I took a tiny crow-hop, and lobbed a tennis ball 25 yards through my in-laws’ backyard. Right behind it darted their maybe-10-year-old rescued pit bull, Brinley. 

Brinley — and sports in general — had saved me from many Thanksgivings at their house. I always enjoy visiting them, but my social bar fills up a lot quicker than most. I can normally slip out the back door into their spacious back-yard and throw Brin a couple fades, maybe an out-route, and then we both head back in for more visitation. 

The plan for the main TV was the Cowboys’ game, obviously. That’s a great way for everyone to always have something to bond over. In America, you either love or hate the Cowboys, and since my mother-in-law and I both fall into the former category, we almost always spend the evening watching the game together. It’s amazing. We don’t have all that much in common, but we can always bond over the ’Boys. And for that I’m thankful. 

My wife, Sarah, and I will travel home to my place this weekend. And the roles will immediately be reversed. But football, and a dog or two, will save her from the unending barrage of repeat stories my family will tell. She’ll sit down on Saturday, across from my grandpa. And, on first glance, you’d think the two couldn’t be farther apart. 

My grandpa is wonderful, but he’s a born and bred West Texas cowboy. The aforementioned dogs, in his eyes, are the most useful to cut the cattle apart in the pens. When not in use, they’re in their kennels outside. Livestock, to him and many other West Texans, are a means for a living. Very rarely are they seen as a chance at relaxation.

My wife, well she’s wonderful, too. But her little French bulldog, in her own eyes, is the most useful where it is now — huddled under two layers of covers, splitting body heat with the cat and my wife in the master bedroom. And, when not in use, the dog is normally found in the same spot anyway.

But this weekend, Sarah and Pa will split time at the TV watching Bedlam. Ignoring my descriptions of the pair, they always get along at an almost uncomfortable level. It’s almost like Sarah has always been a part of Wayne Rhodes’s family, even before that first Thanksgiving she attended just south of a decade ago. 

But Saturday will hit another level. My grandpa, somehow, ended up a University of Oklahoma fan despite spending the majority of his life in the middle of Texas Tech country. I, like most of my family, unfortunately decided not to follow suit. But my wife spouts a degree from Oklahoma’s university, and the pair of chickens will huddle up in the living room while the rest of the family talks endlessly about how they want both teams to lose, just as the hens will take refuge from Saturday’s wind in the coop just 50-yards east of my mother’s house. 

One of these days, neither of us will have our Thanksgiving saviors. I won’t have Brinley or my mother-in-law; Sarah won’t have my Pa. But, through sports, we’ll still always have those own memories and, in the future, we’ll be able to use a meaningless game to give Thanksgiving a little more oomph for whoever decides to join the family next.

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