Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. One of the great thrills of Thanksgiving is that we get football on Thursday. I know, I know – we now have football every Thursday, but that was not always the case. Still though, this is the only Thursday when we get to watch football all day long. Plus, we get to eat massive amounts of food. Most people look forward to turkey on Thanksgiving. I actually think turkey is the least-delicious meat I have tasted. For me, spaghetti pie is the main event of Thanksgiving. It is a Walker-family special that all of ten people on Earth actually enjoy. Essentially, it is spaghetti baked with eggs, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and lots of spices (garlic, pepper, oregano, etc.). My friend, Jeff, aptly refers to the delicacy as “pasta brownies”, as one eats them by hand. Mmmmmm, I love spaghetti pie.
Anyway, enough about food. Let us get back to football. To pump you up for tomorrow’s games, let us reflect on the four most memorable Thanksgiving football moments of my football-watching career (which dates back to 1990). Why did I choose to go with four? It is because only four are legendary enough in my mind to merit discussion, and I do not want to force a “Joey Harrington covers the spread”-level moment on here just to get us to 5. Here we go.
4) The Coin Toss In 1998, the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves tied at 16 after regulation. In those days, overtime was pure sudden-death. Therefore, the coin toss was of enormous importance. The Steelers’ Jerome Bettis and Carnell Lake clearly said, “Tails”, during the flip. However, referee Phil Luckett heard it as “Heads”. Therefore, Luckett awarded the toss to the Lions. The Lions obviously chose to receive and ended up winning the game on Jason Hanson field goal on their opening drive. The Steelers were none too pleased. The Steelers would finish 7-9, two games out of the playoffs. Therefore, this game did not directly cost the Steelers a playoff berth, but the space-time continuum tells us that we do not know if the incident cost the Steelers a berth. Meanwhile, the Lions finished 5-11 and were largely irrelevant, this game aside, in 1998.
3) Leon Lett 2.0 Entering the 1993 season, Leon Lett’s name already lived in infamy. In Super Bowl XXVII the previous January, this play happened. Fast forward to the 1993 season, and the defending-champion Cowboys were rolling along with a record of 7-3 when Thanksgiving approached. Their opponent that day was the 8-2 Miami Dolphins.
The Cowboys would ultimately take a 14-13 lead into the latter stages of the game when the Dolphins’ Pete Stoyanovich lined up for a game-winning 40-yard field goal with 15 seconds left. Oh by the way, the field was covered in snow…in Dallas…on Thanksgiving. I suppose that was a “convenient truth” for the Cowboys, and it proved especially so when the Cowboys’ Jimmie Jones blocked the field goal. Yes, the very same Dallas Cowboys who were coached by Jimmy Johnson under owner Jerry Jones also had a player named “Jimmie Jones”.
After the blocked field goal, the game – by all accounts – should have been over….except that Leon Lett ran after the blocked kick and touched the ball. This turned the ball into a “live ball” that was recovered by Miami at the 2-yard line. Actually, the ball was likely recovered in the end zone, but the snow and lack of instant replay that year meant the ball would stay at the 2. After much debate about where the refs would spot the ball, Stoyanovich calmly kicked a game-winning 19-yard field goal. As for the momentum from this game, the Cowboys ended up winning their last 8 games of the season, including the Super Bowl. The Dolphins ended up losing their last 5 and missing the playoffs. Go figure. As for the video, even “Stefon” himself would say it has everything – Leon Lett, Jerry Jones on the sideline, Ed Hochuli giving a long-winded explanation, Mike Golic the player, the ghost of Ray Finkle, Doug Pederson the holder, Jimmy Johnson in a Starter jacket, Don Shula on the sideline in a Starter jacket and thick sunglasses, a blizzard in Dallas, and a “human snow plow” – it’s that thing where you have your holder get on the ground and wipe all the snow off the ground so that you can more easily kick a field goal.
2) Shania Twain Halftime Show In the 1999 edition of Dolphins/Cowboys, we were blessed with a Shania Twain halftime show. For the young readers of this blog, you might not know much about Shania. She was drop-dead gorgeous (and still is). She is a talented musician as well, and I enjoy many of her songs. That said, in the late ‘90s (my high-school days), it took a lot to keep Jennifer Aniston AND Britney Spears out of the top spot in my celebrity-crush department, but Shania was up to the task. As for the football game that November day, I honestly remember nothing about it….and that is saying something.
1) I am going to leave you in suspense for #1 on the list. You are probably wondering to yourselves, “Wait, there was a Thanksgiving-football moment more incredible than Leon Lett AND Shania Twain???” Yup! It happened in 2012 during the night game. It is the only time I have ever fallen out of my seat laughing as a play was actually happening. Let’s be honest – since this play occurred, you have never again looked at this guy the same way. Lastly, we all lovingly refer to this moment by two simple words with a total of ten letters. Here it is.