Utah 'Turkey Bowls' overflow with family memories
He's replaced both of his knees, one of his hips and broke his neck twice.
But Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the "Turkey Bowl," so nothing was going to keep Alan Crandall from playing in his family and friends' annual touch football game Thursday at Sugar House Park.
"This game brings generations together," said Crandall, 66, a noted Moran Eye Center ophthalmologist. "We have males, females, friends from high school, kids on up to old guys. Everybody gets to see everybody for a few hours before they go their own ways."
It was a tradition played out among many clans Thursday. Scattered games were going on all around Sugar House Park on a relatively balmy (but smoggy) day.
Most involved footballs, but Frisbees and soccer balls flew too.
Across town at Riverside Park, a game benefitting the Utah Food Bank pitted teams from Glendale and Rose Park, each sponsored by a native son now playing in the NFL (Glendale's Stanley Havili with Indianapolis, Rose Park's Haloti Ngata with Baltimore).
There were no pros in Crandall's game, but plenty of athletes who have played the game their whole lives.
The team captains were Chuck Hansel and Mark Taylor, boyhood friends from Chicago. In high school, Chuck was a quarterback. Mark was his center. They both ended up in Utah, where Mark played linebacker for the University of Utah (1970-73) and Chuck married Crandall's sister, Terry.
They were football players. The Crandalls were a football family. It was a perfect pairing for pigskin play on Thanksgiving Day.
The players that Hansel and Taylor divvied up included five of their sons, strapping boys in their 20s who had played football, lacrosse and baseball in high school.
When they first were old enough to join in, Taylor noted, the boys complained that the grown-ups played too seriously and never threw them the ball.
Times have changed. "Now the old guys say the young ones never throw the ball to us," he laughed.
"From being the studs to being the duds, we've seen it all," Hansel seconded.
Don't forget it, young Chase Taylor warned him, one of the many good-natured taunts that flew across the line of scrimmage all day.
Clever trash talk was appreciated here, rewarded with a Bloody Mary or muffin at the half.
"We try to give everyone a hard time. No one's off limits, especially the older guys," Chase Taylor said, making sure he spoke loud enough to be heard by the older guys. "This is a young man's game."
Even though he's still one of those young men, 23-year-old Adam Hansel already has accumulated Turkey Bowl memories he knows he'll treasure for the rest of his life.
"I can remember being 10 or 12 and making a catch in the back of the end zone after they forgot about me and let me get behind them," he observed. "That's definitely something you don't forget. I remember those plays as well as some of my best plays in high school."
The chance to make more memories lured players home from both sides of the continent, Matt Hansel flying in from Washington, D.C., while Austin Taylor came from California with his girlfriend, Clarice Guido.
A dancer for the Golden State Warriors, she wasn't about to play football "I'm Filipino. I've never done American things like that" but she was more than happy to watch Austin bond with his family in a meaningful way for all of them.
"He loves, loves, loves football and he doesn't get a chance to see his dad and brothers very often," she said, "so it's really nice for him to get together with them and play football."
Year after year after year.