You must eat Thanksgiving Dinner dinner after 4:15pm.
Why? Well the reason should be obvious but I will help you. You see, tomorrow there will be a wide variety of individuals sitting down together to that festival of over-abundance known as the Thanksgiving meal, right? If you are fortunate, some of these folks will be people you know and love. Others will be people you just know. Others are spouses and dates of your cousins and siblings and, really, you just hope they fit in. Well, have you ever wondered where the folks in the last groups go before and after dinner? In enlightened households they watch football.
Yes, I know, togetherness blah, blah family blah blah. However, on Thanksgiving Day we ask these poor folks to sit through 4-8 hours of over sharing, gossip about people they don't know, and (if they are potential permanent family members) silent yet obvious judgement. Of course, there will be the relentless one-upmanship as well that will manifest itself as a long, boring, yet oddly intense conversation about things like cranberry sauce.
There will be those who want to flee. Let them.
There are people who will need a refuge. They need a place to unwind and be a tad less festive. You might know someone like this. You may be someone like this...even if you don't normally follow the game. So...hosts, put the TV in a side room near the wine and beer table so they will be out of the way and well fed. Then, if you don't join 'em yourself (and there will be times you want to), check in on them from time to time. You will hear them laughing and talking. They will smile at each other. It will the be happy no-pressure room. In fact, they will become friends and occasionally come out of their den to check on the rest of you (and to steal appetizers)!
Simply put, football lubricates the social contract between your dad, your sister's new boyfriend, your cousin's wife and all people like them. Yeah, they watch the game. Still, that isn't all they do. There are conversations to be had, after all. This frees you up to do...whatever it is that the non-football watchers do...talk about food?
So what about 4:15? Well, that is the easy part. You see, there are three games on Sunday but the most interesting one is first. The Detroit Lions will host the Green Bay Packers at 12:30pm. Detroit--who always plays on Thanksgiving--has possibly the best team they have ever had. Green Bay, however, is even better. That said, it has also been traditional on this day for the Lions to lose in spectacular fashion. This year is different. This year they might win. The Packers are efficient, lovable football heroes. Even your slightly aloof more sophisticated-than-thou relations will allow that they enjoy the Packers. They are a non-profit, after all, in the smallest major-league city in the nation. The Lions on the other hand are from Detroit and owned by the Ford family. The Lions are mean, dirty, and profane. I love Detroit. I am picking the Lions to win and I will be cheering for them.
At 4:15pm there will be another game. It features the other traditional T-Day team, the Dallas Cowboys who will be playing the Miami Dolphins. On Thanksgiving there should be at least one cold-weather team in each game. Warm-weather teams are an abomination to the sport! Dallas should win this game, but I dislike them intensely. Miami has an outside chance of an upset (and I devoutly hope they take that chance) mostly because the Cowboys are over-hyped prima-donnas. Anyway...4:15 is a good time for Thanksgiving dinner. The second game will be messy and hard to watch after the first game, which will be a wonder to behold. Also, your football-watchers will be primed for a break and feeling ready for any social awkwardness during dinner (just don't ask them to pray).
Finally, there is an evening game on NFL Network. It isn't so much a network as a 24 hour infomercial for the National Football League. However, if the evening seems to be dragging on (the game starts at 8:20) and you have this exalted station, put the game on. It should be a good one. You will have to slog through a bunch of saccharine drek about the two head coaches. They are brothers. Get it? Brothers...playin' football...on Thanksgiving? Once that is over, though, the game should be very good. The San Francisco 49ers will be playing the Baltimore Ravens. Both teams are division leaders. The QB's Alex Smith (SF) and Joe Flacco (BAL) are competent, but both teams rely on defense and a brutal running game to win. It is football that your ol' grampa would appreciate. I am picking the Ravens.
So...to Recap... Lions, Cowboys (please God, no!), Ravens
By the way, if you are feeling a bit out of your element, Thanksgiving is a good day to learn about football. Those in the know will be eager to help you. Good topics of conversation involve Aaron Rodgers ("is he as good as (Peyton, not Eli) Manning/ (Bret) Favre"), Ndomukong Suh ("is he mean/dirty/awesome?"), Reggie Bush ("Can he really be an every down back?", Tony Romo ("why Tony Romo?") The aforementioned coach brothers (the Haurbaughs) and how the Ravens aren't as good without Ray Lewis.