At 10:30 am last Thursday I was lying in bed, having awakened just two minutes earlier, as if my mental holiday clock from past years knew the Turkey Bowl kickoff between Darien and New Canaan normally would be about to commence.
Actually my normal holiday football routine starts much earlier. I get to Darien, New Canaan or Boyle Stadium about two hours or so before kickoff, mainly for parking purposes. But it is also fun to watch the event evolve: the teams showing up, then the fans, getting a chance to be social before kickoff while trying to find some news that could potentially be relevant to a game story.
Besides an atmosphere unparalleled for a high school sporting event in the state, there is the constant scoreboard watching on Twitter to see how the postseason picture is going to play out, with the playoffs only five days away.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, yet for about two decades my family never got the chance to see me until late afternoon. It was a sacrifice I never really contemplated because the games are part of my job description.
But Thursday was a time for contemplation. It was the first Thanksgiving — and hopefully the last — by choice that I was home alone, eating a catered meal because I remain uncomfortable eating indoors almost anywhere but my house. Instead of looking forward to the Blue Wave and Rams, it was the Gonzaga-Kansas basketball game. At a time when most were just sitting down for their meals, I was walking on a treadmill.
Now that we have had a football-less Thanksgiving, I wonder what the future holds for holiday games in the state. Before the pandemic the atmosphere was never more accommodating to rethinking the playoffs.
And when it comes to high school sports in Connecticut, Thanksgiving football has always been that huge rock in the middle of the beautiful field where you played sports growing up. You have to play around it. To have an ideal football season, we need to start and end earlier. There is no reason to wait until mid September for the first kickoffs and to end in early to mid December, when the weather gets more dicey and winter sports are about to commence.
But if that ideal football season is your priority then Thanksgiving football cannot remain as is, because the schedule needs to be created around the games, which is why we have always started and finished late.
Changing the football season has been discussed before but not as much as last offseason, when the scales seemed to be tilting closer toward reconsidering the schedule than ever before.
To some, getting rid of holiday football is sacrilegious. To others, creating a perfect season — and maybe reformatting the playoffs some to avoid so many opening-round blowouts — should be prioritized.
As we saw a few months ago, anything that has to do with high school football is going to cause a large reaction and, even during a once-in-a-lifetime public health crisis, by some an overreaction.
If there was postseason football played during the holiday weekend, in a few years would this new tradition take hold? Or would there be lingering bitterness, especially by the many schools that have little chance to earn postseason berths but at least an annual Super Bowl against their biggest rival?
I think there was a good chance before March for a serious discussion and proposals on changes to enhance the regular season and playoffs. The question is did last week make it harder or easier to see a future without Thanksgiving football?
I haven’t spoken to many people yet, but I’m betting harder.