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The Thanksgiving Day Game Tradition

Published Nov. 14, 2019

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It is a tradition in many towns in Connecticut. It is the annual Thanksgiving Day game between high school football rivals. For Branford, it is the annual match-up with neighboring East Haven. For the players, it is everything, perhaps the last time they will step on a football field. A successful season can sometimes be gauged by only one win, as long as it comes at the expense of their rival on Turkey Day. Some years are sunny and balmy while others are frigid, a stark reminder of winter weather to come.

For some like me, it was a gathering place, returning after high school graduation to see old friends and classmates. I would keep one eye on the field while catching up with folks you might only see once a year, if they were back in town to visit family for the holiday.

As time moved on and family came, it became increasingly difficult to attend each year, with kids and big bird preparations, but even still, I would tune into the local radio station to hear the scores as the announcers would go “around the state” giving updates. As kids grew up, we would often go to cheer on the red and white together. They too would see old classmates and catch up.

Each year as Thanksgiving approaches, I have every intention of attending the game, but as I get older, I still find it difficult to get to the game. I would think it would get easier with age but instead, it is harder. Hard to shake off the responsibilities that come with the one holiday where only food is highlighted. Hard too, to get the family together as we are all moving in different directions. I love tradition but it is a hard thing to maintain, especially in the fast-paced world in which we live. I have no family members involved in the game and all the kids I knew, who once played are now adults. I only have a rooting interest in my school and in my town. I see fewer friends at the game as time passes. Many have moved on and are no longer in the area and many are too busy with their own Thanksgiving Day traditions.

This year, I’ll try to get there again, to watch the game and say hello to old friends. I hope I make it. Go Hornets!!

Mike Russo is a Branford native and would love to hear reader ideas for future articles. He can be reached at

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