'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
PEP TALK FOR THANKSGIVING DAY BATTLE
The coach walked to the center of the room and motioned for his players to listen up. “OK, men,” he began quietly, “this is what we’ve been working toward all season long: the big, traditional Thanksgiving Day contest. It all comes down to this. On Thursday you have the opportunity to be…champions.”
The room was silent as everyone let that word sink in. Champions. Yes, indeed, they were on the verge of becoming champions. And they had worked too hard and too long and sacrificed too much to let it slip through their fingers now. They were ready.
“But it won’t be easy,” the coach warned. “Your opponents are not going to roll over and just hand it to you. You must be ready. You must be focused. And you must put the game plan into action exactly as we practiced it. If you can do that, then at sundown on Thursday, you will be victorious. You will be champions. You will be conquerors of Thanksgiving Day dinner!”
The room erupted with noise. Cheers and shouts and the sound of clapping hands echoed off the walls. A rhythmic chant began: “Food! Food! Food! Food!” Yes, they were ready.
“Now, listen up, men, listen up,” the coach yelled. “Let’s review the game plan one more time. First and foremost, you must remember this battle is a marathon, not a sprint. Your mindset must be one of controlled aggression. Be relentless, be methodical, but always stay in control.
“Many talented athletes have seen their Thanksgiving Day dreams go down the drain because they tried to win the game in the first ten minutes. After jumping out to sizeable leads, they simply ran out of gas by the fourth quarter. During crunch time, when they should’ve been pulling away from the opposition, these undisciplined lugs were finished. With the championship hanging in the balance, with seven warm pies about to be served, they could do nothing but stagger out of the dining room with severe cramps and lay down on the living room couch. Such a sad sight.
“The most talented player I ever coached was Myron ‘Iron Stomach’ McGillicuddy. He was All-State three years in a row. He could’ve gone pro. But on Thanksgiving Day of his senior year he got cocky. He got complacent. On the verge of a record-breaking performance, at the height of his fame, ol’ Iron Stomach was blind-sided by that terrible trio: hors d’oeuvres, salad, and bread.”
A low murmur—part awe, part fear—rose up from the team. “Yes, the terrible trio,” the coach repeated solemnly. “You must be on your guard. At your most ravenous moment, when the growls of your stomach are begging the battle to begin, Grandma is going to smile sweetly and wave a tray of scrumptious appetizers under your nose. Then Aunt Sally is going to kiss your cheek and offer a basket of her best biscuits and buns. But don’t—I repeat—DON’T take the bait! These dear women may be your loving relatives the rest of the year, but on Championship Thursday they are the enemy! You must resist these diversions and save your strength for the real war: the potatoes, the stuffing, and…the TURKEY!”
“Tur-key! Tur-key! Tur-key!” the team chanted.
When the players finally calmed down, the coach offered his final exhortations. “You can do it, men. I know you can do it. If you stay focused, if you eat slowly and steadily, if you remember to lubricate everything with a touch of gravy, you can win this contest. When that last pie tin is emptied, when the rest of your family crawls away from the table in pain, you can sit back, put your hands behind your head, and triumphantly say, ‘When’s supper?’
“Then there will be the awards ceremony. You will receive your championship prize, the cherished family heirloom and symbol of victory which only you can wear for the next twelve months: the Stretch Pants of Glory.
“Now go out there, men, and make me proud!!”
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