September 18, 2014
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Sports Column
Put down the remote and catch a game

On Thanksgiving Day, if you so choose, you can pull up the Watch ESPN on your computer, tablet or smart phone and tune in to an international cricket match between West Indies and Bangladesh. If that’s not your cup of tea, how about some Euroleague Basketball? Unicaja and Asseco Prokom Gdynia are playing at 2:45 p.m. I hear it’ll be a good one.

Then there’s your standard fare – three NFL games, the Dubai World Golf Championships, some NBA action, eight college basketball games, two college football games and two college volleyball matches.

You could watch it all.

Please don’t.

But it illustrates a point. This is the world we live in now, a world where you can literally watch everything under the sun. If your dream is to watch Australian Rules Football at 2 a.m., I’m sure you can find it somewhere.

It’s a great thing in many ways. Television has shrunk the sports world. You can experience all of it without ever leaving your couch. For someone like me, whose favorite basketball team’s home court is 800 miles away, it’s perfect.

But the byproduct is unfortunate: as televised sports have gained popularity, local sports have fallen by the wayside. If you want to watch sports, you grab the remote. You don’t think about going outside and catching a high school game.

I bring this up now because of Thanksgiving high school football. It’s one of Rhode Island’s great sports traditions, and it still draws big crowds. I am a firm believer that, if you’re a sports fan and you’re not responsible for cooking the turkey, there isn’t a better way to spend your Thanksgiving morning than a high school football game.

You should go. Trust me.

I wrote a similar column last year, talking about how great Thanksgiving football is, how it’s a tradition that should never fade. That feeling is even stronger for me this year.

For our Turkey Bowl section, we looked back at the history of our local Thanksgiving football rivalries. It’s the 50th year for the Pilgrim-Vets game and the 40th for Cranston East-Cranston West. That prompted our trip down memory lane.

It’s a trip I’m glad we made.

I talked to coaches and players from the first games in the Pilgrim-Vets and Toll Gate-Hendricken series. Our assistant sports editor, Kevin Pomeroy, talked to coaches and players from the first East-West game.

We had the same experience – it was really cool.

Everybody wanted to talk, everybody wanted to reminisce. I wish I could have talked to every player on the team. The stories were fantastic.

Pilgrim and Vets players traded pranks that first year, back in 1963. Bob Padula remembered going to Newport Creamery on Warwick Avenue and talking trash in the weeks leading up to the game.

Emo DiNitto remembers how impressive it was that a bunch of kids who didn’t all know each other came together in one season to build the Toll Gate football program – and beat Hendricken on Thanksgiving.

Nick Capezza recalled a teammate with a broken leg who took his cast off and snuck into the East-West Thanksgiving game, just because he didn’t want to miss it.

Those stories came from just a few people, and just one year. Take all the years of the rivalries, and you could fill a book.

New chapters will be written this season. These are games that matter, games that will be remembered. There’s an extra intensity on Thanksgiving. There’s something in the air.

Get out there and breathe that air. Watch some local sports for a change. You won’t be disappointed.

And you’ll be home in plenty of time for cricket.

William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and williamg@rhodybeat.com.


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