On Thanksgiving Day, 1876, just 13 years after Abraham Lincoln instituted the holiday, the American Intercollegiate Football Association held its inaugural championship game. So began a nationwide association between turkey and pigskin.
By the 1890s, the college championship was the country's premier sporting event, and thousands of other leagues, from high schools to club teams, began scheduling football for Thanksgiving Day. In 1893, the title game between Yale and Princeton drew enough spectators to provide the bulk of annual revenue for both schools' athletic programs.
Not everyone welcomed these developments. An article published in the New York Herald the day after the Yale-Princeton showdown condemned the nation's gridiron obsession: "Thanksgiving Day is no longer a solemn festival to God for mercies given. It is a holiday granted by the State and the Nation to see a game of football."
But no amount of blustering could stop the new pastime. Ministers began cutting short Thanksgiving church services to accommodate fans. And professional football soon picked up on the trend, holding six games on the holiday in 1920.
In 1934, NFL owner George Richards scheduled a Thanksgiving game for his Detroit Lions, launching a tradition that carries on to this day. The Lions have played at home on every Thanksgiving since the completion of World War II, a streak of 62 years that will carry on Nov. 22.
Few Christians today protest the culture's deference to football on the national day of thanks. But many could sympathize with that century-old New York Herald commentary, which railed against the idolatry of sport: "No longer is the day one of thanksgiving to the Giver of all good. The kicker is now the king and the people bow down to him."
Of course, enjoying football need not come at the expense of thanking God. Nor does admiration necessarily constitute idolatry. Besides, kicker worship fell out of style ages ago-around the same time quarterbacks discovered the glorious forward pass.
Thanksgiving fan feast
Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
12:30 p.m. EST on FOX
New York Jets @ Dallas Cowboys
4 p.m. EST on CBS
USC @ Arizona State
8 p.m. EST on ESPN
For baseball super agent Scott Boras, the Christmas shopping season began Nov. 13 with the opening of the game's free agent market. His wish list includes a $350 million contract for slugger Alex Rodriguez and a host of smaller break-the-bank deals for his second-tier clients.
Trouble is, some teams appear fed up with Boras and his hard-line negotiating tactics. He angered a number of top executives and baseball commissioner Bud Selig last month when he tried to show up the World Series by announcing during the final game that Rodriguez would opt out of his $252 million contract with the Yankees to seek more money elsewhere. Red Sox fans greeted that ill-timed news with chants of "Don't sign A-Rod!"
Perhaps retaining Boras as an agent has crossed over from an asset to a liability. Santa abhors greedy bullies.
The largest deals of big bucks Boras, baseball's super agent:
Alex Rodriguez (3B) Rangers: 10 years / $252 million
Barry Zito (P) Giants: 7 years / $126 million
Carlos Beltran (CF) Mets: 7 years / $119 million
Bernie Williams (CF) Yankees: 7 years / $87.5 million
J.D. Drew (RF) Red Sox: 5 years / $70 million
Daisuke Matsuzaka (P) Red Sox: 6 years / $52 million