Football and Teaching Nostalgia: Thanksgivukkah 2013

By Dan Brosgol

Pro Bowl TackleI was driving my son to soccer last week when he, out of the blue, offered up the following comment:

“Hey, Dad… I think that in 30 years we’ll be sitting around on a Sunday watching football with my kids, and we’ll be talking about how the Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl in like 30 years.”

First of all, that was awesome.

Second of all, it was cute.

Third of all, he might be right. But I hope not.

While baseball is my true love, football is king these days. Perhaps more so than any sport, football commands our time and attention on game days. It’s a bajillion-dollar industry of sport, beer, commercials and violence that Americans consume with great fervor. This is especially true on Thanksgiving, when there is nothing else to do.

But this year, not so fast! Our once-in-80,000-years opportunity to bring together Thanksgiving, football and Hanukkah is not to be missed. It’s the perfect convergence of food, family, holiday laziness and tradition.

From a storytelling and eating perspective, there’s a lot of synergy between the two holidays. On Hanukkah, we retell the legends of Mattathias and Judah Maccabee with glee, spin the dreidel to ostensibly pretend to be gambling instead of teaching Jewish history (but really, we’re gambling), and eat fatty foods. On Thanksgiving we tell highly stereotypical, fairly naïve and quasi-historical stories about Pilgrims and Indians and also eat fatty foods. There ya go!

On Thanksgiving we elevate the Tom Bradys and Calvin Johnsons and Tony Romos (well, maybe not Tony Romo) of the world to mythic status. On Hanukkah we celebrate the zealotry and conviction of a group of passionate anti-assimilationists who brought the Seleucids to their knees. With both, there are moral issues worth talking about, but in sports and in quasi-history, who wants to ask difficult questions?

But the real similarity between football and Hanukkah, or sports and Hanukkah, or sports and Judaism, is all about teaching our kids about the important stuff.

Over the course of 10-and-counting years of watching sports with my kids, I’ve done my best to impart the critical key points of my own journey through New England sports lore to them. The 1980s Celtics, the 1985 Patriots, the miracle of the 2001 Patriots, Pedro Martinez, Grady’s gaffe in 2003 and the World Series of 2004, and more. My oldest has just now discovered my collection of assorted championship DVDs and loves exploring them, so much so that he remembers the circumstances leading up to JD Drew’s astonishing grand slam in Game 6 versus the Indians in the 2007 ALCS.

It’s not dissimilar with the way we impart our stories and traditions from Jewish history and holidays to our children. We retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt every Passover, light candles and play dreidel every Hanukkah, blow the shofar every fall, and try to get our kids to do things the way that we did.

We eat apples and honey, shake lulavs and smell etrogs, smell spice boxes and make Havdalah candles, all with the hope that when they’re our age, they’ll not just remember the glory days of the Patriots, but they’ll also remember the tastes and smells of Passovers and Rosh Hashanahs and Hanukkahs past.

And when that nostalgia washes over them, we’ll know we did it right.

When he’s not chasing around his four kids, Dan Brosgol is the director of Prozdor and a native Bostonian passionate about sports, eating, Israel, Judaism and running. Dan has been blogging on since 2010.