Buddy's bounty best
Kevin Van Valkenburg
Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time for reflection and generosity, which is why I still laugh when I think about the Bounty Bowl between the Cowboys and Eagles in 1989, when Eagles coach Buddy Ryan allegedly put out a bounty on Cowboys kicker Luis Zendejas. I love rivalries in which teams genuinely dislike one another, where the animus is real, not manufactured.
Who puts out a bounty on a kicker? Only a character like Ryan. The game, won by the Eagles 27-0, led to one of my all-time favorite exchanges between coaches. The Cowboys' Jimmy Johnson was furious after the game and said he would have confronted Ryan about the alleged bounty, but Ryan "wouldn't stand on the field long enough. He put his big, fat rear end in the dressing room."
Ryan's response? "I resent that. I've been on a diet, lost a couple of pounds. I thought I was looking good."
Lions blur memories
Scientists endlessly debate the validity of repressed memories, but I think there's something to it. I have no favorite or even vivid memories of Thanksgiving football. I blame the NFL for foisting the perpetually wretched Lions and the self-aggrandizing Cowboys on us each year. The mind can absorb only so much torture before it says, "No mas."
I have vague recollections of Barry Sanders juking for oodles of meaningless yards and the occasional Lions upset. I know the Cowboys had the Clint Longley win over the Redskins and the Leon Lett brain-lock against, I think, the Dolphins. But for me, that's more about continuous replays than indelibly etched memories.
Maybe it's the accumulated effects of tryptophan or alcohol. Or maybe Freud was on to something.
The day's soundtrack
The Morning Call
In our family, football always has been as much a part of the holiday as turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, with the announcers often serving as the day's soundtrack. (I still remember being asked to leave the table to go into the other room to turn down Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier on CBS so we could say grace before dinner.)
The volume was restored as soon as grace was over, and the dinner conversation often centered on that morning's high school games with animated discussions about which relative went to the best football school or which team had the best player. Grandma would even stop carving the turkey to ask if her alma mater won its big game.
Dessert was consumed when the Cowboys were on. And if the game wasn't particularly exciting, the tryptophan would kick in and most of us would wake up during the postgame interviews.
Football, despite Lions
I will answer a question with a question: How can there be a favorite memory when the Lions are there to ruin it every year? The Lions are the Aunt Phyllis' greenbean casserole of Thanksgiving football. Yes, they are on the table every year. But, good grief, are they horrid.
The Lions are the perfect example of why the teams and players are unimportant. All we really care about is that there is football — any football — on television.
Seriously, is there anything better than stuffing yourself on turkey, dressing, pumpkin and peanut butter pie, then plopping on the couch and dozing off to the soothing sounds of Pat Summerall breaking down the Cowboys' zone blitz.
This is the time of year we give thanks for family, friends, food and football.
Even if it is the Lions.