The notorious Turkey Bowl; a Utah Thanksgiving phenomenon

ST. GEORGE — In homes across Utah this Thanksgiving, after the food coma dissipates, an uncontrollable fervor is awoken in the hearts of many locals. This fervor diverts our families’ attention from stuffing and pie to an even more notoriously savage tradition – the Turkey Bowl.

The Turkey Bowl is a surprisingly competitive family football game where large groups of exceptionally ordinary, overweight, overworked folks battle at their local park for one glorious reward – pride. From a distance the Turkey Bowl appears to be just another football pickup game, but, upon closer inspection, it’s undeniably a tribal battle. A battle of blood, sweat and heavy grunting that usually leads to not just a few injured relatives – hopefully they’re in-laws. The desire to compete in the Turkey Bowl comes from a deep seeded fantasy – the glory days. The glory days are an imaginary period of time stored in the minds of the middle-aged where they fantasize about their ol’ sports days.

In one of these familial battles, the notorious 2009 Turkey Bowl dubbed the “mud bowl,” local father and high school teacher Josh Kitchen felt the pain of the battle. During his in-laws’ Turkey Bowl, which is typically an extra-competitive one, Kitchen sustained an irreversible injury. Kitchen’s finger got snagged in the pants pocket of one of his father-in-law friends.

“He was running so fast and being so competitive … he just kept running aggressively and ripped my ligament in half,” Kitchen said.

Ever since this injury, Kitchen’s ring finger has never been able to fully close. Kitchen said he would like to add that despite the injury, they won that day, and that will never be taken away from him.

Injuries like this are a common occurrence in bygone Turkey Bowls, Kitchen said, but still this won’t stop the tradition.

Besides the ligament injury, in the Kitchen family’s 2012 Turkey Bowl, Kitchen’s knee got injured and swelled up to the size of a balloon, he said. He also recalled a handful of other substantial injuries incurred by other family members during previous years’ Turkey Bowls.

Some sides of his family have more aggressive Turkey Bowls then others, but they’re all surprisingly competitive. “Even though it starts as flag football, it usually turns into tackle,” Kitchen said.

“These games are a great way to get aggression out that’s been bottled up over the past year towards relatives,” Kitchen joked.

Even though the Turkey Bowl tradition naturally seems to turn into a competition, Kitchen said, it always creates great memories and brings the family together for some good clean fun. “I wish my extended family could do things like this more often,” he said. “We are all so busy, and spread thin, it’s so good for us to all get together and just enjoy the moment.”

For all of you playing in this year’s bowl, just remember, no matter how deep your desire for that feeling you had back in the glory days, your body is not 18 years old any more and you’re of no good to your family on a stretcher.

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  • Think about it November 25, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    For decades there have been countless videos and reports of abuse and cruelty at factory farms. Heinous actions by humans.
    So we are adding to this by wasting more animal lives in favor of a game?
    This Turkey Bowling is not cute, its obscene.
    Surely we are smart enough to find and enjoy another holiday pastime?

    • Think about it November 25, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      Sorry I couldn’t resist!
      It’s a lame joke relax everyone:)

  • Tracie November 25, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    I’m pretty sure this isn’t just a Utah phenomenon.

  • Lea November 27, 2014 at 9:44 am

    It would be nice if the Turkey Bowl at Hurricane High School lets new residents know it’s only for alumni and not open to the public. Just saying. My sons heard about it thru word of mouth only to be denied because they weren’t alumni. Total let down. Boo to HHS!

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