News & Politics

Redskins vs. Cowboys: A Game Plan for the Thanksgiving Showdown

It’s almost time for the Redskins’ biggest showdown of the season (which some refer to this year as Thanksgiving). But how to deal with basting the bird, Cowboys sympathizers, and other distractions?

Photograph by David Bergman/Corbis.

Rules of the Big Game

Not everyone out there is an obsessive Redskins fan. Do you do your grocery shopping on Sunday afternoons, light fires with the sports section, and mutter about the delayed start of 60 Minutes in the fall? If so, you’ll need these tips to avoid total alienation on the fourth Thursday in November.

• If you know just one player on the field, it should be rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III (he wears number 10). RGIII—as you must call him, pronounced “RG three”—is the biggest thing to happen to football in this city since our last Super Bowl parade. He can run, he can pass, and according to legend he can turn local tap water into DC Brau.

• You may be wondering why these people who claim to love the Redskins are so ill-tempered and yelly. Well, it’s because the Redskins are a constant source of disappointment. If people around you start getting angry, it most likely has something to do with the team’s lackluster defense. Or with owner Dan Snyder, who’s even less popular with fans than Nancy Pelosi at a Tea Party rally.

• When you aren’t sure what to say, simply disparage the Cowboys. For example: “Their quarterback is a choke artist who will probably win golf’s US Open before he wins a Super Bowl.” Or maybe “Their owner is a grandiose jackass” and “Their most talented receiver needs a chaperone to make sure he doesn’t get lost at a strip club on his way to practice.”

Family, friends, food, and football—those are enough to make Thanksgiving a truly stellar holiday. What really puts the day over the top is the rare occasion when the Redskins get involved. It’s been ten years, but finally the Skins return to center stage when they take on the Dallas Cowboys right in the middle of the nation’s most important meal.

Whether you’re playing host or attending someone else’s gathering, here are tips to help you get through the day without missing the action.

Avoid Cowboys fans. This should be your rule for every Thanksgiving, but it bears repeating this year. It’s bad enough we’re subjected to them as often as we are in our daily lives—there’s no need to put up with that “America’s Team” nonsense on an otherwise pleasant holiday. Even a single crowing Cowboys fan could bring on gastric distress, and you don’t want to risk spoiling your appetite before dessert.

If you regularly celebrate the day with Dallas-loving family or friends, this could be a hard rule to follow. Be strong. While I’m not suggesting going so far as faking your own death, you probably should start field-testing some excuses as to why you won’t be able to get together this year. Of course they’ll be devastated. After all, Cowboys fans love hating the Redskins more than they love their own team.

Preparation is crucial. If you’re doing the cooking and are intent on watching the game with minimal interruption, you’ll have to make sacrifices. Take the Thanksgiving turkey: Done properly, it’s moist on the inside with skin as crisp and mahogany-tinged as Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. The problem is, getting that Shanny-style bird takes a lot of effort. If your focus is divided between the television and the oven, you’re liable to wind up serving a burned bird or a 20-pound salmonella bomb.

Instead, consider something a bit less traditional. Turkey chili only gets better after a day or three in the refrigerator, and it reheats with little effort. Plus—no time wasted on carving.

Limit distractions. The holiday provides plenty of them outside the kitchen—the young, the old, the prematurely intoxicated. All should be avoided until after the game. Oh, and beware of the non-football fans. Armed with just enough knowledge to bombard an actual fan with a never-ending stream of questions, they could be the biggest threat to your attention span. So fix yourself a plate, grab a drink, and claim some all-important couch territory. Leave the socializing to others.

Try to be civil. It’s important to make concessions to guests who aren’t there for the football. Your best bet is to offer the token gesture of turning down the TV volume. It comes off as selfless, but the effort is mutually beneficial: The only thing worse than a dry slice of chalky breast meat is Joe Buck. And the only thing worse than Joe Buck is his broadcast partner (and former Dallas quarterback) Troy Aikman talking about your beloved Redskins.

This article appears in the November 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.