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Pass the football with some mashed potatoes and less cussing

Turkey football.
Turkey football.
Henry Payne

Thanksgiving week is about gratitude, turkey, family and — lest we forget our priorities — football.

Watching marquee matchups between teams like Michigan and Ohio State this weekend is as American as driving to Wal-Mart on Black Friday at 4 a.m. to buy the latest Tickle Me Elmo doll.

Yet, amidst the Turkey Day touchdowns and pass-me-the-cranberry-sauce catches, there’s a tradition I’m not grateful for — cussing.

No, I don’t mean the occasional foul-mouthed flare-up between Uncle Frank and Aunt Maurine over who forgot the marshmallow salad. Nor do I mind a few modest maledictions muttered after burning the giblets.

What I really don’t care for is the way college and high school football coaches — ostensibly educators, often salaried from public funds — scream on the sidelines as if to sing ’tis the season to be #@$%&!!!.

A bad call from the referee — “[expletive deleted]!”

A missed block — “[expletive deleted]!”

A fumbled football — “[expletive deleted]!”

A broken tackle — [… you get the idea]

Coaches stomp, storm and stalk referees until they’re slapped with a restraining order, or — worse yet— a penalty flag.

In any other work setting — especially a classroom — such behavior would never stand. Imagine a student walking in late and the professor flying off the handle, throwing chalk and bellowing searing swear words inches from their face.

To be fair, the classroom is about contemplation and football is about competition, testosterone and toughness. Though I myself may be frail and effeminate, I nonetheless concur wholeheartedly with the University of Michigan’s eloquent and eccentric coach, Jim Harbaugh.

“I love football. Love it. Love it,” he said. “I think it's the last bastion of hope for toughness in America in men, in males.”

The indomitable 26th President Theodore Roosevelt saved the sport from extinction during an era — not unlike our own — that was riddled with headlines about football’s dangers and violence.

Roosevelt believed in “rough, manly sports.”

Football in his estimation was “the greatest exercise of fine moral qualities, such as resolution, courage, endurance and capacity to hold one’s own and stand up under punishment.” He wrote that “in life, as in a football game,” we learn: “don’t foul and don’t shirk, but hit the line hard!”

Football is tough. But there’s nothing tough about swearing.

“Some think it’s a sign of toughness to use profanity,” Eastern Michigan’s clean-mouthed football coach Chris Creighton told the Deseret News. “But I think toughness is making yourself do something you don’t want, or preventing yourself from doing something you want to do. You better be tough in football, but one of the ways to exhibit that is to control your tongue.”

Creighton’s philosophy hasn’t seemed to hurt Eastern Michigan.

The team is having its best season in more than 25 years. It is 7-5. The last time Eastern won seven games was in 1989.

The fact that coach Creighton eschews expletives is all the more significant because the school’s previous coach was fired after an audio recording of one of his obscenity-laced tirades surfaced three games into the 2014 season.

As a youth, Creighton was inspired to take a different tack after attending a Christian-based service mission. He was converted from someone who “cussed like a sailor” to a notoriously clean-mouthed coach.

Of course, it’s not just coaches who could use some mouthwash. Fans, after all, are often worse. During the Raiders game this week — which happened to be played in Mexico City — fans chanted a homophobic slur so loud it made it on to the broadcast.

A culture of cussing breeds entitlement, not toughness.

The Rooseveltian lessons of not shirking, not fouling, and hitting the line hard are lost on players, coaches and fans who resort to complaints, curses and whimpers when calls or plays don’t go their way.

The game deserves better, and so does Thanksgiving.

So let’s cut the cussing and get back to the things that make this season so great — gratitude, family, football and food — especially those bleeping-good mashed potatoes.