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All the sports and entertainment topics to avoid at Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving dinner is known for two things: Turkey and tension. Here’s our guide to which sports and entertainment conversations to avoid for a peaceful holiday.

Thanksgiving is a holiday for gathering – around a table, in front of a television, in a park playing flag football, in the streets at a turkey trot, in line for Black Friday shopping or any other number of places.

No matter what, it’s about getting together with other people (hopefully ones you like) and enjoying each other’s company (again, hopefully).

Of course, there’s a lot of time for conversation as we spend the day eating, watching football and doing whatever else we’re thankful for. Thanksgiving brings us all together and it brings a lot of different viewpoints together.

While you might be able to talk to even your most distant uncle about how bad the Lions are each and every Thanksgiving, some topics are a little more divisive. From paying NCAA players to Martin Scorsese’s opinions on Marvel movies, we asked our editors about how Thanksgiving fits into each section and which conversations to avoid for a peaceful holiday.

DETROIT, MI – NOVEMBER 22: Detroit Lions fans celebrate Thanksgiving Day during a regular season game between the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions on November 22, 2018 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

College Sports

You would think people would have no problem with people getting paid for doing a job, right? Well actually, when it comes to the topic of college athletes receiving financial compensation for competing in NCAA athletics, it’s a hot button issue that should be debated on CNN with Anderson Cooper as the moderator.

If you want to have a food fight reminiscent of Animal House, say, James Wiseman, Joe Burrow and Chase Young can’t pay their light bill with room and board.

If you want to avoid saying, “Okay Boomer” a dozen times to your aunts and uncles who think a “free” scholarship is enough and they “don’t deserve” a dime despite literally having years taken off their life to provide entertainment for them, just talk about the lousy weather and traffic.

A healthy alternative, no, I’m not talking about a plant-based turkey, but the College Football Playoff and who is the best one-loss team. That should be good for reasonable and nuanced conversations between hands of Euchre.


NFL football on Thanksgiving. It’s traditional, dating back to the Detroit Lions and the 1930s. It’s a time for family. A time for uncles making aggressive political statements. A time for the Lions to disappoint and the Dallas Cowboys to book a horrendous musical act for halftime.

Yes, Thanksgiving is the best of times. We get to eat dinner at 1 p.m. because that’s what the Pilgrims did. Then we undo our belts and slowly pass out to the dulcet tones of Jim Nantz and Joe Buck as gravy drips from the corners of our mouths.

If you can’t get amped up for a food coma with football, you are missing the whole point of Thanksgiving.

27 November 2014: Kansas Jayhawks fans dressed as Turkeys cheer on the Kansas Jayhawks on Thanksgiving during the 1st round of the Orlando Classic between the Kansas Jayhawks and Rhode Island Rams at the HP Field House in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)


In no particular order, here is a list of movie-related topics to avoid at the Thanksgiving dinner table:

  • Marvel vs. Martin Scorsese

That’s it. That’s the list. Every other 2019 movie controversy — Joker’s incel indulgence, Quentin Tarantino’s foot fetish, Cats’ fur technology — is downright appealing compared to re-litigating the superhero vs. cinema debate.


With so much TV to choose from, it will be remarkable if you find any common ground with your extended family, but don’t be tempted to bring up Game of Thrones final season to fill the silence.

Someone will rant about hating it. Someone will passionately defend it. Someone will forcefully assert they’ve never seen a second of it.

Additionally, we recommend steering clear of:

  • The Big Bang Theory: Without a doubt, you have an uncle who loves Big Bang Theory.
  • Friends: Everyone knows it was actually bad and a rip-off of Living Single.
  • Real Housewives: Let people like what they like!
  • 90 Day Fiancé: Thanksgiving is not the time to have the green card discussion.
  • The Office: No one wants to hear your cousin’s thesis on how Michael Scott is problematic.
  • Democratic Debates: Technically counts as TV.

If you need to break up all the sports talk, we have one universally unifying topic to recommend…

Baby Yoda.

The Mandalorian Chapter 3 / Exclusively on Disney+


The NBA is a global engine of growth but it still doesn’t touch the national ubiquitousness of college or professional football which means the NBA discussions you encounter on Thanksgiving are likely to be lukewarm and eye-rolling. Uncle Ned asking you, “what about this LeBron fella?” Cousin Ryan, who hasn’t watched an entire basketball game since … ever … extolling the balanced nature of the universe as the Warriors take wallow in the misery they earned, by being incredible at what they do (he leaves that last phrase out).

Keep dad focused on carving the turkey and don’t let anyone bring up Kawhi Leonard making a bajillion dollars while managing the load on his injured knees and you should be fine. Just start working on a plan to sneak away for Clippers-Lakers on Christmas Day.

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 18: Bradley Beal #3 and John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards host a Thanksgiving Assist Event on November 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)


The biggest challenge you may face this holiday season will be getting your family to talk hockey at all, depending on your geographical location. South of the Mason–Dixon line? Not a chance, unless you’re a Washington Capitals fan enjoying your unmitigated success so far this year.

For folks up north, the recent firing of Maple Leafs’ head coach Mike Babcock is sure to spark debate among hard-core hockey fans who have taken sides for and against his old-school style of coaching. If it didn’t work for the good boys of Toronto, it surely can’t work anywhere else in the league, right? Speaking of Good Canadian Hockey Boys™, any mention of former Sportsnet broadcaster Don Cherry is a sure-fire way to get opinions flying, and a noise complaint sanctioned upon your residence. Avoid at all costs, lest you’re ready for more than talk about his bad suit choices that have plagued hockey culture for decades.

OTTAWA, ON – OCTOBER 11: A young fan displays a Thanksgiving-themed sign before the Ottawa Senators home opener against the Montreal Canadiens at Canadian Tire Centre on October 11, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)


Let’s be honest, there was a lot this year in the MMA world that should probably be avoided, and we covered that in-depth here. Some of it is light-hearted fun, like Henry Cejudo wanting to fight women to much more serious like pretty much anything Greg Hardy or Conor McGregor did this year. But overall, the biggest topic to avoid this holiday season is anything that starts with “Colby Covington said …”

Just don’t do that to yourself, trust us.


Around the world there is always soccer’s one debate to rule them all – Messi vs. Ronaldo – but more than likely your cousins and uncles here in the States know the sides but don’t have strong enough opinions for you to avoid it all together. Unless your uncle is a Madridista, don’t worry too much about avoiding soccer’s unending GOAT debate.

Here at home, the soccer topic that is most likely to have both a wide base of recognition and some deeply divisive opinions is the United States Women’s National Team.

As we wrap up a World Cup year, the USWNT – and particularly the pink-haired figurehead of Megan Rapinoe – are a household brand across the U.S. Whether it was not going to the bleeping White House, racking up 13 goals against Thailand, winning another World Cup or fighting for more equitable pay and treatment, the USWNT have most certainly done something that one member of your family hates and something that another one loves.

MILAN, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 23: The Best FIFA Women’s Player Award Winner Megan Rapinoe of Reign FC and United States and The Best FIFA Men’s Player Award Winner Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona and Argentina pose for a photo with their trophies during The Best FIFA Football Awards 2019 at Teatro alla Scala on September 23, 2019 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Simon Hofmann – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)


The MLB hot stove has yet to really heat up this winter, but at least it hasn’t been so slow as last year, forcing you to discuss labor laws and possible collusion (no, not that kind) with your baseball-loving family.

Luckily, the Houston Astros have provided the perfect topic to either stir a family feud or to be avoided all together: cheating. More specifically, using a camera to steal signs and then relaying information about pitches by banging on a trash can. Whether you want to get into it or not with the diehard Astros fan in your life, be sure to design elaborate methods for deciding which dishes to pass and always have a back-up method of communication.

Just whatever you do, please don’t bang your plate too loudly on the trashcan as you clean it, they might know which kind of pie is coming out next.

Next: 103 questions and concerns about The Knight Before Christmas

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