November is almost over, and sports fans everywhere know what that means. The NFL playoff picture starts coming into view, early front-runners are established in the NBA and NHL, and Thanksgiving.
Yes, Thanksgiving. The one day of the year when your family comes together and annoys the hell out of you, with football as your only reprieve.
But is football really your only escape from your maddening relatives? Wouldn’t it be great if there were something to watch every single minute of Thanksgiving, an excuse for every hour to avoid those awkward conversations with the socially challenged elements of your mother’s side of the family?
Bleacher Report can help. We have compiled a list of excuses to be used at your leisure. From midnight to midnight (EST), here is your 24-hour Thanksgiving sports schedule, complete with what to say when someone asks what you’re watching and why.
12:00 – 3:30 am: Omega Mission Hills World Cup Day 1, Golf Channel
Why you’re watching: The second annual Omega Mission Hills World Cup will be airing live from China, and the American team of Ben Curtis and Brandt Snedeker will attempt to avenge their 2007 defeat at the hands of Scotland. Snedecker is one of the rising American stars in golf, placing third in the 2008 Masters, and this is his chance to show his stuff on the national stage.
Why you’re really watching: If you want to get an early jump on this one, it actually starts at 10:30pm EST Wednesday night. Now you don’t have to help with the Thanksgiving pre-preparation. There are pies to make, turkeys to marinate, last-minute supplies to get! No, you’re watching golf, because you’re a real American who supports athletes even when it’s not trendy (i.e., during the Olympics).
3:00 – 5:00 am: Orlando Magic at Philadelphia 76ers, ESPN
Why you’re watching: Orlando is an up-and-coming team, and Dwight Howard may be the most dominant center in the league. Philadelphia is finally showing signs of returning to legitimacy, and Elton Brand vs. Howard should be a great matchup to watch. Besides, you heard it was a great game, but you missed some of it because you were at the store picking up stuffing and cranberry sauce.
Why you’re really watching: This will actually be a re-airing of Wednesday night’s game, but that'll be our secret. Just as a precaution, don’t watch the game Wednesday night. That way, nobody raises questions about your motives. Which is good, because your motives are disgraceful. In your defense, the last time you picked up your sister-in-law from a red-eye flight, she talked your ear off for an hour about how much she hates her job, and her bratty kid threw up in the back seat of your new car. This year, she can rent a car.
5:00 – 6:00 am: PRCA Rodeo from Colorado Springs, ESPN Classic
Why you’re watching: It’s the bulls and blood, it’s the dust and mud, it’s the roar of a Thursday crowd…
Why you’re really watching: I’ll be honest – I don’t know anything about this event. But neither do you. It’s 5 am, and if you’re not asleep it means somebody is trying to wake you up for an early church service or early cooking preparations. Either way, just watch the rodeo. Besides, if it’s 5 am and you’re awake, you’d rather be doing anything other than the actual reason you’re up at 5 am.
6:00 – 9:00 am: Mike & Mike in the Morning, ESPN2
Why you’re watching: Mike & Mike are hilarious, and they provide a fresh take on sports stories you heard the night before. They may not be Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, but they’re better than grounds in your coffee.
Why you’re really watching: Love them or hate them, Mike & Mike are the only two guys who are going to offer you genuinely original sports material this early in the morning. Which is more annoying, Mike & Mike, or your cousin Dave (who shows up too early to everything) and his obnoxious wife?
9:00 – 11:30 am: Rocky, Versus
Why you’re watching: If anything is more American than Thanksgiving, it’s the story of a small-time street fighter from Philadelphia given a shot at glory. It symbolizes the American Dream. Just as the Pilgrims escaped the persecution of their faith, Rocky Balboa escaped poverty and realized his dreams. He would later go on to own a restaurant and trade body blows with Antonio Tarver, but that doesn’t fit in with this analogy.
Why you’re really watching: If anything is more American than Thanksgiving, it’s watching a movie you’ve seen 100 times already because people in it get punched repeatedly in the face by Sylvester Stallone. That never gets old. Also, people are starting to show up en masse, and nothing will shut up a crowd faster than “Gonna Fly Now,” unless somebody tries to sing along or play air guitar. In that emergency situation, the Australian Masters is on the Golf Channel.
11:30 am – 12:00 pm: SportsCenter, ESPN
Why you’re watching: It’s SportsCenter. Enough said.
Why you’re really watching: You need something to eat-up the half-hour before NFL pre-game starts. Alternatively, go to the bathroom or take a cat nap. If you’re skilled, do both.
12:00 – 12:30 pm: NFL Pregame Show, CBS
Why you’re watching: It’s time to get ready for some football!
Why you’re really watching: This will be your chance to see what’s happening in the rest of the NFL before you have to watch the Detroit Lions showcase their futility on the national stage.
12:30 – 4:00 pm: Tennessee Titans @ Detroit Lions, CBS
Why you’re watching: Lions football is a Thanksgiving tradition, and this year is potentially historic, because the possibility of an 0-16 team the year after a 16-0 team is very real. Unfortunately, the Lions cannot go 1-18 and win the Super Bowl to fully mirror the trend.
Why you’re really watching: Face it. Blowouts are fun to watch, and besides, you would be tickled by the prospect of the Lions pulling out a win and embarrassing the Titans. That is, unless you live in Tennessee, or are really sadistic in your hopes to see a real, live 0-16 season. Also, your Aunt Debbie is already plastered, carrying around a half-full wine glass and talking about her seven cats to nobody in particular. Incidentally, you don’t see an open wine bottle anywhere.
4:00 – 8:00 pm (including pregame): Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys, FOX
Why you’re watching: The game has playoff implications for the Cowboys, who continue their climb back into the playoff picture with Tony Romo’s return. Romo to Terrell Owens should be a fun combo to watch, as the pair has put up big numbers since the quarterback’s return. Seattle appears primed to become the Oklahoma City Lightning Rods in a few years.
Why you’re really watching: Jessica Simpson could perform at halftime, after which point the Cowboys will blow a 35-point lead on Romo’s nine second-half turnovers. Just keep watching the screen, because there’s a guy over there you’ve never seen before showing off his switchblade collection. According to your mother, he’s your second cousin who just made early parole due to overcrowding.
8:00 – 10:30 pm: Orlando Magic @ Washington Wizards, TNT
Why you’re watching: You love those Magic. They could be title contenders in June. It will be interesting to see how they respond to playing back-to-back road games, especially against a team like Washington, which is playing with some passion after firing its coach after only 11 games.
Why you’re really watching: Like 295 million other Americans, you don’t get the NFL Network, so the Cardinals/Eagles game, easily the most intriguing NFL game of the day, is out of the picture. If you’re not watching something, though, you’ll have to go over to the corner of the room and listen to your crazy uncle tell his war stories about Thanksgiving in Vietnam in 1968. This would be okay, except for two things. One, you’ve heard the story at least twice at every family holiday since 1990. Two, your uncle was 11 years old in 1968.
10:30 pm - ???: Omega Mission Hills World Cup Day 2, Golf Channel
Why you’re watching: The Americans are showing strong, but they need to make more greens in regulation and cut down on the two and three-putt holes if they want to win the tournament. Or something.
Why you’re really watching: To fall asleep in your recliner before your mother starts asking about grandchildren.