My foot tapped nervously on the floor. My hands tightly clutched a Nerf, as if I was trying to strangle the foam football.
“I can’t believe it,” my friend said. “The Browns in the Super Bowl!”
I smiled a little, afraid to show too much joy in case the Gods of Superstition were watching.
In 1987, my birthday landed on the AFC Championship game. On the same day, I was to become a teenager and the Browns were going to the Super Bowl. What a shining moment of new beginnings: winning Cleveland teams and darkening upper lip peach fuzz—a sort of moustachette.
On Jan. 12, I stroked my junior high school kid-stache, replaying John Elway’s pass over Big Daddy Harrison’s outstretched fingertips.
Despite the heartache, The Drive didn’t shatter my love for football, playing or watching. In fact, that 12-4 Browns team inspired a Thanksgiving tradition that carries on today.
Since Thanksgiving 1987, my family has played a morning football game. It started at Herberich School on Smith Road, before moving along with me to the West Side’s Schneider Park.
We’re not talking flags or tap. We’re talking full-fledged carnivorous tackles. Sure, there’s been a few injuries, such as broken fingers and broken ribs, but it’s a small price for a holiday tradition.
Family members have retired or moved away (or are on a perpetual IR list), but the game continues. Most of the best, most dominant players are guys who weren’t even born when the first games were played.
I prefer playing the game to watching the Browns—probably has something to do with controlling my own fate. The game also acts as a distraction from reality. For just a couple hours, I’m not an adult (Black Friday’s sore muscles remind me I am 41).
By the time I make it home, muddied and winded, Terra has already begun our vegan contribution to Thanksgiving. This year we’re enjoying a Winter Vegetable Hominy Hash en Croute. I’m not sure how to say all of that, but it looks fantastic. We’d like to thank Thug Kitchen for the f’ing recipe. Our dessert is a pumpkin “cheese”cake gem we’ve enjoyed before.
I’ll flip on whoever the Lions are playing, and we’ll finish cooking our vegan yummies to the poetic background sound of football commentary.
Vegan and football? Can it be? Yes, children. Working Class Vegan Man is here to tell you that you can play and watch football and eat a healthy vegan meal on the same day. Football and vegan mix, despite the skeptics.
I like to stuff the Thanksgiving week with fun events: seems like a great start to the holiday season for me. So, along with football, I’ve organized a fair trade sale at Hoban High School since 2008, and it’s become its own tradition. I feel the fair trade theme complements the theme of the week—gathering together in a common act of gratitude.
I figure I’ll start another tradition this year, one that combines my love for football with my belief in fair trade. Dec. 6, when the Brownies take on the other Ohio team, I’m hosting a fair trade gathering at my house with goodies provided by Trades of Hope.
Together, we can all cheer when the Browns take the lead with that first field goal, and from then on, we can distract ourselves with some fair trade shopping for our friends and family.
Since the 1987 Championship Game, I have found distractions go well with Browns games. Investing too much into the game hasn’t fared so well, but there are ways to be productive and still support my team.
So, this year, as I stroke my graying beard, drinking my celebratory Thanksgiving football beer, eating my vegan Thanksgiving food, I’ll be rounding up some footballers to spend some time on Dec. 6 in front of the television, shopping with a conscience.
Game Time on Thanksgiving is 10 a.m., if you’re interested in cheering us on. Game time is 1 p.m. on Dec. 6, if you’re interested in shopping.