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How to hold your own in sports conversations this Thanksgiving

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – FEBRUARY 02: Fans react as they watch the San Francisco 49ers play the Kansas City Chiefs during a Super Bowl LIV watch party at SPIN San Francisco on February 2, 2020 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco 49ers face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV for their seventh appearance at the NFL championship, and a potential sixth Super Bowl victory to tie the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers for the most wins in NFL history. (Photo by Philip Pacheco/Getty Images)

You don’t have to know what a run-pass option or a zone read is to be able to keep up in sports conversations over Thanksgiving weekend. While not everyone at the table may understand what it means when a broadcaster says Draymond Green hedges a screen, The Standard has crafted a guide for basic sports literacy so that you can contribute something to the conversation instead of awkwardly sitting in the corner.


Aside from Super Bowl Sunday, no holiday is linked more closely to football than Thanksgiving. The NFL has three games throughout the day: The Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions square off on CBS at 9:30 a.m., the Dallas Cowboys host the New York Giants on Fox at 1:30 p.m. and the Minnesota Vikings host the New England Patriots to wrap up the night with a 5:20 p.m. kickoff on NBC.

Does it feel like the Lions and Cowboys always play on Thanksgiving? It’s because they do! Thanksgiving football in Detroit has been a tradition since 1934, and the Cowboys have done so since 1966. The NFL added a third game for primetime TV in 2006, one that doesn’t have a specific team tied into it.

Things to Say

Both quarterbacks in the Bills-Lions game are from Northern California. Josh Allen grew up in Firebaugh — yes, the little town in Fresno County off of Interstate 5 — and Jared Goff, who was born in Novato, went to Marin Catholic and played at Cal.

Watching the Cowboys face the Giants? Ask your football-loving relatives if they think the Giants are finally coming back to earth. They started 6-1 but have lost two of their last three games, with their only win in that stretch coming against the Houston Texans. Just looking to make a general comment? The NFC East, the division that both the Giants and Cowboys play in, has been a gauntlet this year. All four teams in the division have a winning record, even the Washington Commanders, who have been a punchline for years. It’s a far cry from where the division was two years ago; the then-Washington Football Team finished in first place and made the playoffs with a losing record.

No matter who you’re watching the game with, if they’re not a Cowboys fan, they probably hate “America’s Team.” Nearly every fanbase considers the Cowboys a rival, and they have a major national following. Simply saying something like, “the Cowboys won’t win another Super Bowl until Jerry Jones sells the team,” is sure to light a fire.

As for the nightcap, no, Tom Brady doesn’t play for the Patriots anymore. He’s now in his third season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mac Jones, now in his second season, quarterbacks New England.

If college football is your family’s choice, the lone Thanksgiving game is the Egg Bowl, the annual end-of-season rivalry between Ole Miss (the common name for the University of Mississippi) and Mississippi State. It’s a game that always seems to showcase something wacky, whether it’s a player becoming an iconic GIF or a provocative celebration drawing a penalty that ended a team’s season.

Other big college games over the course of the weekend are headlined by the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, played at 9 a.m. on Saturday and televised on Fox. Those unfamiliar with college football should note that Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud is a big-time NFL Draft prospect, as are many of his receivers. Michigan is coached by former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Speaking of those 49ers, they host the injury-riddled New Orleans Saints at 1:25 p.m. on Sunday. If you’ve got big Niners fans in your family, ask them if Christian McCaffrey has played up to their expectations since he came over in a trade from Carolina. If you’re around any Raiders fans who have held on in the aftermath of the team’s move from Oakland to Las Vegas, you can ask them where Josh McDaniels ranks among the franchise’s lengthy history of bad head coaching hires. The Raiders travel to Seattle for a 1:05 game against the Seahawks, a team that both the Raiders and 49ers consider rivals.

The Seahawks played with the Raiders in the AFC West until 2001, when they moved to the NFC and became one of San Francisco’s biggest rivals. They were supposed to be one of the worst teams in the league this year after trading quarterback Russell Wilson, but currently sit at 6-4. Wilson’s new team, the Denver Broncos, is 3-7. A sarcastic “Broncos Country, let’s ride” or “let Russ cook!” is sure to get a laugh out of anyone in your family who hates the Broncos (such as Raiders fans), or an eye roll from Denver fans.

While the Niners are 6-4, the Bay Area’s two largest college football teams have had far less success. No, the Bay Area isn’t exactly a college football hotbed, but alums keep up with Cal and Stanford. If you want to sound smart around a Cal fan, ask them if they think Troy Taylor should be the program’s next head coach. Taylor, a Cal alum, has an 11-0 record this season at Sacramento State. For the Stanford fan in your life, ask them if head coach David Shaw should be on the hot seat. The Cardinal have won just three games this season, though one of those three did come against Notre Dame.

Got cousins or siblings in high school? Ask them if they know any of the players from Lincoln or Balboa in Thursday’s Turkey Day Game, or if they’re friends with anyone on Serra’s roster. The Padres are the top-ranked team in the Bay Area, and they’ll be playing for a Central Coast Section (CCS) Championship on Friday night against Mitty.

Is this information overload? Don’t worry. No matter what level of football you’re watching, you can always say that the coach should call a naked bootleg. It’s a play that involves the quarterback rolling out to the sideline, but that’s not important. What matters is excitedly yelling “naked bootleg!”


An audience watches a basketball game projected onto a giant screen outside the Chase Center.
Fans watch the Golden State Warriors versus Dallas Mavericks game from Thrive City outside the Chase Center in San Francisco, Calif. on March 26, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

The Golden State Warriors aren’t off to the same roaring start they had in their 2021-22 championship season, currently sitting at 9-10 after Wednesday’s 124-107 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. They’ll host the Utah Jazz on Friday night, then fly to Minnesota to begin a road trip against the Timberwolves.

Things to Say

While Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are still draining 3-pointers with the best of them, Golden State’s bench has struggled tremendously in the young season. Ask the Warriors fan at your table if they think Jonathan Kuminga and James Wiseman are the future, or if Steve Kerr and general manager Bob Myers need to go back to the drawing board.

No matter if you’re around Warriors fans, Los Angeles Lakers fans or supporters of one of the NBA’s 28 other teams, you can definitely say, “Victor Wembanyama is the future,” and no one will disagree. The 7-foot-2 Frenchman is a virtual lock to be the first pick in next year’s NBA Draft.

World Cup

The United States tied Wales 1-1 to open group play on Monday and faces England on Friday. It’ll be the first time the Americans and English have squared off in a World Cup since 2010, a 1-1 tie where the lone U.S. goal came off a blunder by British goalkeeper Robert Green.

Things to Say

Telling a soccer fan at your Thanksgiving dinner that you prayed for Jordan Pickford to make a mistake like Robert Green will certainly earn some approval, or you can just comment on results from the ongoing tournament. Just saying, “I can’t believe Germany lost to Japan!” or asking, “did you wake up in time to see Argentina lose to Saudi Arabia?” will be enough to make it look like you know what you’re talking about, or you can question why head coach Gregg Berhalter didn’t bring Gio Reyna in as a substitute when the Americans needed a late goal versus Wales.

If you’re watching Team USA, look for the No. 10 jersey. That’s Christian Pulisic, a 24-year-old forward who’s been hailed as the nation’s finest player. Looking for a fun fact to share? Tell your family that America’s Tyler Adams is the youngest captain at the World Cup at just 23 years old.


A playoff run doesn’t appear to be in the cards for the 2022-23 San Jose Sharks, who sit at 7-12-3 after Wednesday’s 8-5 loss to the Seattle Kraken, the league’s newest team. San Jose hosts the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night, and the Vancouver Canucks pay a visit on Sunday.

Things to Say

If you’re at Thanksgiving dinner with a Sharks fan, ask them if they think new general manager Mike Grier should trade Erik Karlsson. The star defenseman is on a tear to start the year, but is notoriously injury-prone and is already 32. You can also ask the hockey fan in your life if they think Connor Bedard is the league’s next star. He’s expected to be next year’s No. 1 overall pick, encouraging some fans to yell for lowly teams to “tank hard for Bedard!”


Yes, the World Series ended nearly a month ago, with the Houston Astros beating the Philadelphia Phillies in six games, but the MLB offseason is in full swing. Giants fans will be quick to talk about their team’s pursuit of Aaron Judge, the 6-foot-7 slugger who grew up in Linden, in San Joaquin County. Judge set a new American League record with 62 home runs this season in the final year of his contract with the New York Yankees, and if he doesn’t stay in the Bronx, the Giants are considered a possible landing spot. Judge officially met with the Giants earlier this week.

Things to Say

Go beyond scratching the surface by asking your table what they think the Giants should do at shortstop. Brandon Crawford regressed after a monster 2021 season, and he’ll turn 36 in January. He’s got one more year left on his contract, which will earn him $16 million in 2023. While he’s still a fan favorite and regarded as an excellent defender, he struggled at the plate, and there are plenty of big shortstops available in free agency, including Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson.

Correa was famously part of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal and played with Houston from 2015 through 2021 before spending 2022 with the Minnesota Twins. Fans of any baseball team will have opinions to share on if they’d want Correa on their team; his talent is unmistakable, but his past with Houston has made him a controversial figure.