Thanksgiving, that day every year when we cherish the important things in our lives — huddling around a table with the people most important to us, food prepared with a labor of love and dedication and, of course, beating the ever-loving tar out of the kids at the family football game in the backyard.

Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

I’m not going to try and pretend that this is on the level of an Iron Bowl or a Grey Cup final. Obviously, the Turkey Bowl is much larger than either of those trivial gridiron pursuits.

Some context for you: Last year’s big game ended with my 10-year-old nephew, Finn, in tears, my own son, Cooper, in the emergency room with a busted elbow, and the Dixon siblings no longer talking to each other. I threw seven touchdown passes and intercepted three others, two for Pick Sixes, and was the obvious choice for MVP.

Man, the Turducken was tasty after that effort. They thought it would be a huge joke to make me play on the all-girls team, but we showed them.

Seeing Baby Lauren run that Statue of Liberty play through a stunned defense for a key first down in the third quarter was something.

The dance she did after spiking the ball at Finn’s feet was even better.

Frankly, I thought Baby Lauren should have been the MVP. There aren’t many 2-foot-3, 32-pound centers in the league who can perform like she did. And she’s intimidating as hell, too. The way she gets in the opposition’s head with not-so-subtle reminders that she “will tell Nana if you guys keep cheating” is next-level psychological warfare.

It would only be fair to point out that I wouldn’t have thrown for as many yards as I did (612, but who’s counting?) without the play of Grace, my niece, who made herself a target in the end zone — where the lilac bush on the left lines up with where the house juts out on the right — all afternoon long.

Literally. She refused to ever return to the huddle because she didn’t like the look her “stupid brother” was giving her every time he walked by.

My brother vehemently questioned the legality of such a formation, but honestly, Jon? Who cares? They don’t ask ‘How?’ They only ask ‘How many?’

My daughter Samantha and her like-minded cousin, Ellie, were also key contributors in the victory. They were almost impossible for the defense to contain — in large part because they drifted in and out of the game, periodically disappearing to scribble “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships” in sidewalk chalk on the asphalt driveway.

As 94-7 wins go, it was a memorable one.

I love winning. It’s, like, better than losing. Know what I’m saying?

Given the way last year’s game went, with all the personal fouls (Kobe, who at 15 is a foot taller than I am, decided the best way to deal with his frustration was to body slam me to the turf as the game ended) and trash-talking back and forth between Baby Lauren and her father (“Hey loser boy, go get me some PIE!” she yelled after her second rushing touchdown), I’d expect this year’s version to be as intense as any. Jon’s team will probably be out for blood.

Don’t worry. We’ll be ready for them. Baby Lauren is at least three pounds heavier this season, and Samantha and Ellie have been cooking up a game plan nobody’s going to see coming.

Even Grace seems to have a renewed commitment to the program. The hot rumor is that after practice two weeks ago one of her teammates spotted a “Most Wanted” poster with her brother’s picture hanging in her locker.

As for me, I’m in the best shape of my life. I’ve been reading “The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance” — and doing the exact opposite of whatever drivel it is that he suggests. Look, Tom Brady is an adequate NFL quarterback, but the NFL is no Turkey Bowl.

By the time I’m done with him Thursday afternoon, poor little Finn isn’t going to be able to eat his pumpkin pie. He’ll be too busy crying in it. Kobe will be in his bedroom Googling “Winning Football Plays,” greatly disappointed when the first video that pops up is me throwing over him for the go-ahead touchdown.

And Baby Lauren will be sauntering through the kitchen sining her seventh off-key loop of “We Are The Champions,” eliciting more tears from Finn.

Best of all, Cooper won’t even talk to me on the ride home.

I don’t want to hear about how heartless I am, about how these are just kids — family, for Pete’s sake! — and I should be ashamed to have forever ruined all past and present Thanksgiving memories for them by drubbing them straight into the mud.

You know what? They stepped on that field. Obviously, we wanted it more than they did.

All I know is that it’s going to be as sweet as Nana’s mincemeat pie to win our eighth straight Turkey Bowl on Thursday. As a soon-to-be six-time MVP, I might even have a scoop of frozen yogurt with that slice of pie, and I’ll probably indulge and wash it down with a glass of seltzer water.

I will have earned it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Wherever your own Turkey Bowl takes place, enjoy the heck out of it.

They’re only kids once.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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