Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Turkey Day with Chicken Pox

Thanksgiving, 1974. I had been looking forward to it for weeks. NC State was defending national champions in basketball and David Thompson was back for his senior year. Dave and Don Buckey were still playing for the Wolfpack, along with Stan Fritts and Ron Banther, for third-year coach Lou Holtz and my favorite NFL team, the Washington Redskins, were playing the Dallas Cowboys for the first time ever on Thanksgiving Day.

I woke up that morning with a fever and red spots covering me, a Turkey Day infected with chicken pox. I couldn't eat any of the big spread with all my favorites: canned cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole and pie (in NC, you can't have too many dishes made with yams). We probably also had a turkey. I couldn't hold my head up enough to even fight with my sisters for a corner piece of dressing, an annual familial battle that was finally solved after I left for college when my mom found an eight-sided pan and we had enough corners to go around.

My one solace that day was that the Redskins were going to beat the hated Cowboys. In between fevers, I watched Mark Moseley kick three field goals and Billy Kilmer throw a touchdown pass to Duane Thomas to build an insurmountable 16-3 lead in the third quarter. Then, Mr. Perfect, Roger Staubach, suffered a concussion and all the Cowboys had was an unused rookie quarterback. The game was in the bag, and I could comfortably go back to throwing up in the trash can. I fell asleep about that point.

When I awoke, I found out that the Cowboys had taken the lead on a pair of touchdown drives by the unused quarterback, the guy who had to be reminded that his team was in white. Thomas scored again against his former team to give the Redskins the lead, then surefooted kicker Moseley kicked the ball right into Too Tall Jones' arms on a field goal attempt that would have given the Redskins a more comfortable lead.

I woke up at the two-minute warning and the Cowboys were deep in their own territory. All of a sudden the cold sweat I had wasn't just from the fever. The game was tight, with the Redskins holding on to a 23-17 lead. It seemed unlikely that the rookie quarterback could do anything in such a pressure situation.

My head was killing me and I could barely hold my eyes open, but I saw Drew Pearson work his way through the prevent defense and catch a 50-yard Hail Mary that won the game. (Your can read the Washington Post account here.) Until he hit Staubach in the lockerroom the two years later with a sucker punch, it was the only decent thing the guy ever threw in his life.

Clint Longley. Long before Bucky Dent took "effing" as his middle name, there was Clint "Effing" Longley. And at 9 years old, I didn't know what the eff that meant.

Happy Effing Thanksgiving everyone