By Jennifer Uhlarik
Much to my husband’s chagrin, I am not a football fan. You see, I grew up in a non-sports-loving family. Oh, I played a season of soccer, softball, and a couple of basketball as a youngster. I was even a cheerleader for a season in my middle school years. But my parents weren’t sports fans, and my older brothers weren’t any more into athletics than I was. My hubby, on the other hand, learned a love of football from his mother, who voraciously watched the Nebraska Cornhuskers when he was a small boy. To this day, he loves the sport and even played in high school, college, and on the Police league during his career as a law enforcement officer. As you might imagine, on those big football weekends, like Thanksgiving, he's dialed into the games while I find other forms of entertainment.
|Thanksgiving postcard, circa 1900|
But when did Thanksgiving weekend become one of the big football weekends of the year? The history goes back to the 1800s, if you can believe it.
While football had predecessors that were played all the way back to the Middle Ages, the direct forerunner to what we think of as modern-day football was created as a blend of rugby and soccer, and was played at American universities as early as the 1820s. It was originally played with a round ball, and the sport was more about kicking the ball into the other team’s goal than running or passing the ball down the field to cross the goal line.
|In 1863, Abraham Lincoln was the|
president who made Thanksgiving
Day the last Thursday of November.
Thanksgiving became a fixed national holiday in 1863, when Abraham Lincoln set the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day, largely to give thanks to God for helping the Northern armies prevail against the South during the Civil War. (Keep this in mind as you read on). Six years later on November 3, 1869, Rutgers University and the College of New Jersey (later to be known as Princeton), played what is commonly thought of as the first intercollegiate football game. Two weeks later, the same teams matched up again—on Thanksgiving Day—to play the very first official holiday game.
In 1876, Princeton and Yale matched up in New York City on Thanksgiving Day each year for five years in a row. That next year in 1882, Thanksgiving Day become the traditional day when the newly instituted collegiate championship football game was played. As this change came about, Southerners—who had long avoided the holiday, due to Lincoln instituting it in thanks to God for helping the North defeat the South during the Civil War—began to embrace Thanksgiving due to the sport associated with it. Football became a unifying element for our nation.
|Depiction of early football game, circa 1874|
Obviously, as time went on, the sport evolved into the one we know today, more teams began to match up on the holiday, and technology grew so that those games could be televised on a national scale. But it was in the 1950s when this iconic sport brought about another Thanksgiving tradition. Black Friday.
How, you may ask, did football start the tradition of big sales and shop-til-you-drop on the day after Thanksgiving? Well…it all started with the annual Army-Navy Football game in Philadelphia. So many people flooded the city for the big game—and in addition, took advantage of the city’s many shopping options—that the Philly Police Department worked overtime to manage the larger-than-average customer and traffic snarls in the city on that post-Thanksgiving Friday. It didn’t take retailers long to realize that these out-of-town football fans often brought family with them, and the stores were benefitting from those additional family members perusing their wares. So they began offering sales, and sometimes rock-bottom prices, to lure in the shoppers into their stores. The retailers attempted to rebrand the Friday after Thanksgiving “Big Friday” instead of “Black Friday,” but by this time, people had embraced the moniker and kept using the original name. And as Philadelphia’s sales windfall became known beyond the city limits, other cities and states started adopting the Black Friday shopping bonanza.
Once upon a time in my youth, my mother and I used to go out every Black Friday and shop for holiday deals. After I married my husband, the tradition continued for a while, but with the craziness of people these days and the advent of cyber-shopping, I find it far easier to shop online for any deals I must have on Black Friday. So these days, my dear husband partakes of his football games in one room, I shop online in another, call my mom to chat a while, and we all enjoy our respective “sports” from the solitude of our own homes.
It's Your Turn: What do you do on Black Friday? Do you watch football, shop, or find something unrelated to either to do on this day?
Award-winning, best-selling novelist Jennifer Uhlarik has loved the western genre since she read her first Louis L’Amour novel. She penned her first western while earning a writing degree from University of Tampa. Jennifer lives near Tampa with her husband, son, and furbabies. www.jenniferuhlarik.com
Love’s Fortress by Jennifer Uhlarik
A Friendship From the Past Brings Closure to Dani’s Fractured Family
When Dani Sango’s art forger father passes away, Dani inherits his home. There, she finds a book of Native American drawings, which leads her to seek museum curator Brad Osgood’s help to decipher the ledger art. Why would her father have this book? Is it another forgery?
Brad Osgood longs to provide his four-year-old niece, Brynn, the safe home she desperately deserves. The last thing he needs is more drama, especially from a forger’s daughter. But when the two meet “accidentally” at St. Augustine’s 350-year-old Spanish fort, he can’t refuse the intriguing woman.
Broken Bow is among seventy-three Plains Indians transported to Florida in 1875 for incarceration at ancient Fort Marion. Sally Jo Harris and Luke Worthing dream of serving on a foreign mission field, but when the Indians reach St. Augustine, God changes their plans. However, when Sally Jo’s friendship with Broken Bow leads to false accusations, it could cost them their lives.
Can Dani discover how Broken Bow and Sally Jo’s story ends and how it impacted her father’s life?