W roundtable: A Thanksgiving game plan

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, which means 'tis the Thursday for tryptophan, television and Tony Romo. espnW's commentators offer their strategies for balancing the familial demands of the holiday with the desire to watch -- and play -- football.

Guess who's coming to dinner? Not the NFL Network

By Amanda Rykoff

In my family, there's really no easy way to balance Thanksgiving football and family. My mom has a pretty firm rule that once we sit down for dinner, the television gets turned off. And let's face it, she's the one busting her butt preparing the meal, so she runs the show. It's a rule that my dad, my brother and I have all grown to accept over the years.

Because I'm usually in California with family for the holiday, games start bright and early at 9:30 a.m., and the afternoon game wraps up by 5 p.m. We never really had a problem with the balancing act; we watched the morning and afternoon games and then enjoyed the turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie without any distractions. But that all changed in 2006 when the NFL introduced a Thursday night game on Thanksgiving.

For a few years, we had an unspoken agreement that we would just ignore the final game of the day and enjoy our meal. This was pretty easy because my parents' cable provider didn't carry the NFL Network. But then in 2009, my aunt and uncle -- both huge sports fans -- started joining us for Thanksgiving. They had actually threatened to go elsewhere for dinner because my parents didn't have the NFL Network. We convinced them to come to our house, and agreed to a compromise: I would be allowed to leave the table every 15 minutes to check the game status on the computer in my mom's office and report back to the group. As it turns out, the Broncos blew out the Giants that night, so there wasn't much to report.

This year, my parents will be here in New York City for the Harbaugh Bowl. We're going to dinner at a lovely restaurant on the Upper West Side for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I am sure they don't have televisions. I may or may not be excusing myself several times throughout the evening to catch parts of the game on my phone. But don't tell my mom.

A Bears fan in their flag-football midst

By Sarah Spain

For the second year in a row, I'll be spending my Thanksgiving in enemy territory.

On Wednesday afternoon, my boyfriend, Brad, and I will battle getaway day traffic to head three hours north of Chicago to New Holstein, Wis. (population: 3,300), where you can get a $4 pitcher at the M T Glass Bar & Grill and a lane for two bucks at The Beacon bowling alley. Of course, the biggest deal in Brad's tiny hometown is the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. Last year the locals flew Packers flags on their porches, wore Packers sweatshirts to the bar and took any opportunity to talk smack about my Chicago Bears. And that was before they beat us in the NFC championship game and went on to win it all. Now their quarterback is rewriting the record books. Ours is sidelined with a broken thumb; and their team is on top of the standings at a perfect 10-0. Boy, am I in for it.

Not only will I have to endure the monosyllabic grunting and meatheaded smack-talking of these Packer fans, but they've also once again denied me the right to play in their annual Turkey Bowl. The Friday after the big feast, Brad and a crew of fellow New Holstein High School grads stage a big flag football game at Kiwanis Park on the outskirts of town. Basically it's a bunch of washed-up old men with beer guts and barely functioning knees running around embarrassing the great sport of football. Despite the fact that I'm a former Division I college athlete and current member of a three-time flag football championship team (undefeated three seasons running), these half-wits have deemed me ineligible to play for no other reason than my lady parts. That's right, all women are relegated to the sidelines, where they're expected to load up on layers and shiver in misery while watching a bunch of boobs who make Pop Warner players look like pros.

Forget it. This year I'm staying inside with Blackhawks-Ducks on the tube and a big ol' turkey sandwich on my lap. Thanksgiving isn't about where you are, after all, it's about how much you eat.

A football-free Thanksgiving for a dutiful daughter

by Adena Andrews

Thanksgiving in the Andrews home consists of stuffing our faces at home in the afternoon, and then leaving an hour after kickoff of the first game to go visit family members. So after the first quarter of the first game, I'm no longer in control of my sports-viewing experience. When I step into someone else's home, the hosts control what's on the television, and it's normally not football. That means my goose is cooked when it comes to watching pigskin.

It never occurs to me to ask to change the channel; instead I just check scores on my phone. Any attempt to put on football would cause a chain reaction of raised eyebrows and swiveling necks, and then a full-fledged attack of questions such as "Did she just try to change the channel on my television?" This would be followed by deathly stares for the remainder of the evening.

Because I value my life more than football, I take the path of least resistance and show thanks for having a family to share laugher and food with, without a peep about what's on the TV.

A vegetarian's favorite Thanksgiving fare: football

by Melissa Jacobs

Thanksgiving for me means football first and football second. The meal is always lovely, but I'm a vegetarian, so it's generally not something I think about longingly in advance, the way my carnivorous family and friends do.

Particularly my mother. She wants to gab on and on about how the turkey will be cooked, which family recipe we'll use for the stuffing and where everyone will be seated at the table. Don't get me wrong -- I love my family. But as a 49ers fan, my mind and heart will be in a different place come Thursday evening. How much table time must I put in before excusing myself and indulging in the delights of the Harbaugh Bowl?

The importance of this year's games, particularly the nightcap, led to a particularly intense negotiation this year. But don't worry: After I successfully impersonated my mother with her cable company and got the NFL Network added to her package, there's no danger I'll miss a down.

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