Thanksgiving is one of the most fascinating times of year because there are so many different dynamics at play – preparing lots of food and indulging in gluttony to express thankfulness; tolerating family members whose political opinions you can’t stand; further expressing gratefulness by reenacting the Hunger Games for marked-down items on Black Friday, and the best part of all, preparing for CHRISTMAS SEASON immediately after the tables are clear of turkey dinner.
In spite of all those competing interests, a lot of Americans will spend Thanksgiving sitting around the TV watching college football. Thanksgiving Weekend brings us the best in sacred rivalries to close out the regular season, the last great weekend of games before we shift gears to bowls and playoffs.
Though it’s tragic that the season’s end is around the corner, 2017 blessed us with some truly incredible moments this year. So before we all are knee deep in turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce, let’s take a minute to reflect on some of top moments from this college football season for which I am the most thankful.
1. The Jake Olson Experience at USC
One of the best moments of the 2017 college football season came to use in the very first week, when USC’s blind long snapper Jake Olson took to the field to snap an extra point in the Trojans’ 49-31 victory over Western Michigan.
We got to see Olson in action again when he snapped another extra point in USC’s 38-17 rout of Oregon State in October. His accomplishments make Olson the first blind college football player to snap extra points in a live game, and we all got to bear witness.
For those in the Trojan Family, it was an incredibly special moment because Olson, a redshirt sophomore, has been a figure within the program since Pete Carroll was at the helm. Back then Olson was an “honorary Trojan,” a young boy battling cancer that would ultimately take his sight in both eyes.
To see Olson go from being a kid who cheered in the stands to a young man that we now cheer for on the field…there really aren’t enough words to describe how good that feels.
Beyond Southern California, national audiences have also been moved by his inspiring story. Olson has been named a semifinalist for the inaugural Jason Witten Award, given to a college football player who demonstrates leadership on and off the field.
Olson’s story is one that proves that sometimes the best moments in college football
don’t have anything to do with the game of football at all. I’m thankful for Olson and the reminder that we just need a little courage, determination and grit to overcome our obstacles.
2. The “Kinnick Wave” at Iowa
Shortly after Jake Olson blessed us with his inspiring story, Iowa kicked it up a notch by introducing the Kinnick Wave.
Back in September, an Iowa football fan shared a simple idea on social media – wouldn’t it be cool if, during the game, everyone in the stadium turned to wave to the patients across the way at the children’s hospital?
The idea took hold and now at the end of the first quarter of every home game, the 70,000 fans in Kinnick Stadium turn to Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital and wave. That’s it. They just wave. They turn their palms and wave back and forth. ESPN has even started delaying commercials so fans at home can see the special moment.
And the pictures are just terrific:
— Tim Insko (@tinsko) September 26, 2017
— CR Gazette Sports (@CRGazetteSports) November 21, 2017
Today @IlliniFootball joined in the Kinnick Wave, too! 👋
This is the best <3 <3 <3 pic.twitter.com/wwdzyYytme
— SB Nation (@SBNation) October 7, 2017
It’s such a simple gesture, but for the families with children being treated at the hospital, it’s so much more than that.
— Land of 10 Iowa (@Landof10Iowa) September 30, 2017
“I guess, for me, it brings a sense of excitement to the kids that are here getting treatments or here for long term,” Amy Clark – whose son is being treated at the hospital for leukemia – told the Associated Press. “And it makes them feel excited and normal for a minute to get out of their rooms and come up here and enjoy themselves.”
This season, I’m thankful for the Kinnick Wave and the reminder that sports have the power to transcend personal circumstances. Even when we are going through hard and trying times – especially then – we can turn to our favorite sport to help us through it. And sometimes, that’s enough.
3. Sideline Swag
We spend a lot of time taking college football seriously – too seriously, probably – so a little levity is the perfect remedy for losing our absolute minds over upsets and power rankings.
Enter 2017, the Year of Sideline Swag.
Sideline Swag is the BEST. With the exception of knockoff Turnover Chains, I am here for these displays of greatness. Georgia has its spiked shoulder pads and Tennessee has a trash can for reasons I don’t fully understand (and honestly it seems like low key more of an assessment of the program itself than of it’s opponents but it’s whatever because I love it anyway) but the best sideline swag this season is The University of Miami’s Turnover Chain.
TURNOVER CHAIN TOUCHDOWN. pic.twitter.com/fVMClw2fpU
— Canes Football (@CanesFootball) November 18, 2017
I mean, look at that magnificent thing.
Not only do we have the for real for real Turnover Chain, we got Turnover Chain sushi!
— WPLG Local 10 News (@WPLGLocal10) November 22, 2017
I will seriously never not love the Turnover Chain. Nor will I get tired of how many players have had the pleasure of donning the chain this season:
So far, these men have rocked the Turnover Chain. pic.twitter.com/FTR973mNeq
— Canes Football (@CanesFootball) November 17, 2017
The Turnover Chain makes me want Miami to be great and go the distance. It makes me want to pull up a front-row seat in the Hurricanes’ bandwagon. It makes me want The U to get fifty-leven turnovers a game so I can see it as many times as possible.
At its core, the Turnover Chain is a symbol of what’s fun about college sports. It’s a bunch of kids playing for the pride they have in their university. It’s silliness, a departure from the all-business attitude of the NFL. It’s pure, un-politicized fun and it’s just refreshing.