vaccine for that.

1. If you took last year’s Thanksgiving off—or you’re playing at 12:30 ET for the Detroit Lions—you’re going to need a basic football refresher. Here are helpful guidelines: Play two-hand touch (this also works for the Lions defense), use at least a three “Mississippi” count (alternatively: “Dr. Fauci”), understand that the out-of-bounds line is merely a suggestion for your libertarian older relatives, and, if you intercept your mother, you’re going to have to put on a coat and eat outside.

2. Basic health advisories: If you don’t feel well, please stay home. If you don’t run well, please play center or “permanent blocker.” If you’ve never played football in your life, please play quarterback for the Jets this Sunday.

3. If your family doesn’t play touch football, the best way to sell a holiday game is to tell them: Imagine Thanksgiving, but being able to push all the people you love to the ground.

4. There may be someone in your family who has sent repeated, overexcited emails talking about how excited they are for the family touch football game, and even attaching diagrams of potential plays and ideas for family songs and cheers. Be sure to start and finish the game before this person arrives.  

5. If you’re on the fence about playing: It’s either family touch football, or sitting on the couch and watching the Bears play the Lions. Which is basically the same thing. 

6. Remember: It’s important to take a family football photograph BEFORE the game, while you’re all still alive.

7. I’m not saying your family is out of shape. But your aunt just announced her retirement from football before taking a snap.

8. There are at least two people in any Family Touch Football game who are on PEDs. The PED is bourbon. It’s not actually a PED. 

9. As always: Touchdowns scored by players with double hip replacements count double.

10. It isn’t an official family touch football game until at least three people are limping and begging for a timeout. 

11. Your father isn’t playing bad defense. He’s social distancing. 

12. Excessive taunting is now banned by the NFL. In family touch football, excessive taunting is the only reason to play.

13. Be careful about running through that flower bed and kicking up dirt. Remember how many of your childhood hamsters are buried in there.

14. Peyton and Eli Manning started watching your family touch football game for their Thanksgiving “Manningcast,” and they have just filed a lawsuit against their eyeballs.

15. There’s bound to be a passing play in which you are wide open in the end zone, waving your arms, screaming “MOM!” and your mother sees you, and thinks about how you haven’t returned a phone call in six months, and hands the ball to the dog.  

16. Fumbles are punishable by dishes.  

17. There’s a kid in your game who’s not played a lot of football but played intramural indoor lacrosse for a Division III school. This kid will wind up getting drafted by Bill Belichick and play nine years for the Patriots. 

18. There’s some dude in the front yard in a winter cap wearing a Doc Holliday T-shirt who says he’s pretty decent at quarterback. His name is Aaron, he’s from Green Bay, and he also has found some interesting studies on the Internet he wants to talk about later. 

19. The halftime show for this year’s touch football game is the grandparents discussing their boosters. 

20. Remember: Neither your fantasy football team, nor your cryptocurrency holdings, are as interesting to other people at Thanksgiving as they are to you. 

21. Of course, if someone starts talking about “Dune,” you’ll be crying for a long conversation about crypto or fantasy football.

22. If you play at a park, and encounter another family, be careful about challenging the other family to a game. You never know. They could be The Gronkowskis.

23. Uh-oh, Aaron Rodgers is in the den. He’s got a laptop open and is reading from an obscure research paper written by an amateur dermatologist.

24. Every Thanksgiving family game should have a signature drink. And that signature drink is a nap.

25. Check your pedometer after the game. Wow! You took 23 whole steps. 

26. Do you know I have been writing this lousy Thanksgiving column for 11 years? When I started, Tom Brady was just 60.

27. Hey, Aaron found the “Jeopardy!” board game in the rec room. Let him host. He’s pretty good. 

28. Best Thanksgiving wishes to you and your family. May the best team prevail, and remember: winners carve the bird. Losers take out the garbage. In-laws quietly duck out and go to the movies.

Write to Jason Gay at Jason.Gay@wsj.com

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