Thanksgiving a time for family and pies

Thanksgiving is the one of the few days of the year where images pop into our minds.

There’s terrible football, potatoes, both sweet and mashed, leaves crunching underneath your feet (or in the case of the Upper Midwest, mounds of snow), turkey, cranberries that flow beautifully out of the can and onto your plate.

For me, the two images that stand out are family and pie, no matter what the variety. My Thanksgiving was a quiet one as the wife and I gathered around our TV to watch the Lions fail and watch a Harry Potter marathon (hey, we had to find some form of magic after we just watched Detroit lose to the Bears). I spent time with my family the previous week when I went to Florida, hanging out by the beach and by the pool next to our rented house. Even though the vacation ended sooner than I would’ve liked, I enjoyed seeing my folks, my brother and my sister-in-law along with my grandmother who is still spry and witty at her age.

Some people aren’t so lucky to get to spend time with the people they love over the holidays and college athletes are a good example of that. The Northern Michigan University hockey and women’s basketball teams played on the road this weekend, so they missed out on seeing their families. Other athletes have had to deal with tragic situations like Canisius runner Emily Scheck.

For those who aren’t aware, Scheck came out as a lesbian earlier this year and was threatened by her mother with either coming home for therapy or be disowned. She didn’t want to go through conversion therapy, so she got a surprise one day when she came home. According to Outsports.com, the license plates were removed from her car by her father and it was full of her belongings from her parents’ house. The car was Scheck’s but her parents were paying for the insurance and they canceled the payments. The Washington Post said that Scheck also got a text from her mother telling her never to speak to them or her siblings again.

Scheck was working two jobs, but didn’t have any food and a huge credit card bill that her folks stuck her with. She was forced to use her friends’ textbooks for classes she couldn’t afford, while attempting to be a Division I athlete. To help her out, her roommate/teammate set up a GoFundMe page and by Monday, it managed to raise more $58,000, according the Post. However, then the NCAA stuck its abnormally large nose into her business and gave her a choice to either give all the money back and stay running with the Golden Griffins, or keep the dough and quit the team. She decided to leave the squad and was trying to use the money to make ends meet while she considered her options, stuck in the mud between her financial problems and the NCAA.

This heartbreaking tale does have somewhat of a happy ending though. The NCAA decided to stop being a soulless grinch and announced last Friday that she can keep the money and maintain her eligibility as a student-athlete. Her relationship with her family has also improved slightly as Scheck told the Buffalo News that her parents were seeing a counselor in the LGBT community. So apparently, progress is slowly moving toward mending a broken relationship. Still, for disavowing their daughter and putting her in dire financial straits, both her folks deserve a hot pie in the face. Probably much more than that, but that’s a good start.

They’re not the only ones that should get one as many coaches, players and members of the media could use a heavy dose of whipped cream justice. So without further ado, here’s this year’s list of the Pie in the Face awards.

Honorable mention: Nathan Peterman

Last season, the Buffalo Bills made the playoffs for the first time in 17 years, but that wasn’t the most memorable occasion of the year. During week 11, Nathan Peterman made his first start at quarterback and threw five interceptions in one half. Despite that outing, he was named the Bills’ starter for this year’s season opener and threw for 24 yards with two interceptions with a 0.0 passer rating. In a game against Houston, Peterman threw two picks including a game-winning pick-six. In his final start for Buffalo, he threw three more interceptions, one of them being a pick-six. He was cut earlier this month, closing out his Bills career with three touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 32.5. I give him credit though. He definitely made his presence felt when he was in Buffalo.

No. 5: P.J. Fleck

Remember this guy? After turning around the fortunes at Western Michigan and deftly marketing his “Row The Boat” slogan, Fleck landed a job at Minnesota and the Golden Gophers bought into his philosophy. The Gophers even put an oar down the middle of their helmets and handed him a one-year contract extension even after they missed the postseason, proudly showing that they had gone for seconds when Fleck was dispensing his Kool-Aid. The only thing keeping Fleck from climbing the list is that Minnesota managed to end its long losing streak to Wisconsin Saturday. Still, signs still show that Fleck’s “boat” is veering toward the rocks, so maybe a pie to the face will help him refocus.

No. 4: Jon Gruden/Mark Davis

After inheriting the Oakland Raiders from his famous father, Al Davis, Mark Davis had tried his best live up to his father’s reputation of running a franchise into the ground. Like Al, Mark has decided he’s fed up with Oakland and is relocating the team to Las Vegas. However, in a final middle finger to the loyal Raiders fanbase, Davis decided to hire Jon Gruden as head coach, who defeated the Raiders in their most recent Super Bowl appearance. Since signing on, Gruden ran the team’s best defensive player (Khalil Mack) out of town and has led Oakland to a 2-8 record. Not only do Raiders fans get to watch their beloved team leave town again, but they get to watch Gruden and Davis put a complete mess on the field for them to behold.

No. 3: Mike McCarthy

I know, I know. I wrote about him last week and how the clock is ticking on his tenure as the Packers’ head coach, but I have to include him. Green Bay is underachieving again and last week’s loss to Seattle ensured that he’d make the list. As I wrote last week, McCarthy’s mismanagement of his timeouts and his strategy of taking the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands and hoping that his shaky defense still makes me scratch my head. Now with Chicago seemingly in control of the NFC North, the Packers need a win tonight over Minnesota to stay alive in the playoff hunt. If Green Bay misses the postseason, McCarthy will have egg on his face. Let’s get a head start on that with a pie.

No. 2: Don Brown/Jim Harbaugh

In the immortal words of Keith Jackson, whoa Nellie! What a disaster of a game yesterday for the Michigan coaching tandem of defensive coordinator Brown and head coach Harbaugh. The Wolverines “vaunted” defense came in at No. 1 in the nation and Brown was a semifinalist for the Broyles Award (best assistant coach). He was called a “wizard” by linebacker James Ross, but instead of being Harry Potter, Brown choked like Lord Voldemort in that final showdown.

The Wolverines gave up 62 points and Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins carved up Brown’s D like a knife through turkey. Meanwhile, Harbaugh is now 0-4 against the Buckeyes and this is, by far, his worst showing against OSU head coach Urban Meyer. This was supposed to be the year for Jim. The Buckeyes looked awful in that loss to Purdue and should’ve lost to Nebraska and Maryland. Things looked perfect on paper, but then the game started. Harbaugh made questionable play calls and his team looked like it forgot what time kickoff was. Just a pitiful performance and Brown and Harbaugh both deserve a slab of whipped cream in their faces, much to my Buckeye-loving wife’s delight.

No. 1: Matt Patricia

When a first-year coach takes over a team, they have a vision and want to mold their squad to fit that vision. The Lions just finished Week 12 and I’m still not sure what Patricia’s vision is. The Lions flopped in their final preseason game, and they lost the season opener in the blowout to the Jets. Yet Detroit managed to beat the defending AFC champion Patriots and the rival Packers this season, so there were signs that things were moving in the right direction. Then the Lions decided to go on an up-and-down affair where they lost a winnable game to Seattle, got mauled by Minnesota after Patricia lectured a reporter about proper posture, but bounced back to beat playoff contender Carolina. Then came Thanksgiving, the day that according to president Rod Wood, Patricia thinks is the season opener. Well if that’s really what Patricia thinks, he’s made two terrible debuts this year. For that, he gets two pies in the face along with the championship crown.

So until next year loyal readers, the pies have gone back in the freezer.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

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