Interlude: Madden’s Thanksgiving

When I think American Thanksgiving, I think football and I miss the days when I used to be able to come home from school to enjoy a few marquee games on TV.

And when I think football on Thanksgiving, the first thought is always John Madden.

Starting in 1981, Madden spent everyone of his Thanksgiving Days broadcasting NFL games. On Wednesday night before the game, there would be a traditional dinner with the FOX Sports crew. The team would gather for a turkey dinner at the hotel; any officials, league office representatives and anyone on the road for the game were welcomed.

Madden also became obsessed with the Turducken, a deboned chicken stuffed in a deboned duck stuffed in a deboned turkey. He once knew a butcher down in New Orleans who he called on once a year to help him with making this specialty for his special day.

On the first Thanksgiving he celebrated after the events of September 11th, Madden said the following:

I expect Thanksgiving Day to mean something extra this year. Americans have started to think about everything we used to take for granted. Take the National Anthem, for example. We sing it before every game, and at some point television stopped covering it. I think people had started going through the motions and not thinking of the words. That has changed.

The same is true of “America the Beautiful” and the flag itself, and I think Thanksgiving is going to make us pay a little more attention. There always have been things we’ve said thanks for, but maybe we didn’t put a lot of thought into it. Over the years we’ve said, “Today is the day to give thanks,” and then we dive into a piece of turkey. I think people are going to really reflect this year.

I was in New York on September 11 when those planes hit the World Trade Center. At the time, it seemed like it was a local thing. But three or four days later, by the time we drove across the country in the bus, we realized it wasn’t a local thing. You could really feel the states become united. We became the United States of America. Those have just been words for a long time. But something like this happens and we go back to basics — what our flag means and what our National Anthem means. I think the same thing will happen on Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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