An international student at Brown once asked me why Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. My first instinct was to mention the pilgrims, but that’s not why most of us celebrate the holiday. At least, not anymore. Today, we treat Thanksgiving as a sort of pause button in the hectic cycle of life. Right before finals, we take a week for ourselves. We recharge and spend time with friends and family. On Thanksgiving, we ignore our stresses, rivalries and personal ambitions to come together and be thankful for what we have. So what does football have to do with anything I just said? Thanksgiving football transcends all of the noise society throws at us and gives us an opportunity to come together as a community.
Like the real world, the NFL is messy. Constant media coverage of football, from press conferences and post-game interviews to President Trump’s tweets, means the NFL is never out of the news. Cultural tensions bleed into the game, manifested visibly in players kneeling during the national anthem. There’s a lot going on, and it’s easy for the casual onlooker to get so lost in the drama that they forget about the games themselves.
But at its core, the NFL offers us an opportunity to take a break from the exhausting chaos of the news cycle — encouraging unity and a collective sense of pride. It isn’t the massive stadiums or multi-million dollar paychecks. It isn’t the Super Bowl halftime show or the articles people write about the Super Bowl halftime show the day after. It’s about world-class athletes who come together to play a sport they love. Each of them gives a voice to their team and their city in a way that’s difficult to understand for non-sports enthusiasts. Fans wait their whole lives with unwavering loyalty for their team to make the Super Bowl. The narrative of a sports team often changes the narrative of a city; winning is a validation and celebration of its identity.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I compel you to turn on the TV. Sure, there’s a lot of noise in the form of commercials and controversies that separate you from the game. But look beyond all of that. Look at the wall of screaming fans that Seattle calls its 12th man. Look at the murals all over Philadelphia after the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Look at anyone wearing a Tom Brady jersey. Spend three hours taking a break from the noise of reality and appreciate the football community that comes together as a Thanksgiving tradition. From the first Thanksgiving game played between Yale and Princeton in 1876 to next week’s matchups, Thanksgiving football will always be an important part of the American identity. Sure, I could say you should watch Thanksgiving football because it features some of the most exciting divisional matchups. I could say it’s at a crucial point in the year when teams are gearing up for a playoff run with games that make or break a season. Or I could even tell you that the New Orleans Saints, who are the best team in football right now, will be playing Thursday night. But that’s not as important as embracing the Thanksgiving spirit to find something meaningful in this crazy, divisive world. So this Thanksgiving, when you’re sitting at the table trying to fend off your uncle who won’t stop asking you about your summer internship plans and stuffing yourself with pumpkin pie, maybe, just maybe, consider turning on the television and indulging in some beautiful Thanksgiving football.
Kshitij Sachan ’22 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send responses to this opinion to email@example.com and other op-eds to firstname.lastname@example.org.