Franksgiving

Franksgiving

And why not? We all know that Im a giver. And then some. So why not claim my favorite holiday as my own? After all, for me, it is the most wonderful day of the year.

Thats due to the 3 Fs: Feasting, football and family. (The order you put them in is up to you, and thats the fun!) In my world, things tend to move pretty fast (I heard that!), or should I say that life moves pretty fast. If you dont stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. Thats just how it is. Ive learned to hang on tight and enjoy the ride. Not to be too philosophical, but that is the point. I consider myself blessed that for most of my life Ive been able to enjoy what I have and not be too focused on what I dont. It kind of fits with my lower expectation theory, (Always a crowd pleaser at the bar)and having an ability to roll with whats been put in front of me.

In the scheme of things.

As in: It just doesnt matter. It just doesnt matter! (My 3rd classic movie quote in 200 words. Boo-ya!) So for me, my favorite day is one that doesnt require a lot out of me while it provides a lot for me in return. Being able to combine my favorite things for the duration makes it perfect.

In a way, the day always creeps up on you in a hurry. Im in end of summer mode for as long as possible. Part of this is due to the fact that when the winter weather starts, it means Im going to be living in Siberia for what seems like six months. Luckily that hasnt been the case here, YET. But the other thing that is approaching is the stress of the end-of-year holidays. (I guess theyre end of year. The supermarket I go to has had a Christmas aisle since the end of October and I walked into a convenience store the other day to the unmistakable guitar riff of Jingle Bell Rock, I started to hum it and then caught myself. What?!) The great thing about the day is that there is no stressful buildup. Its just, where do I have to be, and when? Thats every day for me anyway!

The night before used to be a big night, Blackout Wednesday, but Ive mostly outgrown that. Who wants to feel nauseous and hurt all day on a day of consumption and relaxation? Youve got to live and learn and boy have I learned. Thursday is game-on and I want to be in peak condition.

As always, it helps to have a plan.

First, I kind of work in reverse. Tuesday afternoon is my usual shopping day for the groceries. Ive rarely hosted over the years, and havent since Ive lived here, so the groceries I buy are for my Thursday night ritual: The ultimate turkey sandwich. But the other reason is that my house has to have that holiday smell, which means no matter what, Im cooking a bird. Ive gotten the most interesting reactions over the years for the fact that I do this especially from the females. You have what at home? I mean what am I supposed to do when the market, or work, gives me a free 28-pounder? I say what the heck. Cook it in the morning, enjoy the wonderful aroma and then carve out the best sandwich and salad meat. Is that weird?

The next order of the day is proper attire. Franksgiving is not a dress-up day, its a dress for comfort day. My favorite dress for comfort inspiration is the Friends episode where Joey vows hes going to eat an entire turkey and pulls up at the table wearing Phoebes maternity pants. Genius!!

Comfort pants always remind me of my departed Zubaz that didnt make the trek westward with my wife and I. She swears she had nothing to do with it, but I still have my doubts.

These days, a pair of Nike sweatpants and a long-sleeve tee-shirt suffice. Although Im not ashamed to say that Im sure the day is soon approaching when I dont even get that dressed up. I love wearing my NFL pajama pants around the house! Am I really that guy?

An important thing happens now and its a veteran move for an eater. You have to have a snack during the first game. I used to have breakfast but that would just make me sleepy. Theres plenty of time for that after dinner! But you dont want to have one plate at dinner and be stuffed because your stomach was not properly prepared. It has to be stretched out. (Do you run without stretching? I didnt think so!) I dont only say this as an eater but as a good guest. If Grand-mom is going to put in extra effort to feed everyone, Im going to show proper respect and give her just as much effort at the table. My prerequisites are that its not too heavy, the kids also like it and, for daddy only, it goes well with a cold one. For whatever reason, in my house, that has become snow-crab legs. Who knew?

While snacking, its time for the early game. For whatever reason, maybe Im still not awake or due to the fact that over a long period of time they havent been good, not a lot of the Lions games stick out. The 2 that come to mind right away are the Bears overtime win in 1980 on Dave Williams 95-yard kick return on the first play of that overtime and the Phil Luckett-Jerome Bettis coin-flip fiasco of 1998.

But that game has always been the appetizer for a fan from Philly, since the second game is a chance to root for the Dallas Cowboys to lose. It wasnt always that way. I can still remember the game between the Cowboys and the Redskins in 1974, then one of the NFLs fiercest rivalries. Washington was up 16-3 in the 3rd quarter when they knocked out Dallas QB Roger Staubach. In stepped little used (before or since)backup Clint Longley, who stunned the Redskins and the nation, by rallying the Pokes with 2 long touchdown bombs, the second of which covered 50 yards to Drew Pearson with 28 seconds left giving Dallas the 24-23 win. I remember thinking that was pretty cool. Im pretty sure that was the last positive thought that Ive had about the Cowboys.
Rooting against them hasnt always worked, since all-time they are 28-15-1 on the holiday. But some of the losses have been spectacular. The Bounty Bowl loss to the Eagles 27-0 is still probably my personal favorite. Those teams had a hatred for each other and it showed. Boy did dinner taste great that night! But the all-timer has to be the Leon Lett game of 1993. I dont know about you, but I dont always need the requisite shot of the teams owner coming down to the sideline to revel in the impending victory. The game had been close probably due to the muck on the field created by a freak snowstorm before and during the game. The Dolphins were driving for a go ahead field goal, well you know the rest. Lett will live in infamy for his snow-angel blunder, but the lasting image for me was the camera shot of Jones as he was so joyful when he realized the kick was blocked and then how it changed when he saw up-close what Lett did. Dolphins 16 Cowboys 14. Can you say a picture is worth a thousand words? Or better yet, its priceless.

I dont want to be a hater. But my being an Eagles fan makes it inevitable and the Cowboys make it easy.

I still havent made up my mind about the third game yet. Its probably like my third plate of dinner. I know I shouldnt do it, and it will make my vision blurry, but I just cant help myself. The Eagles played in 2008 and that was cool, but otherwise the games have been kind of boring. I mean, I can watch as much NFL as the next guy, but what I need at night, is some sugar to combat my tryptophan haze and a mindless comedy on TV. Its almost like I watch the game because I have to. (And I have a rooting interest, if you know what I mean.)But no matter, I still watch.

This has interrupted my day a little. I still watch my Franksgiving staple, its just a little later. That would be the classic combination of Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. How about those Bears?! My day is not complete until I watch it.

Its also not complete until my midnight turkey sandwich. I cant remember when it started, but I cant remember not doing it. Its one of my favorite topics at the bar on the Tuesday and Wednesday night before the holiday. How do you make yours? Ive found out theyre kind of like snowflakes, no 2 alike. And people are really IN to it. Thats comforting to know, since it shows me Im not alone in my late-night indulgence. For the record, the best recipe, mine, is as follows: 2 slices of Wonder white bread, smeared with Helmans mayo. Liberally sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Cover one piece with tender slices of breast meat. Top this with a thin layer of stuffing. Cover the stuffing with a thin layer of gravy. Top with the second sliced and enjoy. I always have a little extra gravy for dipping and a glass of milk to wash it down. Ahh.

Of course, none of this would matter though, at least as much, if it wasnt shared. Moving away from my family on the east coast was a big deal. I honestly didnt realize how big until I started having kids. But I am very fortunate my wife has a large family and theyve taken me in from the beginning. (Whether or not theyre happy about that) Theres something very cool about watching your kids grow. One of them is having family gatherings with their grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins that they will always remember. Better yet for yours truly, is when the guys gather around the TV watching the games and the girls gather around the table talking about whatever it is that they talk about. (I dont even want to know!) The bliss only interrupted when one of us guys is called to take some parental responsibility. Yes dear, Ill be right there.

We can debate the true meaning of a lot of things, but about this day I dont think there is any. We should all take some time to reflect on what we are fortunate enough to have and hope others are as fortunate. Appreciation is a wonderful thing.

For me the only thing that can make it better is still down the road a little. Having one of my three interested in football for the first time is a start. That is going to be very cool. The next will be when they are age appropriate to watch mommy and daddys movie with mommy and daddy. Then, finally, some day when I have that late-night sandwich, to have others around the table with me. I know I have a small window, theyll want to get out with their friends at a certain age, I know I did, but Im looking forward to those few years when I can share that time with them hope they understand how much their sharing their time with me means. That is something I will give thanks for. You wont be able to wipe the smile from my face. (Other things yes!) I couldnt think of a better holiday to have as mine.

Happy Franksgiving!

I hope you can make it yours.

Watch some of new Bull Zach LaVine's best dunks

Watch some of new Bull Zach LaVine's best dunks

Zach LaVine quickly made a name for himself as a prolific, epic dunker.

The recently acquired Bull won both the 2015 and 2016 Slam Dunk Contests and has plenty of awe-inspiring in-game dunks as well.

The video above has a few of LaVine's best efforts.

His signature dunks in the dunk contests were the 2015 dazzler when he caught the ball from behind the backboard and went through his legs before slamming it and the through the legs from just inside the free throw line dunk in 2016.

For in-game dunks, the time he posterized Alex Len in November was an instant-classic. It's not everyday a 7-footer gets dismissed with such authority.

Of course, LaVine's ability to dunk at this prodigious level is in question after he tore his ACL this past season. If LaVine can come back to anywhere near full strength, look for some impressive highlights from the former dunk champ in a Bulls uniform.

Don Cooper remembers what made Mark Buehrle so special 

Don Cooper remembers what made Mark Buehrle so special 

Mark Buehrle didn’t have the kind of attributes found in most of the dominant pitchers of the post-steroid era. He was a 38th-round draft pick with a fastball that, on a good day, would scrap the upper 80’s. 

On Saturday, Buehrle will become the third pitcher to have his number retired in White Sox history, joining Ted Lyons (No. 16) and Billy Pierce (No. 19). For Don Cooper, who was Buehrle’s pitching coach from 2002-2011, it’s not hard to see why the St. Charles, Mo. native’s name will forever be a part of White Sox history. 

“Reliable, consistent, dependable, winner, good guy, unflappable, these are words that come to mind when I think about him,” Cooper said. 

Cooper was flooded with plenty of memories of Buehrle during the dozen minutes he spent chatting with the media on Friday. He said he learned a lot from working with Buehrle, watching him fill up the strike zone and induce early, weak contact while working at a brisk pace. One of Cooper's memories that stood out was this one:

“I can remember in the bullpen, he’d be warming up, he’d throw about 10 pitches,” Cooper said. “He’d look at me, I’d look at him. He wasn’t throwing very good. He turned to me and said, ‘Come on, let’s go, this isn’t going to get me any better.’”

But that was Buehrle — “In many ways, you could just wind him up and you’re throwing him out there every five days,” Cooper said. He battled through days where he didn’t have his best stuff — not that his stuff was electric to begin with — and turned in 14 consecutive years with 200 or more innings. 

Buehrle, of course, threw a no-hitter in 2007 and a perfect game in 2009, and along with save in Game 3 of the World Series represent some of the crowning achievements of his career. Cooper was happy to have been a part of it from his perch on the White Sox bench. 

“I think he was blessed,” Cooper said. “He was given a lot of gifts. The sinking fastball, the changeup, the cutter. His curveball, by scouts’ assessments, would probably be rated an average curveball. But as time went and as his stuff went down, we started to use that more. When he was at his best, we would throw about 8-10 of those. But as he started losing his stuff we had to mix more of those in. And listen, the career he had, his number being retired, the kids, his family — blessed. He’s been a blessed guy.”