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Turkey Bowl Tradition Lives On At Dan Ryan Woods Where Old Dudes Always Win

By Mark Konkol | November 28, 2013 8:35am
 Nate Tennicott (left) before getting crushed by his cousin Mark Konkol at the 2012 Turkey Bowl at Dan Ryan Woods in Beverly.  
Nate Tennicott (left) before getting crushed by his cousin Mark Konkol at the 2012 Turkey Bowl at Dan Ryan Woods in Beverly.  
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PULLMAN — It’s 9:34 p.m. on “Black Wednesday”— that’s what young drunkards call the hard-drinking night before Thanksgiving — and I’m at home, alone.

There’s only one thing that I can think about.

I’m old — 40.

And I’m not the kind of 40 that’s some old people call the “New 30” either. 

Plus, college football left me with two bum shoulders, bad knees and set of wheels that just don’t pull the trailer like they used to.

I tried to toss the pigskin around last week and my shoulder made strange clicking sounds — like a baseball card against bicycle spokes. It was painful. It’s pitiful.

And against my better judgment I’m still getting up early and heading over to Dan Ryan Woods on Thursday to play in the Turkey Bowl in the bitter cold.

Old and stupid, that’s what I am.

I’ll probably wind up asking my cousin Hipsha to drop me off at the emergency room — after a celebratory toast at Wrong’s Tap on Western, of course — with a case of D-Rose knee.

But there’s no way I’m sitting out this year.

The Turkey Bowl, at least this particular Thanksgiving Day matchup, is really important to a lot of people.

I play with a bunch of blue-collar guys who once hailed from East Side and Hegewisch — it’s pronounced "Heg-wish" — whose families have been playing every Thanksgiving morning since 1925.

My pal Kevin Ziemkowski married into the game that started with his wife Colleen’s grandfather and a Boy Scout troop.

Eight years ago, Kevin invited me to join the game and I’ve never missed a year. My cousin Hipsha and his boys play, too.

It just wouldn’t be right to bail on a South Side tradition that has stayed exactly the same despite how the neighborhoods have changed the last 88 years.

Every year, the same families pick teams the same way and same thing happens.

Players from the original Turkey Bowl families —the Clays, Hansons, Hiilpes and Petrowskis, plus the Ziemkowskis, Tennicotts, Staleys and, well, me  — meet at the bottom of the hill on 87th Street just east of Western.

The Old Geezers square off against the Young Bucks.

And every Turkey Bowl, despite the actual score, the old guys always claim victory.

I think it's that part of the tradition — never really letting the younger guys win — that kept the game going for so long.

And for me this year — at 40, with bum shoulders and bad knees — it’s a tradition especially close to my heart.

Because despite being pretty certain that I'm going to get myself hurt out there this year I know that my new team, no matter what happens, is a guaranteed winner.

And this old guy is especially thankful for that.