Watching NFL football on Sunday in northern California this weekend reminded me of what it was like in the Los Angeles area for two decadesóbefore the Rams moved back from St. Louis. Yeah, LA didn't have a home team to root for, but the market got all the best games. With the 49ers off this week, and closer teams playing at other times, it was a national showcase, and it didn't disappoint.
The Raiders were the Sunday night game, and even though they call Las Vegas home now, the Bay Area and Sacramento markets still get all of their games. It makes sense, but it's inconvenient and even kind of stupid when the Raiders are playing Jacksonville or someone while there's a good AFC 'clash of the Titans somewhere. Even when the team was still in Oakland, we were stuck with games like this while Peyton Manning was facing Tom Brady. Not a problem this week, though.
Usually in situations like this, CBS or Fox would offer us regional gamesóclose to, but not in, our market. The Rams, though, were the Monday game, Arizona and Seattle played each other on Thursday, and the networks spared us from the 2-7 Chargers hosting the 0-9 New York Jets.
Fox had the doubleheader this week, and offered us Atlanta-New Orleans in the 10am window. That was okay, but CBS gave us Baltimore-Tennessee. The Titans won in overtime 30-24. You had to flip back to Fox at 1pm for the only afternoon offering, which was Green Bay at Indianapolis, and quarterbacks Aaron Rogers and Philip Rivers. Indy won that one 34-31, in overtime. You had time to take a quick walk around the block, and then it was time for Kansas City at the Raiders on NBC. That one did not go overtime, but after the Raiders took the lead in the final two minutes, KC came back with a touchdown of their own with 28 seconds left, and won 35-31. Add tonight's 27-24 win by the Rams at Tampa Bay (Brady's new club), and a seven-point Thursday night game in Seattle, and you got an entire weekend of some pretty good football.
Thanksgiving is Thursday, of course, which is a day the NFL takes advantage of. As tradition goes, Detroit and Dallas always play at home. This year, the Lions host Houston (9:30am PT on CBS), while Dallas gets the Washington team formerly known as the Redskins (1:30pm onm Fox). It's my theory that these games are not classic matchups for a reason. Everyone knows you are either cooking, traveling, or entertaining relatives, so the idea is just to have the game on, not necessarily stop everything you are doing. The Miami-Dallas snow game of 1993 is the most notable exception, but it gives every family who is old enough to remember that game something to talk about.
In a newer tradition, NBC added a Thanksgiving night game to it's Sunday night package in 2012. The game airs after dinner in the East, and usually features a better matchup. This year, it's the Baltimore Ravens at the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. West Coasters are chowing turkey during this one, but can usually catch the first and fourth quarters if you (care enough to) time it right. If not, there's always the DVR or just settle for the highlights on your late local news.
Thanksgiving doesn't just belong to the NFL when it comes to sports. College basketball begins on Wednesday, and Fox has a game between Gonzaga and Kansas scheduled for 10:30 Thanksgiving morning. An eight-team tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota airs on ESPN and features St.Mary's, Wichita State, Utah State, West Virginia and others. Covid-19 has forced some teams to withdraw, though, creating some last minute schedule changes. There's also a college football game on Thursday (New Mexico-Utah State at 4pm on FS1).
If that isn't enough (the networks say it isn't), there's college football on Friday (Nebraska-Iowa and Cal-Stanford on Fox) and the 'much anticipated' (?) celebrity golf match at noon on TNT featuring Phil Mickelson and Charles Barkley against Steph Curry and Peyton Manning. It's similar to the Tiger, Phil, Peyton, and Brady match in May, except the money goes to anti-racism efforts instead of Covid relief. Barkey's (poor) golf swing should make it worth watching all by itself.
Saturday's primary college football attraction is Auburn-Alabama on CBS, and then on Sunday it's back to the NFL. In northern California, CBS gives us the Raiders at Atlanta followed by a Patrick Mahomes-Tom Brady showdown between Kansas City and Tampa Bay. Fox will have the 49ers and Rams for everyone in the state to enjoy.
The Thanksgiving holiday, of course, has nothing to do with sports, but there's plenty of it there any time you want it.
Front and center: Due to a bunch of Covid-related postponements and cancellations, a game between two Mountain West schools got some national attention. After several SEC games were called off, CBS showed San Diego State at Nevada on Saturday, and used their top announcers Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson. Nevada came from behind to win 26-21.
More than sports: If you are looking for something Thanksgiving-related to watch on Thursday, you might want to pre-plan. I recommend the 'Turkeys Away' episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, but you might have to try to find it online. There are clips on YouTube, but the full episode might be difficult to come by. Happy Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown! usually airs on ABC, and could be available on Disney Plus. The annual Saturday Night Live Thanksgiving special airs Wednesday night on NBC, and family movies are always good. There are plenty to choose from, including The Wizard of Oz Thursday (at 6pm and again at 8:15) on TBS. Christmas specials move in quickly, though. Frosty the Snowman (on CBS), and Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (on ABC) both air Friday.
Easy listening: There are hundreds if not thousands of Christmas songs, but my Thanksgiving playlist has only four. Adam Sandler's 'Love to Eat Turkey' from Saturday Night Live, Little Birdie from the Charlie Brown special (where Woodstock is setting up the tables), a couple of tracks about the first Thanksgiving from Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, and Arlo Guthrie's 1967 eighteen-and-a-half-minute classic Alice's Restaurant. If you've never heard it, or haven't heard it in years, you should give it a listen. One word of warningóit does contain a homophobic slur that was permissible in 1967, but in the way it was used (making fun of the US government), it still works.
Happy together: I was sad to read about the passing of Jim Tucker. He was known by most as the rhythm guitarist for the 1960s group The Turtles, but I met him a couple of times and knew him as a sports fan. He was a Grass Valley resident and good friend of my high school football broadcast partner Dan Miller. I would just listen to the two of them talk, and it was almost always about either football, or the Giants. Tucker was 74.