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Turkey Bowl keeps health system afloat

If you're wondering why I waited a week and a half to write about the Turkey Bowl, my church's annual Thanksgiving Day touch football game, you've obviously never played in a Turkey Bowl. Otherwise, you'd understand that I've just regained use of my arms.

Good news, though: The doctor says, with a little luck, I should be walking again soon.

Liberals and other nonathletes may wonder what drives a bunch of out-of-shape 30- or 40-year-old guys to get up at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving Day, throw on some sweats and a pair of moldy cleats that haven't fit since 1983, and head down to the local park to risk life and limb in what is typically a game for adolescents, otherwise known as NFL wide receivers.

Well, I'm one of those 40-year-old guys, and I can't say

I fully understand it myself,

any more than I understand why people always serve

candied yams on Thanksgiving, even though nobody likes them. For me, as for many red-blooded American males, Thanksgiving just means candied yams and touch football, followed by a lengthy recuperation period. From the football, I mean, not the yams.

Even more amazing is the fact that all of us middle-aged has-beens suit up and play despite knowing two things: 1) the younger guys will significantly outperform us; and 2) we will be injured, perhaps badly.

That said, I must report that this year's Turkey Bowl went surprisingly well. Most of the players had recovered sufficiently to attend church a few days later, apparently under their own power. Or maybe it was Divine Power. Hard to tell. It was Sunday, after all.

The only real injury, I'm happy to say, was to one of the younger guys, a strapping, disgustingly fit, former Division I football player whose size and athletic ability made the rest of us look like the doughy suburbanites we are. Not that I was happy he got injured, you understand, I just...

OK, I was happy.

I managed, for the most part, to avoid injury, even though that meant I also avoided throwing, catching and running with the football. Mostly I just rushed the passer on defense and stayed in to block on offense - neither of which requires much effort when the quarterback has five hippopotamuses to find an open receiver.

In other words, I basically just stood there. Which serves to illustrate one of the primary benefits of age-derived wisdom: You learn to play to your strengths.

All in all, though, I had a good time, and the experience has left me looking forward to next Thanksgiving, when I will once again attempt to set a new personal record for most downs played without a visit to the ER.

And afterward, who knows - I might even try the candied yams.

Lawrenceville resident Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English and director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.