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Pilgrim’s Progress

Is there a turkey more worthy of plucking than Ben Roethlisberger?

The Pilgrims used to give thanks for silly things like a good harvest, surviving the winter, avoiding bear attacks, or finding out hat buckles were on deep discount at Walmart for Black Friday. We modern humans, on the other hand, have so much more to be thankful for, especially here in the Land of Pleasant Living. Nowadays, the harvest can totally blow and I can still enjoy turkey empanadas and a pumpkin spice latte in a completely bear-free environment and don’t have to thank anyone or anything, and with China on the job, hat buckles are literally a dime a dozen. It is truly a golden age of things to be thankful for, which allows us the privilege of cherry-picking the things we’re thankful for. This year, I’m focusing on the blessings of being a Baltimore sports fan, and there are many.

First off, I’m thankful for high school football. Yeah, Baltimore is hardly Friday Night Lights, but I’m even thankful for that. Who wants to take all the fun out of football? Here, it’s still just a game. That said, we’ve got some serious gridiron tradition in this burg. Not only do we have the Poly-City rivalry—the schools just played their 125th annual game—but even bigger in my heart, the Loyola Dons will meet Calvert Hall in the annual Turkey Bowl. This Thanksgiving will mark the 94th meeting of the schools, and I’m giving thanks that my alma mater, the Mighty Dons, is going to crush the Cardinals like Grave Digger loose in a Kia dealership. Honestly, it wasn’t always easy being a Don. It’s tough to get fired up when your mascot is a Spanish gentleman usually portrayed by an eighth grader in an ill-fitting conquistador outfit, but grinding Calvert Hall into the dirt of Towson University’s Unitas Stadium will make it all better.

And speaking of Unitas Stadium, the reason the Turkey Bowl is in Towson this year and not at M&T Bank is another reason to be thankful. We’ve got local football wall-to-wall this year, with Loyola-Calvert Hall in the morning and Ravens-Steelers downtown at 8:30.

And there is so much to be thankful for in this Ravens game. First off, is there a turkey more worthy of plucking than Ben Roethlisberger? (Was that too harsh? Should I have said alleged turkey? I shouldn’t be so harsh: On the plus side, Roethlisberger makes Michael Vick look like a good guy.) Then there’s the fact that the Ravens are somehow still in the playoff hunt in a virtual six-way tie for the second Wild Card berth. It doesn’t hurt that the Ravens actually looked interesting on Sunday while working Tyrod Taylor and the Wildcat into the offense and balancing a successful deep-passing game for the first time all season. Of course, the biggest thing to be thankful for is that with two football games bookending the day and eating in the middle, there will be almost zero time for those painful conversations with family. “Really, Creepy Uncle Larry, I would love to watch the videos you took at the nude beach on your trip to Thailand, but the Ravens are about to kick off. Next year?”

Of course, if round ball is more your speed, it’s a good year to be a Terps fan. No, the Terps aren’t going to win the NCAA tournament, but this is their 60th and final season in the ACC. Sure, it will be a bummer not having those annual clashes along Tobacco Road, and saddest of all will be the end of the Maryland-Duke rivalry, which Coach K has already said will not be renewed when Maryland moves to the Big Ten next year. But this season I’m thankful for one more shot at the Blue Devils, and 6 p.m., Feb. 15th is already scrawled in turtle blood on my calendar. (We ran out of ink and it was all I had handy. Don’t judge, and whatever you do, don’t ask what I’ve written the boy’s daycare schedule in.) Sure Duke has won seven of the last 10 and leads the all-time series with a hefty 110-63 advantage, but I say we go double-or-nothing on this last game.

We’ve got some long-term sports stuff to be thankful for in these parts too. Thanksgiving is one day before Black Friday and 27 days from Christmas, but more importantly, it’s just 92 days until the Orioles’ first spring training game, and that’s probably what I’m most thankful for. As I sit here in my provincial Hampden estate, the temperature in Baltimore has dropped to -273 degrees C (which, with the wind chill, is more than a bit nippy), and the only molecular motion that hasn’t ceased altogether is my neighbor’s car alarm. I am exceedingly thankful for thoughts of summer and another season of baseball that matters. Just the thought of Chris Davis’ big bat has got my temperature rising (I meant that nearly 98 percent non-sexually). Now if only the Peter Angelos and Dan Duquette can see fit to gift-wrap us a Masahiro Tanaka and stuff Baltimore’s stocking with Shin-Soo Choo, my thankfulness will grow three sizes that day.

Man, it is so good being a Baltimorean living here in the future. I almost want to travel back in time to the past, poke a pilgrim, and not in the silly Facebook way, the old-fashioned way, with a disapproving finger right in the chest, and tell him, “Listen up, English, your past sucks. This stuff you’re thankful for, like not having rickets and that New England doesn’t have any Bill Belichicks yet, is silly! In the future we take that stuff for granted, well, except for the Belichick bit.” Then I’d scream, “Roll Dons roll!,” leap back into my DeLorean, and make my way back to this future where I’ve got a couch and some leftovers waiting for me.

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