It may tickle many of our readers to know that last night, Phil Simms — well-known New York Giants quarterback, long-time lead analyst for The NFL on CBS — was running a bowling tournament. 

You might wonder what the broadcasters, who spend much of their lives devoted to football and have to cover games on holidays, do for Thanksgiving. CBS's main NFL team spends the day away from their families, for the most part, and they've long held a tradition of having a bowling tournament on the Tuesday night prior to their game, Simms told us.

"We have a little dinner here at CBS on Wednesday," the analyst told me by phone from Dallas on Monday. "With all the cameramen and the crew and the technicians and the people behind the scenes. A few words are said by a few people, it's a great tradition. We give out awards for the bowling tournaments." The tournaments themselves provide a chance for one of the network's biggest names to show off his skill.

"Because it always comes down to the last one or two frames," said Simms. "We set the table, and try to put as much pressure as possible on the person that's bowling. Jim [Nantz] gets up in front of the whole crowd and sets the scene, and it's really great." 

But is he a better bowler than Simms? "That's always the debate. Jim's had some good moments. He dies to win it, but he's never won it. Jim has had some questionable second games — we roll two — that have hurt his chances of winning the tournament. But if he wins, what's great about him is he's a sore loser, but he's even a sorer winner [laughs]." The winners are given both serious and miscellaneous awards at the dinner on Wednesday.

For Nantz, who spoke to me from his hotel room in Kanas City, he loves the tradition of Thanksgiving football more than anything, traditions that go back to his childhood. "We all have family reasons why the holiday is special, but football… forget it," Nantz said. "I had to make sure everyone understood, my mother knew exactly when I could be available on Sunday, that sounds like I was dictating [laughs]. I was urging and pleading that dinner happen at halftime of one of the games. To me, Thanksgiving, a lot of it has not only had to do with a lot of family gathering, but football being front and center as well"

Nantz will call the game, and then head to spend the evening with family in Houston. As luck would have it, his wife's family lives in Cleveland, so they'll always head there from nearby Detroit following the alternating Lions game that they call in other years. "we always have family kind of in the area," he said. "So we're always able to make something out of Thanksgiving that day, much more than the game. Makes it extra special."
This year, the visiting Oakland Raiders will be in Dallas on CBS, and both Nantz and Simms were pleased that the Raiders had been good, but both separately stated that the Cowboys are the draw. "No matter what you say and how they're playing, it's always the Dallas Cowboys," he told me. "That's always a big deal. Everybody is always a little interested in the Cowboys. There is no in between, you're either a Cowboy fan or you despise them. You despise them because they're talked about so much — the labels, "America's Team" — the stars and the owner talk a lot. When you do a game here, there's always a little more interest here just because of that."

The real hard-hitting question Is, are there any differences between working in the two typical Thanksgiving cities of Dallas and Detroit?

Appropriately, Simms said "the bowling lane down here [in Dallas] might be better." 

About Steve Lepore

Steve Lepore is a writer for Bloguin and a correspondent for SiriusXM NHL Network Radio.