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Kansas State University
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Manhattan, KS 66506
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FOOTBALL FINDS PLACE IN THANKSGIVING CELEBRATIONS, PROFESSOR SAYS

The Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. means plenty of turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie -- and football.

American football has become a staple in the Thanksgiving celebration of feast and family, according to a Kansas State University expert on the history of sport. The day typically includes nationally televised college and pro games.

However, Donald Mrozek, professor of history at K-State, says it's more than the sport of football that holds our interest on Thanksgiving: it's the camaraderie that accompanies it.

"There's a concept that historian Eric Hobsbawm came up with years ago called 'invented tradition,'" Mrozek said. "This is when people deliberately invent traditions because they crave a sense of place and belonging."

The particular invented tradition of Thanksgiving Day football really developed during football's correlated growth with American culture in the 20th century, even though the sport of football started about a half-century before, Mrozek said.

"What most people don’t grasp is that a great deal of what we think of as long-standing American traditions weren't created until the 20th century," Mrozek said. "For example, America didn't even have a national anthem until the 20th century."

Football's accelerated growth as a great American tradition, and its association with the Thanksgiving holiday, only supports the claim that it's now become a long-standing American tradition, Mrozek said.

"We look for ways of Americanizing things. This way we can claim that they are special American institutions, whether or not it's accurate to describe them that way," he said.