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Thanks and giving

A personal essay.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

This will be the first Thanksgiving in a very long time where I will be alone. This isn’t meant to register as a complaint or a commiseration. I’m sitting on a third-floor balcony. It’s Tuesday evening and dark in Los Angeles already, and I’ve got a great view of those strange downtown lights and a couple of palm trees. Everyone is trying to get the hell out of this city and I’ve got the night. But I like going home for Thanksgiving and I like watching the Lions on that day.

In 2012 I almost didn’t make it home, but I decided to surprise my mother and snuck back from Georgia just in time. I was waiting at the connecting gate in Charlotte, the Wednesday before, when I met a trio heading for Detroit, the tallest wearing a Calvin Johnson jersey. We had a good laugh and we shared pains, plenty of those to go around after the Lions had lost eight straight. But he wanted nothing more than a win on Thanksgiving. He was going to the game with his family, the one time they would be home in Detroit and the one game they’d get to see.

I watched that abomination from my mother’s couch. The game against the Texans was competitive, but it’s hard to get a foul taste out of your mouth after Justin Forsett goes down, but he doesn’t; he gets up and keeps running, running like a damn jack rabbit while the whole of the Lions defense look bewildered at the state of affairs. The rest gets made wretched as Jim Schwartz ruins any chance to review by throwing a challenge flag he didn’t need to. Gunther Cunningham did kick his playbook though, and that became a short-lived laugh.

Matt Schaub would knot the game up at 31 apiece and Stafford failed to find Johnson with time expiring. And as Jason Hanson lined up for a gimme and ricocheted it off the goalpost I thought to those souls I met in Charlotte, I wondered if they were there in that end zone.

2013 was the end of the Thanksgiving woes for the Lions, the chance to halt every nattering radio slug who insisted that the game should go to better teams.

I don’t remember much about 2014. I was really drunk.

But 2015 I was finally able to go to my first Thanksgiving game at Ford Field. I went alone. My family isn’t really into the Lions like I am. But I did get to meet Alex Reno and Jerry Mallory up there, and we all got into our own separate scuffles with Eagles fans. It was the first time I had gotten to meet my fellow writers from POD in person. Since that time, I’ve met everyone on staff at least once; in Grand Rapids, in Detroit, in Toledo, in Philadelphia, in Los Angeles.

In 2016 I spent that Thanksgiving with my extended family, and I was hollering and yammering as Darius Slay picked off Bradford and set Matt Prater up for the final attack. It was magnificent and it was almost expected for that streak of comebacks and heart attacks.

But 2016 also felt strange in whole new ways. People just aren’t right after presidential elections, and 2016 was something entirely fresh and hellish in ways unfathomable years past.

If the Lions win on Thursday it will be fucking glorious and if they lose it will fucking suck and there is no in between. It’s black and white, dear reader, and it’s nice to believe maybe there was a time when it wasn’t so, but the past is a cold bitch that has you forgetful of every detail and treating it as a mythical time when things were more civilized and urbane and RIGHT has gotten us into some horrible present timelines. There’s nothing good in fetishizing the past.

And if the Lions lose it will be a drag on your Thanksgiving. Unless you’ve properly squared your emotions you’ll be miserable at just the right time for dinner.

Those past years I’ve had experiences of joy and wonder with Lions fans, and plenty will say I’m not a real fan because I can’t name a linebacker that played in 1995 but what I DO remember is a shared experience watching football with so many different people. I’ve shared that experience in airport terminals waiting for flights home for Thanksgiving, in the middle of a Cleveland Cavaliers parade, in stadiums and bars and over all this social media. Ostensibly this whole SB Nation project was to be about fans writing about being fans. I’m a fan and I just happened to have a debatable skill at writing and the technical know-how in putting together podcasts.

I’m thankful for this website because I couldn’t be out here if it wasn’t for that. When I put in my application for a graduate program at USC it was full of Pride of Detroit writing and Pride of Detroit PODcasting, and I would have probably been unable to fill up the portfolio without it.

I’ve wanted nothing more in my life than to write, to write about the things going on in the world. If that’s sports all the better.

It’s right to be thankful on Thanksgiving for what you have and what you’re working towards but 2017 has been a year of fresh fear and fresher demons. Since coming to Los Angeles I’ve covered rallies where people are terrified about their loved ones and neighbors being deported, students with tears in their eyes wondering what will happen to them; people who might not be able to have Thanksgiving and/or football with their family next year. I’ve also watched the crocodile faces of those who have no concern, no room in their soul for the former.

These things have been there for a good long while, these demons put in motion by countless parties, political and not, but when it’s staring in your face you get a different outlook on things. It’s like reading about those crocodiles and then having one rumbling two feet in front of your face.

This isn’t meant to be a screed about politics, or football. I’m probably not level enough to make either so. But both of these subjects get bound up in Thanksgiving, and both have a way of elevating or ruining things.

And it’s a funny damn thing because I got thinking the other night about this tax plan being pushed through Congress, the one that would tax my graduate loans and make any dreams I had harder to execute, harder to pay back those loans, and probably my future sold with it.

Meanwhile, in that same plan some rich guys get to write off their private jets.

I used to work with those jets, in a way. After my undergraduate I took an internship designing marketing material so some sales team could better convince someone, someone with purchasing decisions for a corporation or a billionaire, that they needed a G6 in their life. It was miserable for me, a dull thing in a dull world and if you can make that job work all power to you but I couldn’t. I just could not.

After my internship ended I left Georgia and ended up back home. I was sullen and awful and spent a year trying to square the circle in my life. On an impulse, unable to get sleep on some awful night in late July, I applied to write news for Pride of Detroit. I had no experience doing any of this, I knew nothing about writing for sports, but I sent the email to Sean Yuille all the same.

And I’m thankful for all this.