In a thankless league, we still manage to, well, give thanks

(This column first appeared on

In the spirit of the approaching holiday, I spent a modest amount of time researching the word “turkey,” because I wondered how it might symbolize the essence of the current NBA. There seemed to be a logical connection.

One web site pointed out that the poultry bird became a popular food item because it was an excellent source of meat, and beyond that, it was “easily shot.” Our heroes at the NBA have done an excellent job of shooting – themselves and each other. So there was that.

Ben Franklin thought the turkey to be such an honorable bird that he wanted it to be the symbol of the U.S. rather than the Bald Eagle, whom he described as a “coward.” The key words in that passage are “honorable” and “coward,” but, of course, I’m not going there.

The turkey was commonly served at Thanksgiving in the late 1700s, according to my research, but did not become a national staple until the 1800s. Lots of tradition there – kind of like having NBA games in November.

I never found a definitive explanation of why “turkey” became a word to describe a loser. There were a number of references to the fact turkeys have small heads, thus small brains and, well, they aren’t the brightest animals in the farmyard. Some dispute that but the key words in that passage are “loser” and “brightest.” Of course, I’m not going there.

According to Houghton Mifflin Word Origins, in the 1920s “turkey” became a description of a play or movie that failed, and in the 1950s for a person who is incompetent. So the term has been around a long time and unfortunately as we prepare to miss two games on Thanksgiving and 14 more on Friday, we find ourselves in the midst of a great number of turkeys – and I’m not talking about Ben Franklin’s honorable kind.

As those associated in a variety of direct and non-direct ways with the NBA prepare for Thanksgiving, we try to imagine ourselves sitting with them at the dinner table and giving thanks for the current predicament of the league. And for those with no sense of humor, a warning that these are served with a healthy dose of acerbic trimmings.

So who will the key players be thanking on Thursday? Some possibilities.

David Stern: Thank you for the new owners, who have brought hundreds of millions of dollars to the league and, as you know, I’m a guy who’s all about money. I really can’t say thanks for tying my hands and not letting me make a deal because with just a little less asshattery (thanks to my buddy Ken Berger of for that word), I could have gotten the deal done. And although it’s true you new guys have been the largest force in damaging a reputation that I worked so hard to build for the last 28 years as commissioner, you’re still rich and we should all give thanks for that.

[To see original column on, click here]

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