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Sports Column | Les Winkeler: Streams of unconsciousness from the world of sports

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Happy Thanksgiving: No American holiday is more closely aligned with sports than Thanksgiving.

When I think of Thanksgiving, the smells of roasted turkey and pumpkin pie come to mind … with the sounds of football in the background. At least that’s the way it was in my family.

The demographic lines have changed somewhat in the last 50 years, but when I was a kid, my mom, grandmother and aunts would congregate in the kitchen mashing potatoes, applying whipped cream to the pumpkin pies and keeping a wary eye on the dinner rolls browning in the oven.

In the meantime, the men would huddle around the television – a small, grainy black and white screen in the old days – to watch football. The Detroit Lions played every Thanksgiving. And, it didn’t matter who they were playing because there were only a handful of games televised each week.

I’m not saying there was anything fair about this divide, it’s just the way it was.

Eventually, grandma would declare that dinner was ready. The men would reluctantly get up from their chairs and filter into the dining room. The real football fans would straggle in a few minutes later and get a stink-eye from much of the rest of the family because no one would take a bite until everyone was seated and grace was recited.

Traditions have changed a bit over the past few decades as families have become more fragmented, but in many families, football and turkey can’t be separated on Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tough road: The Southern Illinois University football team faces an imposing task in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

A month ago, the Salukis appeared to be a lock for one of the top postseason seeds.

SIU was 6-1 on Oct. 16, fresh off a win over North Dakota. The Salukis still had to face Northern Iowa and Missouri State, but Indiana State and Youngstown State were the final two games of the season. In addition, two of the last three games were at home.

Prognosticating at the time, you’d figure the Salukis would hold serve at home and win at Indiana State. That scenario would have resulted in a high seed and a first round bye.

Yeah … that didn’t happen.

The Salukis lost three of their final four, managing just a win at Indiana State.

Granted, SIU is in the field, but travels to South Dakota for a first round game. If the Salukis prevail, a trip to the Fargodome is in the offing.

SIU has put itself in a tough spot, but they’ve given themselves a chance.

King Richard: If post-Thanksgiving feast football isn’t your idea of entertainment, you might want to venture out to the local theater and catch “King Richard.”

The movie, starring Will Smith as Richard Williams, tells the story of Venus and Serena Williams ascent to the top of the tennis world despite the obstacles placed in front of them.

Tennis was a lily-white sport at the time. The Williams family had no financial resources. They couldn’t afford the best equipment and had only public courts as practice facilities.

Granted, this is a Hollywood movie, not a documentary. However, the film clearly depicts the uphill struggles the Williams sisters faced.

How entertaining was the movie?

It was 2 hours, 25 minutes in length. It felt like a half-hour. That is a good movie.

LES WINKELER is the former sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at, on Twitter @LesWinkeler.


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