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An Excerpt From 'Little Victories;

This article is more than 7 years old.

Excerpted from "Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living" by Jason Gay Copyright © 2015 by Jason Gay. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Check out Gay’s conversation with Only A Game’s Bill Littlefield.

Several years ago, we had an idea at the Journal to do a column about the Rules of Thanksgiving Family Touch Football. At the time, I was just desperate for a column. Then, surprisingly, it turned into a thing. People read the Thanksgiving   Rules column, passed it around, disagreed with it, posted it on Facebook, offered their own rules. Readers started sending in photographs of their own family touch football games — whole clans posed in the backyard, looking like they had just rolled around in the rose bushes. (Sometimes, they sent in the score.) In 2014 we got Bruce Arians of the Arizona Cardinals - a real-live NFL football head coach - to diagram a special touch football play. To this day, the Thanksgiving column the column people ask me about. Or yell at me about.

Ten key rules for the Thanksgiving Football Game:

* The game must take place before Thanksgiving dinner. Trust me: nobody in your family wants to play touch football after dinner. After dinner, everyone in your family wants to put on sweatpants and fall asleep to the late NFL game.

*Keep the touch football field much smaller than you think. No regulation size – are you kidding? The last time half of your family exercised was at last year’s Thanksgiving Touch Football game.

*There are two plays: Go out short for a pass, and go deep for a pass. Be careful about who you send out deep. If you make your Uncle Lou go out deep, Uncle Lou is going to need a few minutes to lie down in the back of his Lincoln.

*How dare you sack Mom? That wonderful woman drove you to swimming lessons for six years.

*Do not bring cleats or gloves or anything that gives the impression you were prepared for this. If you show up in a Tebow jersey, everyone is allowed ten minutes to laugh.

*If you wear a blazer and tie to Thanksgiving, you will definitely be pushed in the mud.

*If you are new to the family, and you catch three TD passes, start dropping a few, or you’ll be driven to the bus station.

*Yes: your Aunt is drinking wine and eating crackers in the backfield.

*The halftime show is Dad drinking a bourbon and complaining about the neighbor who hung his Christmas lights up in September.

*No whining, taunting or telling people what to do. That's what Thanksgiving dinner is for.


I enjoy Thanksgiving. Almost of it. I like that it's a food-based holiday; I like that you're not expected to bring a present; I like any day where it's OK to fall asleep at 6:45 PM. I like the cranberry sauce everyone says is natural and good for you, and also the canned cranberry sauce that has been in the cabinet since LBJ was in office. Of course Thanksgiving usually involves spending hours with extended family, and spending time with family can be treacherous – everyone has wanted to spend a Thanksgiving or two hiding beneath an upstairs bed. There are always food crises and travel hassles and strange guests and plenty of listless NFL football. But it is an American ritual, and we are stuck with it. You can elope, you can drop out of college, you can ignore your children's birthdays, but you're on the hook for Thanksgiving.


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