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  • Thanksgiving is a day of family, friends, food—and, for our writer—a fight to avoid NFL spoilers. He was on the losing side, until he came up with a brilliant idea . . .
By Andy Benoit
November 22, 2017

I grew up a diehard Cowboys fan. Watching the games could be intense, and I preferred to do it alone. Of course, this was impossible on Thanksgiving. Every year, about 25 family members would descend upon our house, most of them congregating in the basement by our big TV.

There were talkative aunts, a grandmother with a sixth sense for walking in front of the screen on the biggest third downs; my grandpa—who deservedly but still frustratingly—sat in the best recliner (the one I normally sat it), and worst of all the cousins, lots of smartass cousins.

And they would all conjure the most pointed opinions about the Cowboys, even though Thanksgiving was the first time they’d seen football all year. And, of course, just to needle me, they got a kick out of rooting for whomever the Cowboys were playing that day.

The worst was 1998. The Vikings came into Dallas and won 46-36. Rookie receiver Randy Moss had 163 yards on three catches, all of them touchdowns. In the fourth quarter, Vikings running back Leroy Hoard ran for Minnesota’s fifth 50-plus-yard touchdown of the game. I was 12. My cousin Johnathan, in his late twenties, had been “rooting” for the Vikings but by this point had dozed off. Another cousin woke him and said, “Hey Johnathan, look at this touchdown run.” Groggily, Johnathan said, “Huh, what, touchdown for us?” This infuriated me. Us. Touchdown for us? Us was a word for real fans. The Cowboys and I were an us. The Vikings and Johnathan were just a football team and a jackass.

As I got older and football writing became a career, my fandom for the Cowboys evaporated. But Thanksgiving is still a challenge. I now take diligent notes whenever I watch a game. It’s always on DVR, and I often can’t resist the urge to pause and rewind play after play. My parents still host Thanksgiving, and I always arrive early that morning. With careful timing, I can get through the Lions game before family arrives. But not the Cowboys game, of course. I now watch the recording after everyone leaves which, unfortunately, opened up a whole new world of obnoxiousness for my cousins.

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When I first did this, the cousins who once rooted for the other team now got their jollies out of threatening to turn on the game and give spoilers. I hate spoilers. If I’m going to watch a game already knowing the outcome, I might as well wait to see it on coaches film. The benefit of a DVR TV game is the different perspective you get from not knowing what happens next.

A few years ago, when the family arrived, I recorded the game, turned the channel to PBS, turned off the TV and then hid the remote. There’d be no way for anyone to turn on the Cowboys. Still, two of my cousins (and, I should note, two of my best friends) started fiddling with the box, seeing if they could get to the game that way. I flipped my gravy. They were only doing this to bug me. My mother took my cousins’ side, saying that it was Thanksgiving and if some people wanted to watch football, a polite host would let them.

No.

My argument was this: On a scale of 1-10, the game’s importance to me was a 9.5. I watch it for work. My cousins watch it as a means to not socialize. To them, the game’s importance was a 2. Get four cousins wanting to watch the game and their collective preference still doesn’t outweigh mine. (It’s math!)

I won this argument, but not without several family members looking down on me. This threatened to sour the holiday moving forward. But last year I came up with a brilliant solution: record the Cowboys game but, when the family arrives, restart the recorded Lions game from the beginning. No one else in the family knows (or cares) what they’re looking at, so to them it’s all the same. I still hide the remote, surreptitiously retrieving it once to restart the Lions game so that it fills the full six hours that everyone is over. None of my family notices this, either.

Thanksgiving is about the four F’s: friends, family, food and football. But thanks to DVR and some creative maneuvering, that last F can wait until the first three are gone.

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