It is time for our yearly Thanksgiving column. Here's last year's. We repeat last year's intro to explain the concept.
The general perception is that Thanksgiving is a holiday that is inextricably tied to sports, but my experience is nothing like that all. There are lots of sports on Thanksgiving, but that doesn't mean there are suddenly more sports fans. What it means is that it's one of the two days a year -- the other being Super Bowl Sunday -- when people who know nothing about sports suddenly start talking about sports.
A few years ago, I coined the "Nancy Grace Rule" of sports. Basically: When a sports story crosses over to the non-sports cable-news channels -- when people who don't care about sports start talking about it -- it immediately loses all interest to devout sports fans and, in fact, becomes excruciating to even discuss. This could also be called "The Today Show Rule" or "The Front Page Of Yahoo Rule." When a story hits critical mass, whether it's Lance Armstrong or Alex Rodriguez or Tim Tebow, sports diehards tune it out. If you truly love sports, it's always niche to you.
There's nothing niche about Thanksgiving. When you are one of the bigger sports fans in your family -- as I suspect many of you reading this site are -- Thanksgiving becomes the day where you spend half your time trying to explain why your relatives' dumb, uninformed opinions on sports are wrong and the other half trying to look past the screaming children frothing from sugar rush so you can watch the damned game. Everybody pretends they care about sports on Thanksgiving. Which is a real pain for the rest of us.
Thus, diehards find themselves discussing tons of topics on Thanksgiving that they've already grown bored of. You need to be prepared for this. Thus, a new Thanksgiving tradition here at Sports On Earth: Your Guide to the Tired, Exhausting, Overdone Sports Conversations You're Going To Have On Thanksgiving Day, And How To Deal With Them.
We'll give you three topics, what the "take" of your relative is likely to be, and how best to respond. A lot of this is about attitude. Comedian Sarah Silverman once said that the best way to make sure you get along with your family over the holidays is to pretend they're someone else's family; "If you do that, the little things that annoy you that don't annoy anyone else are much more tolerable." Go into it with that mindset, and answer as we instruct, and you'll do fine.
TOPIC ONE: JOHNNY MANZIEL
"This punk doesn't know anything about how football works. He parties all the time and doesn't respect his teammates. He's not a real man: Roger Staubach would eat him alive." - Your great uncle Harold, who wears a plaid fedora and hates the kind "those Brooklyn snots" wear these days.
"I think he'd rather take a damned SELFIE than score a touchdown!" - Your increasingly confused stepbrother who still has a flip phone.
"Wait, is that the gay one? Which one was that one? He seemed like a very nice young man." - Your very sweet grandmother.
"The NFL, through its misguided sense of militaristic 'discipline,' and its absurd insistence on bland, corporate-friendly conformity, has attempted to eradicate even the slightest bit of personality from its players. Johnny Manziel is 21 years old, charismatic, talented and filthy rich: He's having the time of his life, and jeez, why wouldn't he? His teammates all like him, he hasn't caused a fuss being a backup all season and he's even funny in commercials.
You know who he is? He's Joe Namath. You know how, when all you Baby Boomers were kids, you thought Namath was the coolest guy in the world? And you know all your parents thought he was a long-haired hippie punk? Check it out: You are now your lame-ass parents. Let Johnny be Johnny. Also: Brian Hoyer is super boring."
TOPIC TWO: KOBE BRYANT AND THE LAKERS
"Kobe Bryant has made that team, and all his teammates, millions and millions and millions of dollars. He's supposed to pass the ball to Jordan freaking Clarkson? People pay to see Kobe. They're all just jealous." - Your cousin who claims he works for "a Goldman Sachs subsidiary" but actually just is a bank teller who watches The Wolf of Wall Street over and over, and for all the wrong reasons.
"Who watches the NBA? They don't play defense in that league. Just a bunch of guys trying to get their own." - Your creepy uncle Hank, who keeps trying to derail Thanksgiving all together by baiting someone, anyone, into a conversation about Ferguson.
"The Lakers are one of the worst teams in the NBA, and the primary reason isn't the terrible roster: It's Kobe. Kobe is still the best player on the team, but because he thinks he's so much better than the rest of the team, he refuses to play team ball or do anything other than just shoot it every time he gets the ball. And no player, even Kobe in his prime (let alone late-thirties Kobe), can win games that way. The advanced stats clearly show that the Lakers are in fact a better team when Kobe is off the court, rather than on. Kobe Bryant has made millions for the Lakers in the past and remains the primary draw for fans. But he's making his team worse. And this isn't going to get better until he wakes up and realize that.
Oh, and Hank, you're an idiot. Have you watched a game in the last 25 years? Quick, Hank: Name five NBA players. No, John Stockton retired."
TOPIC THREE: TODD GURLEY AND PLAYERS GETTING PAID FOR THEIR AUTOGRAPHS
"He doesn't know how good he has it. He gets a free education at a quality university, and then tries to make his own money on the side. It's just wrong. He should appreciate what he has." - Your college professor aunt whose class no athletes ever take.
"He knew the rules, and he decided to break them. He deserved worse than just a suspension. Law's the law." - The boyfriend of your sister, who has finally ended her series of dating losers by bringing by a cop who's a little too intense, if you ask me.
"Todd Gurley does have his education paid for, but that doesn't even come close to covering the amount of money he has made for the University of Georgia, the NCAA, ESPN, the SEC and all sorts of old gray-haired men who wouldn't know a trap play from an alley oop. Go to a Georgia game, and there are thousands of people wearing Gurley jerseys, many of which they paid 100 bucks for (or what Gurley would make for signing several autographs). You know how much Gurley gets for that? Nothing. Zilch.
And if he hurts himself -- as he ended up doing, by the way -- he puts his entire professional future at risk, all to make money for a ton of organizations that claim they are doing the 'honorable' thing by not paying him. He couldn't have made money off his skill -- a skill that can fade by the time you're in your mid-freaking-twenties -- if he wanted to. And we act like paying for his education is doing him a favor? He is quite literally a steal. He should have signed everything he could have and gotten the heck out of dodge before he got hurt and put his NFL career at risk. He didn't, because he was a decent enough person to honor the crooked deal we all signed him to in the first place. 'Law's the law' is how horrible atrocities are justified. Also: Hands off my sister, jeez, my dad's just down the hall."
TOPIC FOUR: JERRY JONES
Possible Comments and Recommended Response, in unison:
"Please get this human-like object off my television screen as quickly as possible."
Email me at email@example.com; follow me @williamfleitch; or just shout out your window real loud, I'll hear you. Point is, let's talk.