-- I must confess, over time, I came to dislike my Uncle Joe more than I did the Brussels sprouts my mom made on Thanksgiving. (Sorry, Mom, I should've said something about them.)
During the annual Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys games on Thanksgiving, my Uncle Joe often became harder to swallow than the overcooked turkey Aunt Shirley, Joe's wife, sometimes made. (I know, Mom, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.)
My dear old Uncle Joe haunted many of my Thanksgivings past because he ruined so many of the football games I couldn't wait to watch. I wanted my turkey, my dressing, my cranberry sauce, my pumpkin pie and my six or so hours of football, in that order. I did NOT want my Uncle Joe's incessant idiotic commentary on nearly every play of a sport he rarely watched.
I'm pretty sure most sports fans have (or have had) an Uncle Joe in their holiday life. Over time I learned to live with mine and in a moment I'll attempt to assist you in coping with yours.
You know the scenario: Your extended family gathers for this joyous occasion and after dessert everyone adjourns to the living room to chat, doze or do what Americans should after feasting ... watch football. The problem, of course, is that those who really care about and know about football are forced to watch with some who don't.
In my case I literally became a captive audience. Year after year I asked my mother to please let me at least watch the Cowboys game by myself in another room -- I've been a Cowboys fan since I was 9. No, she said, that would be rude. Other family members might be insulted -- especially Uncle Joe -- which would reflect poorly on my dear mom.
But Mom, I would say, Uncle Joe drives me nuts.
Nope, she would say, it's Thanksgiving and you spend Thanksgiving with family.
If Uncle Joe had attended the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving dinner, they'd have packed up and sailed right back to England. I actually liked the man one-on-one, but in a group, especially if women were present, look out. He became an insufferable show-off know-it-all, often on subjects he knew little about. Uncle Joe to a Thanksgiving table of maybe 20 relatives: "Know why turkey has so much of that tryptophan in it? Because turkeys sleep more than any other animal."
Everyone around the table, either humoring or believing him: "Wow. Really?"
Me, under my breath: "Baloney."
No doubt some Twitter users -- heck, thousands -- have found me equally irritating during games. But at least those poor souls have a choice. I could not unfollow Uncle Joe. I was stuck with him for entire games.
Yet I admit I've always taken my sports too seriously. What I learned from dealing with Uncle Joe was that it's extremely difficult for me to watch games with anyone -- even Ernestine, my better half. I get too emotional. I overreact. I have too many psycho superstitions. I've been known to throw things.
These days, I mostly watch by myself. But if you are stuck watching football with an Uncle Joe on Thanksgiving -- along with eight or 10 other relatives -- here are a few dos and don'ts:
If, during the Lions-Bears game, your Uncle Joe says, "That's a horsewhip tackle!" ... just force a polite chuckle and respond, "No, Uncle Joe, you obviously mean 'horse-collar.'" If he says, "That Indominant Sue should be thrown out of the league. He's nothing but a dirty player without any talent and a girl's name" ... just act like you didn't hear him and say to the group, "I still believe the Lions will get it back together and win a wild card."
If he says, "What are they doing? Throw it to Mega-train every play. Nobody can stop him" ... just keep your eyes on the TV, restrain yourself and say to no one in particular, "Megatron has been battling through injuries, especially to his ankle, and he just isn't himself right now."
If he says, "On a neutral field, Alabama could beat the Chicago Bears by two touchdowns" ... whatever you do, DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE HIM OR EVEN CONSIDER ENGAGING HIM IN DEBATE. THIS WILL ONLY EMPOWER HIM AND MAKE YOU EVEN MORE MISERABLE. Just quickly excuse yourself and go to the restroom.
If during the Cowboys-Eagles game, your Uncle Joe says, "Most people don't know that Tony Romo's parents named him after Tony the Tiger" ... just remember the way Veronica Corningstone treats Ron Burgundy in "Anchorman" when he tries to tell her the name San Diego is German for a whale's body part. Just dismiss him with a quick, condescending, "No, there's no way that's correct."
If in the middle of Aaron Rodgers' "Hans and Franz" commercial, he says, "A lotta people don't know this, but Aaron Rodgers is dating that actress Olivia Wilde" ... do NOT tell him a lot of people don't know that because Aaron Rodgers is dating Olivia MUNN. Just cut him off by saying, "That line, 'Not with those puny arms,' makes me laugh every time."
If he says, "The Dallas Cowboys went to hell the day Jimmy Johnson quit" ... fight the urge to strangle him, resist the temptation to say JIMMY GOT FIRED AND THE COWBOYS WON THE SUPER BOWL TWO YEARS LATER and interrupt relatives who are agreeing with Uncle Joe by saying: "Who's ready for a turkey sandwich?"
If during the Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers game, Uncle Joe says, "That's a fumble, throw the challenge flag!" ... when it's obvious Marshawn Lynch's knee was down, just start humming to yourself, "O beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain ..."
If he calls the 49ers' quarterback Calvin Kaeperdink, make sure you're not sitting anywhere near anything that could be used as a weapon, especially a fireplace poker.
If he tries to win an argument with another relative by quoting Stephen A. Smith, that's it, either call 911 and say something really bad is about to happen at your address ... or (better idea) just take the advice of Melissa Joan Hart and Anthony Anderson, forget the rest of the game and head to Walmart.
Black Friday sales start on Thanksgiving night!