Pigskin Shares Holiday With Turkey

Football is almost as big a Thanksgiving Day tradition as turkey. Three games are played today: Tennessee at Detroit, Seattle at Dallas and Arizona at Philadelphia. NPR's Mike Pesca and Steve Inskeep preview the games.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

For the third straight year, you've got more options if you're watching Thanksgiving football than you used to have. The tradition is that the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions both hosted games on Thanksgiving. Now of course there are three games to choose from. And NPR's Mike Pesca is paying attention to them all. Hi, Mike.

MIKE PESCA: Hello, how are you?

INSKEEP: Let's start with the Detroit Lions who have a perfect record, as I understand.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Yes, if you're in bizarre world. They're an exciting football team and a strong fan base, no wins or anything. The Lions have changed up their strategy. Earlier in the year they were getting blown out immediately. Now they've settled on to the strategy of late collapses, which I guess makes things a little dramatic in Detroit. Since the year 2000, for every game the Lions have won, they have lost three - by far the worst record in the NFL.

They have the worst record in all major professional sports this century. And coming into this game, the Toothless Lions were to have played an undefeated team, that's if the Tennessee Titans had won last week, but they didn't. The Tennessee Titans lost to the Jets, which maybe will make them a little bit angrier. The Titans still have the best record. They're playing in Detroit, a team with the worst record. This is, I guess, the part where I'm supposed to say, hey, stranger things have happened.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: But I don't know if - you'd have to go to like the Battle of Thermopylae or the discovery of the platypus to think of much stranger things than the Lions beating the Titans.

INSKEEP: What about the Cowboys?

PESCA: The Cowboys came into this year - they were supposed to be a very good team. They have stars at the important positions that all the fans look to: running back, wide receiver, and quarterback. But what happened was that their quarter back, Tony Romo, got hurt. It's always very difficult to deal with that. The backup quarterback, Brad Johnson, played horribly. But since Tony Romo's come back, he's righted the ship. And the Cowboys are coming into this game as strong favorites, largely because their opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, themselves are a very bad team. They're two wins, they have 11 losses. And I'd just like to take a moment to just lament in a general sense the plight of the Seattle sports fan.

The Mariners, their baseball team, lot of people pick them to go to the World Series. They finished with the last place record in the American League. And the Washington Huskies, the football team, 0 and 11. And the Seattle Supersonics are undefeated, but that's only because last year the owner picked them up and moved them to Oklahoma City. And oh, by the way, they have the worst record in the league in Oklahoma City. So all hope turns to the Seahawks to be merrily awful instead of wretchedly pathetic.

INSKEEP: Oh, if only they lived in New York, like you do with the Yankees. Oh, never mind. Now there is one more NFL game, Mike Pesca, to talk about which never used to happen on Thanksgiving Day.

PESCA: For years and years and years it was the Lions and the Cowboys who would play, but the NFL owns its own network. Not a lot of people can see this network. There's a clash between the NFL and the cable companies. But now for the last couple years, they've been putting on a night game. And this game actually has the most intrigue of all the games. It pits the Arizona Cardinals against the Philadelphia Eagles.

And the Eagles' quarterback is Donovan McNabb, who has been an excellent player. He's taken his team to several championship games and the Super Bowl. But this year he is having a terrible year. And the week before last, he was involved in a tie against the Cincinnati Bengals. And after the game, it came out that he did not know it was possible to have a tie in the NFL.

Now I have a theory that Donovan McNabb spends his Sunday playing NFL games, and the rest of us watch NFL games. So we have a leg up on him, in terms of knowing the rules. This Thursday, the coach has announced that Donovan McNabb will indeed start. And they hope to win the game. They very much hope not to tie the game.

INSKEEP: Educating America's football fans, it's NPR's Mike Pesca. Thanks very much.

PESCA: You're welcome.

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