Turkey Day memories plentiful

Monday night before walking into the gym for an intense leg workout I sent 15 text messages to random contacts, simply asking, “How is your day going?”

I believe in checking on your people, often.

Before stepping into the squat rack for my first set, I had six replies. One had COVID-19, one just lost a family member, one was in his room since Thursday lost in depression, and a fourth said “F--- Mondays.” Tuesday morning at 5:45 a.m. a close friend of my son’s lost her mother after a massive heart attack the day prior.

Is this really Thanksgiving week?

Allow me to remind you to be thankful for what you have and why in the corner of all sports fans’ lives, the National Football League lends us something to appreciate on the final Thursday each November. Since its inception in 1920, the NFL has played games on Thanksgiving Day, and I’m guessing a large number of households will have their television sets tuned in.

“As a kid I was sitting around with my family (and) I remember watching those games and so many great memories that my family had,” Las Vegas Raiders veteran tight end Jason Witten recalled after Sunday’s hard-to-swallow loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. “And then to be able to play in those games, it’s a special time ... there’s nothing like playing on Thanksgiving Day. A lot of great traditions that I’ll keep with me for a long time, not just experiences on the field, but my family and so many families across the country that have told me stories about playing on Thanksgiving.”

Witten, who played the first 16 seasons of his career in Dallas, played on Thanksgiving each of those years.

This year, with what the world has endured, six teams have an opportunity to bring some joy, a little fan pride, and some happiness to many families in the midst of a pandemic that continues to leave a dark cloud hovering around all of us.

Though sports were ushered back into our lives in late July, recent spikes of coronavirus cases have seen states go back into shutdown-mode, or in Nevada’s case, a three-week pause that had Governor Steve Sisolak asking families to consider restrictions on Thanksgiving celebrations. Which is why, for football fans, NFL football might be a little more special this season.

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“I’m thankful that even during this crazy time we can play football and have something to do because there is a lot of people not in work right now,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said last week. “I don’t know what all the rules are in every state, but I know for me, family is important, being around your family and being thankful, those things are important.”

Indeed. I’m not sure we’ll ever endure another year like 2020. So as we approach the possibility of vaccines that would thwart the spread of this deadly virus, I implore you to remember the good times and make the NFL a part of your day, creating more memories.

Like the one I have of the 1993 game between Miami and the Cowboys in the rare, snow-filled Texas Stadium. A blocked field goal, a Leon Lett slip in the snow, a tap of the spinning football that became live upon doing so and the Dolphins falling on it. Their second chance at a field goal won the game, 16-14.

My fondest memories will always be hearing Pat Summerall and John Madden calling the Cowboys games, and Madden handing out the “Turkey Leg Award.” For me, it truly meant the holiday season was upon us. As it is once again.

So appreciate what you have my friends and follow the words of Raiders coach Jon Gruden: “I’m just thankful for my family. Thankful for the God upstairs. Thankful for the opportunities that He’s given us.”

Thursday

Texans at Lions +3: I have to believe Detroit is staying optimistic about the postseason while sitting two games back of the final wild-card slot. LIONS

Sunday

Cardinals -2.5 at Patriots: In New England, Cam Newton isn’t the problem; he also isn’t the answer. Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins ... that is all. CARDINALS

Panthers at Vikings -4: Minnesota needed a wake-up call, and what better way than a backhand from the lowly Cowboys? Carolina snapped its five-game skid and will suffer a letdown before its bye. VIKINGS

Saints -5.5 at Broncos: The Saints are clicking on both sides of the ball, even without Drew Brees, as they head into the final stretch of the regular season. They’re the best team in the NFC. SAINTS

Bears +8.5 at Packers: Chicago is just one game back of No. 7-seed Arizona. Green Bay has shown vulnerability against tough stop units. BEARS

Monday

Seahawks at Eagles +5.5: If the Cowboys win on Thanksgiving, their fourth win of the season will have put them in sole possession of first place in the NFC East. Philly can’t allow the Pokes to sneak in. EAGLES

Last week: 2-4

Season: 31-30-1