Happy Thanksgiving from ALDLAND

lionsgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, ALDLAND readers. Without presuming that you need any help entertaining yourselves today, here are a few suggestions to enhance your holiday festivities:

We are thankful for everyone– over six thousand of you in 2015 alone– who stumbled by this virtual space in the past year. Have a wonderful day, and get off the dang computer!

College Football Fan Guide: Championship Week Edition

Last week was one of the best football weeks in recent memory, and although our Tuesday Afternoon Inside Linebacker weekly feature has fallen by the wayside due to worldly obligations, this week and the week ahead deserve note.

The Lions started things off on Thanksgiving with a wonderful win over Green Bay. It was Detroit’s first win on Turkey Day in nine years, and it was the first time Matt Stafford beat the Pack. The Lions also avenged the career game Matt Flynn had the only previous time he quarterbacked Green Bay against Detroit.

Brendan and I were in the Big House for Michigan’s surprise one-point loss to Ohio State, and I made it out of Ann Arbor in time to see Georgia come back to defeat Georgia Tech in overtime, note Vandy’s comeback win over Wake Forest, and watch maybe the greatest one second of college football in Auburn’s regulation toppling of Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

Records of note:

  • Auburn: 11-1 (35-21 loss at LSU)
  • Michigan State: 11-1 (17-13 loss at Notre Dame)
  • Ohio State: 12-0
  • Vanderbilt: 8-4 (poised for second consecutive nine-win season)
  • Missouri: 11-1 (27-24 2OT loss against South Carolina)

Bowl outlook:

  • Rose Bowl: Barring a very bad loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game Saturday night, Michigan State seems set to ring in the new year in Pasadena. Here are the details on that situation.
  • Bowl projections keep waffling Vandy between the Music City and Liberty Bowls. Despite having a national championship in women’s bowling, they can’t seem to roll outside the Volunteer State. The former Independence Bowl in Shreveport might be a good alternative.

The BCS national championship: Right now, Florida State is set to play Ohio State, but that could change after this weekend. Each team needs to beat its conference championship opponent, Duke and Michigan State (more on basketball later!) respectively, of course. Auburn’s also in the mix here. If the Eagles/Tigers/Plainsmen beat Missouri in the SEC championship game, one-loss/SEC champ Auburn could leap an undefeated Ohio State. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Just ask Florida head coach Urban Meyer:

There are a lot of people making a lot of decisions out there, but this is a big one. We’re going to tell a group of young men, who just went 12-1 in a most difficult schedule against six ranked opponents, that they don’t have a chance to play for a national championship? I’m going to need help with that one.

That was back in 2006, though, and in 2013, Meyer finds himself singing a decidedly different tune as the head coach of Ohio State. 2006 Urban Meyer got his way, something 2013 Urban Meyer ought to keep in mind this week.

(HT: @DrunkAubie)

Great White Northern Jam

A timely observation of my Thanksgiving tradition was a casualty of my recent relocation, but I was able to restore order, albeit belatedly, this week with the assistance of Commodawg. Considering anew how a group of (mostly) Canadians had such a substantial impact on American music, I found myself wondering what group of Canadians was the most Canadian, and, in turn, what Canadian song was the most Canadian Canadian song ever.

I immediately knew the answer, having reached the conclusion some years ago. The group: the hit-making Bachman-Turner Overdrive precursor The Guess Who. The Jam:


Tell me I’m wrong.

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Pre-feast, postgame bite

Well that was a bust. I was not feeling great about this game beforehand, especially considering instability in the Lions’ run game, and I think the early injury that knocked Kevin Smith out of the game was more important to the Detroit loss than the Suh ejection, which is what everyone will be talking about. (Stafford’s multiple interceptions sure didn’t help either.) On that point, Jim Rome tweeted during the game that Suh is making it very difficult for him to continue to defend Suh against critics who call Suh a dirty player, and I have to agree.

This game was full of penaties and player injuries, and each side had a player ejected. Not a good showcase for either team. The Packers didn’t look amazing, but they didn’t have to; making zero mistakes and capitalizing on all of the Lions’ many errors was more than enough to carry them to victory and their first 11-0 start. The Lions fall to 7-4 and a tie with the Chicago Bears for the NFC wild card spot. To make the playoffs, Detroit needs at least three more wins. Their remaining schedule includes two difficult road trips: at Oakland, and at Green Bay.

It’s time to eat. Happy Thanksgiving from ALDLAND!

A Thanksgiving tradition for over 70 years

The Detroit Lions have been playing football on Thanksgiving day since 1934. From the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s account:

When it comes to Thanksgiving Day football, NFL style, most fans first think of the Lions and the tradition that was started in 1934. It was their first year in Detroit after a local radio executive, George A. Richards, had purchased the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans and moved the team to Detroit. The Spartans were members of the NFL from 1930 to 1933.With the Spartans, not only was Richards bringing a proven, quality team to Detroit, he was also bringing at least one super-star, Earl “Dutch” Clark, one of the most versatile backs ever to play the game. Clark had an outstanding supporting cast in the Detroit backfield with a big, talented line anchored by Frank Christiansen.

Even though he knew there was some risk in scheduling a game on Thanksgiving Day, Richards also recognized that his Lions were taking a back seat to the baseball Tigers on the sports pages. So as one way of attracting Motor City fans during the team’s first season, he opted for the Thanksgiving Day contest.

The matchup between the Lions and the World Champion Chicago Bears proved to be an all-time classic. The 1934 Lions had not allowed a touchdown until their eighth game and entered the game with the Bears with a 10-1 record. But with 11 straight wins, Chicago had an even better record. Still a win would put the Lions into a first-place tie with the Bears with only a game left, a repeat clash with the Bears in Chicago, just three days later on December 2.

The 26,000 tickets for the Turkey Day clash in the University of Detroit Stadium, were sold out two weeks in advance of the game. It was estimated that another 25,000 would have attended had there been seats available.

The Bears edged out the Lions 19-16 in the classic holiday struggle and then prevailed 10-7 three days later to clinch the NFL Western Division crown.

Not despondent over the last two losses, Richards reasoned that his team had done well in its first year in Detroit. His confidence was rewarded the next year when the Lions won the 1935 NFL Championship. The key game in the title drive came on Thanksgiving Day, when the Lions defeated the Bears 14-2 to clinch the West championship.

Thus the football-on-Thanksgiving tradition became firmly established in Detroit. With the exception of a six-season gap from 1939 to 1944, the Thanksgiving Day game has been played with no interruptions.

In recent years, the Lions’ poor performance led many to question their entitlement to the Thanksgiving game year-in and year-out and even call for their removal from the game. To take from a team that had so little going for it that one special thing it did have seemed pretty heartless, even by NFL standards. Even in its worst years (and even if they didn’t win), the team seemed to rise to the occasion, playing tough to preserve legacy and pride on what was likely to be their only nationally televised game of the season. Our family went to one of these games, when the Lions hosted the Bears at the Silverdome in the 90s. I can’t remember which year it was, but after reviewing the old schedules and doing some mental math, I’m going to go with the 1997 meeting, a 55-20 Detroit victory over Chicago.

This year’s meeting, at the Lions’ Ford Field against the undefeated Packers is a critical matchup for two teams with playoff aspirations. On both sides of the ball, the run game will be important to Detroit’s chances for victory. If resurgent Kevin Smith continues to act like old Kevin Smith and the Lions’ defense suddenly discovers a way to stop the run, they could hand the Packers their first loss of the season. Knocking Aaron Rodgers unconscious would help too.

A Thanksgiving tradition for over 30 years

If there’s one thing upon which all of us can agree, I think it’s The Last Waltz at Thanksgivingtime. The following is from an invitation I’ve sent to friends in years past when I was living elsewhere:

On Thanksgiving, 1976, at Winterland in San Francisco, the Band gave its final concert: The Last Waltz. The group was in top form, playing all of their best songs from their multi-decade lifespan with their best friends and influences there to help them. From early mentors and collaborators like Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan to Canadians Joni Mitchell and Neil Young to bluesmen Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton to songsmiths Neil Diamond and Van Morrison and many more, this was a one-of-a-kind event, captured and beautifully preserved by Martin Scorsese.

A true landmark, both in the worlds of music and cinematography, The Last Waltz has been a part of my Thanksgiving observation for years now, and I would like you to take it in with me. 

Wherever you find yourself this year, the 35th anniversary of the event, grab a copy of the movie, give thanks, wear something nice, and above all else, remember,