Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
It's Homer's favorite holiday, highlighting the Four F's: family, food, faith, and football, though not always in that order.
It is the quintessential American holiday, open to people of all faiths, races, economic class, and football team affiliation. Yes, they even celebrate it in Cleveland and Baltimore. And even that Beelichick guy celebrates, thankful that he didn't get caught yet this year. At least not yet.
We head home to join with our families - to visit and honor our parents if we're still with us. We get together with the guys we grew up with and head out to the backyard or open field and throw around the football and have our own neighborhood Turkey Bowl. College and the years may have relocated us, but we''re still the old gang and always will be. Family and neighborhood are among the foundations of our lives.
Many of us attend our houses of worship, and nearly all of us say prayers of Thanksgiving as we gather around the table. Many of us compare the scene at our family table with that of the iconic Norman Rockwell painting.
The hymn that most of us associate with this holiday is typically American. It's from somewhere else, and it was originally about something else. Actually, it was about a slutty girl, I think. It was a Dutch song, and the words were "she is wild, who will tame her?"
But at one time, the Netherlands was under the control of Spain, and King Felipe forbade the Dutch Reform to assemble in prayer. After they rebelled and gained their freedom, they took the melody of that bawdy ballad and put new words to it. They assembled in prayer, and offered a prayer of Thanksgiving. Over the years, the words have been translated into many languages, but they speak to us all....
We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing,
He chastens and hastens his will to make known
The wicked oppressing, cease them from distressing
Sing praises to His Name, He forgets not HIs own.
"We Gather Together" was chosen by the people who assembled songbooks for grade schools, and nearly all of us learned it as far back as second or third grade. It became an American anthem during World War II, when we associated "the wicked oppressing" with the Nazis and the Japanese. And the final words of the third stanza, "O Lord, make us free," expressed the most fervent hope of those on the battlefield and those on the home front. Still do.
Thanksgiving, of course, means food and lots of it. America, of course, is the greatest nation on earth, and every year we have more proof of it. Last year, it was Poo-pourri, some stuff they were selling on one of the home shopping channels. It's some kind of liquid and you pour a couple of drops of it in the toilet and your crap smells like Cinnabon, or something like that. God, I love this country. USA! USA!
This year, a restaurant down here in DC named Ted's Bulletin has come up with the Thanksgiving Pop-Tart. It's a homemade pop tart, filled with turkey and gravy on one side and stuffing on the other, covered with a cranberry icing glaze, and topped with a dollop of sweet potatoes. And only $2.99! You see what happens when you let American ingenuity run free? How great is that?
Of course, Thanksgiving also means NFL football, and it has ever since the league's first season in 1920. In the greatest movie ever made, "A Christmas Story," Ralphie's Dad mentions that the Bears were playing the Packers that Thanksgiving. And the first Thanksgiving game Homer can remember was the 1962 contest when the Lions manhandled Bart Starr and the Packers, 26-14. Ray Scott, of course, was the announcer. Homer's best bud in grade school, Ray Fitzsimmons, couldn't stop talking about Lions' behemoth Roger Brown who weighed an absolutely unbelievable 309 pounds! He was the biggest guy in the NFL back then. Today, he'd be an undersized offensive guard.
Seeing the Lions and Packers in the early game brings back a lot of warm and fuzzy memories for Homer. God surely meant for those two teams to play on Thanksgiving. As the great football fan Tevye de Milcheke points out, our lives are held together by one word: Tradition!
The Cowboys play in the second game, and that brings a smile to our face, because we all enjoy seeing people even more stupid than we are. And who can forget Leon Lett sliding into infamy in the snow? Thanksgiving is for stupid people, too.
The late game, a new tradition, is dearest to Homer's heart, because it features the Steelers and Ravens. We will all gather 'round the television, womenfolk included, with the dishes in the dishwasher. The only towels in use will be Terrible, and they will be twirled and waved.
Sadly, Mammon has intruded on this most American of holidays. Many stores will be opening their doors at 8pm, which is half an hour before the Steelers' beatdown of the Ravens begins. (For the purposes of this game, a beatdown is a one, two, or three point victory. No one ever wins by more than that. You can look it up.)
Homer imagines the Wal-Marts in the heart of Steeler Nation will be empty, because no Steeler fan would dare to be caught dead scrambling for $1 door buster while he (or she) should be gathered together with family and friends, cheering on the Black and Gold. Indeed, any fan whose loyalty can be bought for the chance at a doorbuster actually deserves to be trampled to death by oversized Wal-Martian women in spandex pants. Oh, the humanity!
Fortunately, Costco is closed on Thanksgiving, but even if they were open, and even if they were offering a 55 gallon drum of malted milk balls for a dollar, you can bet Homer would be home watching the Steelers. True Steeler fans cannot be bought, and certainly NOT for a doorbuster.
We stuck by our guys when they started out 0-4, and we're not going shopping tonight. At least not until midnight. We have other, more important things to do before then. Many of us have traveled hundreds of miles reunite with family and friends. We have so much to be thankful for, including the freedoms we share as Americans. And - year in and year out - we give thanks for the best darned football franchise anywhere.
Sing praises to His Name, He forgets not his own.
Happy Thanksgiving! God Bless us all, every one!