The First Turkey Bowl

By Jeremy McDonald

The year is 1621.  The place: Plymouth, Massachusetts.

As we are aware 1621 was the first Thanksgiving but the “First Turkey Bowl” football game happened on this day as well with both the Pilgrims and the Native American’s were cooking that night’s feast.

Jason Smith was talking to his friends about someway on challenging the Native Americans in a fun little game as the feast was being cooked for the night while he was flipping a oddly shaped, manually air-filled, sewed-up piece of pigskin as the feast was being cooked.

Smith got the idea for a game that included playing keep-away with it while getting an opportunity to hit and tackle people to help build up an appetite while he looked over to a random piece of grass about 10 paces from where they were at and everyone was

So, walking around the area, Smith got 10 of his best friends together and walked over to the Natives to send out the challenge.

“Hey you guys.  We like to challenge you guys in a game of football,” Smith said.

A Native American walked up from the group and asked, “How do you play football?  Never heard of it.”

Thus the first rules of football were made as Smith described the premise, the rules and the field boundaries of the game.

The field would be 25 yards by 30 yards with 11 players on each side, with 4 plays to score,  each “touchdown” would be worth a point.  And it would be a full-contact game as well.

The Native Americans accepted the challenge and walked out to the patch of grass next to where everyone was at.

“Typical men,” said Smith’s wife talking to one of Smith’s friend’s wife, “always trying to outdo the other.”

“What can you do,” said the woman, “it’s in their nature to bash one another head’s in.”

Five minutes went by and John returned with ten other players as Jason and his friends were stretching out for the game.

“So, who’s getting the ball first?” asked John.

“We’re flipping this here coin.” said Jason pulling out a English 2 sided coin. “heads you get it, tails we get it.”

“Ok,” said John.

The Natives won the toss, the Pilgrims threw the rugby-size ball off for the kickoff, and the Native Americans returned it for the first ever touchdown.

The Pilgrims got the ball back and scored to tie it up in two plays, off a run by Smith.  1-1.

The Pilgrims picked off a Natives pass and scored to go up on the following play.

The battle started, the natives came back, then took the lead then, then the Pilgrims tied it up and then they took the lead.

An hour later, it was 20-20, the sun was going down and the dinner was almost ready.  Smith called for a timeout and walked up to John the Native American.

“Ok.  We’re all hungry.  The day’s sun is about to set, next point wins the match.” said Smith.

“Deal.” said John

The first ever overtime period.  The Pilgrims won the toss.  After two plays, the pilgrims were five yards away from winning.  Play three, the run was stuffed like the bird.

Play four.  The Pilgrims need a score or will have to rely on their defense to get the ball back.

Smith drops back, throws the ball on a quick dump-off play in the backfield to Adam, its tipped and intercepted by John.  John starts running, stiff arms Smith, out jukes pass another pilgrim, nobody is around him…

He’s running down the sideline; Smith gets up and starts to catch up to John…they are toe-to-toe; arm length away.

Ten yards away, five yards away; Smith makes his move.

He wraps up around John and begin to twist for the tackle.

John kept his feet moving and went along with the tackle.  Using his free hand, he pushes down Smith.  But they’re going down.

Before John’s knees hit the ground, still chopping his feet like a rifle round his broke free of Smith’s grip, stumbling.  He continued to stumble hard and it looked like he wasn’t going to make it, but he manage to stumble across the goal line for the winning touchdown!  21-20 Native Americans.

“Dang,” said Smith getting to his feet out of breath, “You got lucky there John.”

“I know,” John respond with a smile.

“We’ll get you back next year.” John answered, also with a smile stretching out his hand.

“That is fine by me,” said John returning the smile returning the hand-offer with a handshake.

They shook hands and joined their families at the table for the first feast, patting each other on their backs.

This annual tradition has been happening for years since.  Good times were made, stories were told and turkey legs were shared and so on and so forth.  Play on and Happy Thanksgiving!


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