John Vandelinder: Football and turkey: A Thanksgiving tradition |

John Vandelinder: Football and turkey: A Thanksgiving tradition

John Vandelinder
John Vandelinder
John Vandelinder

— As a child growing up in southern Ontario, Canada – yes, I’m a Canuck – I was a stones throw away from Detroit.

Because of the limited channels offered by the Canadian government and my passion in becoming an American Air Force pilot, I was drawn to the Detroit sports scene. The Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons and Lions were always on my television.

Most of my family resided in Michigan and my mother was born there, so I was fortunate to have my American citizenship basically handed to me. My family celebrated thanksgiving in November, not October, as most Canadians do.

I understood the price that was paid for us to have the freedoms Americans now possess, and I have desperately tried ever since to make up for lost time on the wrong side of the border.

I realized there was a special feeling associated with driving through the Motor City on Thanksgiving day. Of being in America on the day America celebrated being thankful.

The sites, sounds and smell – not always a good thing in Detroit – were always stuck in my mind.

But most of all, my greatest excitement came when we would drive by what appeared to be the biggest painting I had ever seen in my young life.

Plastered on the side of a giant building was a black and white mural of the Detroit Lion’s Barry Sanders.

From the first moment I caught a glimpse of the future Hall-of-Famer, I understood the importance of football on that special day.

It was a day to get the entire family together, to sit down for a feast of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and to have the opportunity to give thanks for what we have.

And, of course, watch football.

The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys have been a staple of Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember.

The early ’90s saw Dallas in its heyday and Barry Sanders blowing by defensive pursuers.

Maybe it was the tryptophan taking over from all the turkey, but spending the day with family, cheering on the home team, is something I will cherish forever.

Even my grandmother took a break from the cooking and cleaning to catch a glimpse of the action.

Every year, families like mine, and not so much like mine, sit down to Thanksgiving dinner. They arrive smelling the roasting bird in the oven and to a warm family reception.

Then on goes the television, tuned to football.