Plymouth Rock Press
Plymouth Rock Press
As turkey, potatoes and pumpkin pie is finished at the dinner table this Thanksgiving, many will get ready to cheer their favorite football teams as they take the field. America will scream and shout at the television in their half-awake in their food induced comas.
Many think of the Thanksgiving football game as a 20th century addition to the holiday but historian Bruce Furgison has found documents depicting football being played at the first Thanksgiving in 1621.
“Isaiah Smith writes in his diary of the game, pilgrims versus Indians in a knuckle to knuckle head butting battle,” Furgison said. “There are other findings as well such as Indian folklore which tells of a shirt versus skins game with an irregular shaped ball.”
A schoolbook from 1640 also tells the story of the Indians and pilgrims football game.
“It was a delightful meal of eel and corn and fowl and of course it all ended with a man versus savage all bets in game of American football,” the book reads.
A recreation of how the first Thanksgiving football might have looked in 1621
The Thanksgiving football game is a time honored tradition and it is no coincidence that the base of a turkey resembles a football.
“The pilgrims used the turkey as the first football,” Furgison said. “It was a lot heavier than the traditional football used today and the skin was very delicate.”
The natives told stories of the skin falling to the ground creating a hazard on the field.
“Once the pilgrim saw the skin was slippery, they would throw the skin off to trip those of us in their tracks,” a native reported a few years later to the Plymouth Rock Free Times. “I still to this day do not understand how this was not a foul.”
The game was brutal with pilgrims only equipped with cloth hats and their short shorts and the natives shirtless, no one had it easy.
“The natives called the pilgrims sissy boys for wearing such short knickers,” Furgison said. “The pilgrims were not known for their sense of humor so they never had a comeback except for the occasional savage line.”
The first Thanksgiving is also the first record of a halftime show.
“It was the first ever halftime show as the pilgrims and Indians ran off the field because of a bear interference,” Furgison said. “The bear roamed the field for a half hour straight and both teams noted the small break was a good time to regroup.”
According to Smith’s diary, the game last about an hour and half and the final score was 35 to 10 with the pilgrims winning.
“The Indians were not all too familiar with the game and surprisingly neither were the pilgrims,” Furgison said. “In fact it is the first and last game the pilgrims ever won because as soon as the slave trade came to the colonies, the pilgrims didn’t stand a chance.”
As a prize the pilgrims claimed the land, the right to slaughter natives and of course they retained bragging rights.
“Everyone thinks of Thanksgiving as a feast to celebrate unity when in fact is was a celebration of winning the first American football game,” Furgison said.
The pilgrims and colonists would continue their celebration of the win for years with celebrations and raids of thanks.
In 1641, after having a holocaust-esq raid on the Pequot tribe in Connecticut, the churches declared a day of thanksgiving to celebrate.
“During this feast, the decapitated heads of Natives were kicked through the streets of Manhatten of course each head wore its own helmet,” Furgison said. “One lucky head was shaped into a football and used as the official game ball.”
Though the pilgrims had the overall win, the Indians did get a consolation prize which would be passed down for generations or at least until the last man in their tribe was wiped out.
“The pilgrims were nice enough to give the Indians blankets to keep them warm during the winter,” Furgison said. “Of course these blankets were riddled with Small Pox but that is just another minor detail in the epic first ever Thanksgiving football game.”