How To Play The Perfect Thanksgiving Day Football Game

By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports

That wonderful time of the year is here once again. The one day for you to try and recapture that former athletic glory and show off to your friends and family before eating an ungodly amount of food. Before you lace up those shoes or pull on your pair of replica NFL receiver gloves, here’s a few things you should prepare to ensure that your Thanksgiving day game will be the best.

1) Pick A Location

This is crucial. Sure, it’s fun to play the game in your backyard with the family, but in many cases you’ll have obstacles like fences, swing sets, toys, etc. To avoid that, find a local public park, grass behind your local school, a soccer field or, if you can swing it, an actual football field (ideal scenario) to allow for maximum open space to roam and stay away from obstacles.

2) Soccer Cones/Some Kind Of Markers For Out of Bounds

You may be asking yourself: “Why would I need soccer cones?” Well, you’re going to have to determine out of bounds areas and the end zone.  So, short of playing on an actual football field (or soccer field) you’re probably not going to have those helpful white lines everywhere.

The simple orange cones that we’re all used to seeing can be had for about $10 at your local sporting goods store are essential.  Especially if you get real fancy with your rules and decide to mark first down lines and midfield.  These will also help to avoid any pre-Thanksgiving dinner fights, because let’s be real, those will happen too.

3) Agree Upon The Rules Before Starting

Nothing blows up a pickup football game quicker than not agreeing to rules before starting the game. I’m not talking about whether you’ll play two hand touch, flag, or tackle. Though, general rule, tackle is likely a bad idea. I say that having played in a lot of tackle football Thanksgiving and otherwise games with friends. Generally, pads aren’t involved and injuries can pile up. Or, if a hard hit appears to cross the line, fights break out. So, flag/two-hand touch might be better. That said, you and your friends should decide for yourselves before hand.

Now, the other more important thing to decide are the more intricate rules of the game. Like setting the boundaries (cones help here!), first downs, seven or five second Mississippi rush, etc. It can add some time to the preparation for the game, but make it easy.

Also important for those that are starting to get older. Deciding on when to take a half-time break beforehand. Look, the stamina/cardio probably isn’t what it used to be. So, the constant stop and start sprinting will likely wear on you a little more. If you decide before the game that after say five scores if you’re playing to 10. That way, everybody can take a minute, grab some water (or whatever beverage they prefer) and regain their legs.

Get everybody together or on the phone on Wednesday night, come up with a set of rules everyone can agree upon and go out and play the next day.

 4) Pick Teams The Night Before

One thing that my friends and I have adopted in recent years is setting up the teams the night prior to the game.  We have a pretty good idea of the guys who will be around to play the game (though I unfortunately won’t be this year, sorry fellas), so the night prior two captains are picked and they proceed to “draft” their teams.  

It’s all then written down (so no one forgets following that night’s activities) and taken to the field the next day to make sure we all split up correctly. Surprisingly enough, this helps everything in preparation go a lot smoother which allows for more time spent actually playing the game.

5) Be competitive, but not out of control

Sports will always bring out the competitive side of you.  As Herm Edwards once so eloquently stated: “You play to win the game.”That said, don’t go too crazy. Remember, this is a game played with friends/family and really is supposed to be an enjoyable experience with people you don’t see that often during the year.

So, by all means, dive for that ball just out of your grasp.  Give the defender your best Braxton Miller spin move. But, if you find yourself going full JJ Watt after drinking too much pre-workout powder, and trying to throw the QB around like a “ragdoll”, you’re probably going too hard. Back it down a couple of notches, superstar.

Follow these 5 tips and you will definitely have yourself a fun, fight-free, competitive “Turkey Bowl”. Then you can go home basking in the glory of your athletic achievements and eat enough food to feed a small third world country.

Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.

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