John Wall

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Thanksgiving makes me sentimental. I have a friend who makes it a point to thank everyone she knows personally, saying that this is her high holy day. I don’t go that far, but it’s definitely a holiday that puts me in a reflective mood. It’s a time when, rather than focusing on the inevitably of death and sadness and failure, I can remember the positive:

The Caps are off to a hot start! The Nationals’ young star, Bryce Harper, just won the National League’s MVP award after an individual season that was a joy to watch (even if the team’s season wasn’t)! The Wizards backcourt is similarly fun to watch! Maryland basketball is electric! And even the local NFL team, despite yet another atrocious loss, remains firmly in playoff contention thanks to their awful division!

It’s a fun time to be a fan of D.C. sports, despite everything. On this holiday, if on no other day, it’s worth focusing on that fact.

And my sentimentality doesn’t stop with the big names.

Back when I worked retail, one of my favorite things to do was to open the store on Thanksgiving. The day would start slowly, but once people got sick of their families and the relentless cheer of the holidays, they’d go looking for anything else to do. There was no customer quite as happy as the one finding an open record store.

In those college days, I was almost as happy to skip the holiday myself, so I’m not one to boycott stores that are open on Thanksgiving, or assume that all their employees are miserable to be there.

In years when I wasn’t doing the retail thing, football was the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving Day. We would cook the traditional meal, but we rarely did the Norman Rockwell sit-down dinner; the whole day was instead spent carrying plates of food into the living room to eat while the game was on.

When I eventually wound up being invited to Thanksgiving at friends’ houses where this was not the norm—where I was expected to behave like a functioning human being and sit around a table and have some kind of ridiculous conversation—I remember those holidays less fondly than the years in which I was peddling music.

So I’m not one to diminish the importance of football in relation to the holiday, either. It’s worth at least acknowledging the many, many people—the NFL equivalent of Target cashiers and managers—who get the football to you.

There’s a sentiment that, hey, a few teams each year have to play on Thanksgiving, but—as with so many other things—the players and coaches make tall dollars and if they have to be away from their families for a holiday, well, they can buy 12 turkeys on the following Thursday to make up for it.

This misses a number of details.

For example, it’s not just the players who are working on the holiday. All the support staff needs to be there: equipment and medical and training, of course, but also PR and and sales and community relations, as well as the stadium staff, and the increased police and security presence that a game requires. The TV production crew. The beat reporters and the national writers and the bloggers. The radio crews from both teams. All of their producers and spotters, and many, many more.

The teams that aren’t playing on Thanksgiving generally still hold practices—maybe a truncated session, maybe a walkthrough, but there’s activity at the facility. And that activity also requires a more streamlined version of that support crew—medical, media, PR, etc. They’re all hoping to get home for dinner, but there’s always the chance that something happens to prevent it.

And those people, whether at the game or just stuck at the facility, are pretty much not in a position to reschedule a makeup Thanksgiving.

So while I’m being sentimental, it’s worth sparing a moment to thank all those people as well, alongside Bryce and Ovi and Wall, and even the hope-inspiring parity of the terrible NFC East.

Follow Matt Terl on Twitter @Matt_Terl.

Photo by Keith Allison