Thanksgiving is supposed to be about giving thanks and all of that crap, but it’s really about one thing: football.
Football is a big deal in the McCracken house. When I was a kid, if OU lost to Texas, my dad would take a long walk, and sometimes we wouldn’t see him for hours. We also knew not to ask to go anywhere that night. The answer was going to be “no.”
I planned my wedding around the Oklahoma Sooner football schedule. My wife wanted a fall wedding. We got married July 29, 1994. Or was it July 30? Whichever it was, it was the only argument I’ve won in 30 years.
So, it makes sense that the McCrackens would hold the “Toilet Bowl” football game every Thanksgiving. Held on the hallowed empty lot next to Woodlawn Elementary School, it started in the mid-1980s and lasted until the late-1980s.
It was the old guys against the young guys. My brothers, Kent and Kelly, and my cousins, Brad and Blake Shields were the young team. Remember, it was the 1980s. We were young back then.
My dad, grandfather, and a few uncles were the old team, and, I know by experience, that old people will do anything to win. Old people are cheaters, and, after 30 years, the wound still cuts deep and is still sore.
The actual scores of the games have faded over the years, but the old people’s lack of class, sportsmanship, and fairness will carry on forever.
The year was 1989. It was a nice sunny day with a temperature in the low to mid 60s. A slight breeze was constant throughout the game but didn’t affect the game. The weather was perfect.
In a highly-contested game of “two-hand touch,” the young team was winning by only a few points, and the clock was winding down. The old team had time for one more play. They needed to cover around 80 yards, but the young team’s defense was too strong.
Battling a mild case of scoliosis and two left feet, my brother put in quite the performance on defense.
On a side note, my dad, who played center and nose guard, would move the ball backwards when the young team was in our huddle, so we had one player watch him while we were deciding on plays.
So, there we were. One play left, and it was for all the marbles.
My grandfather, Bob Paige, who is now 93, was in his mid-60s in 1989, decided he had had enough. He was quitting during the most important play of the game.
He told us all he didn’t feel well and was going to walk home. He started to walk towards the house and was about 20 yards down field when the old team hiked the ball. Papa Bob took off running to the end zone and my Uncle Don threw what can only be described as a “perfect but illegal pass” to a wide open, Papa Bob, who was 20 yards offside.
The old team claimed victory and immediately ran home so we couldn’t run another play.
There was no instant replay back then and we had to accept defeat. We appealed to the league commissioner, my grandma Jessie, but she confirmed the old team’s victory.
After that day, when I would get in trouble at school, my dad would talk to me about character, but all I could see was a liar that cheats at football.
I might get over it, some day.