As a relative newcomer to American shores, Thanksgiving is a holiday that has taken me some time to adjust to. Its true meaning has slowly revealed itself year after year. I now understand Thanksgiving as a chance for all Americans to evaluate their surroundings and ensure that nothing is taken for granted, like Arsenal fans suddenly re-appreciating the unique attributes of sleeper cell Emmanuel Adebayor.
This year, the holiday comes at a significant time. The Premier League season is almost a third of the way run, so the day provides a convenient opportunity to reassess the storylines of the opening campaign. Come Thursday, once the turkey has been stripped down to the carcass and the stuffing has run dry, I will raise a pint in the general direction of the following:
Luis Suarez's undeniable brilliance
With Brendan Rodgers' three envelopes, Ian Ayre channeling "Easy Rider" and Lucas' love of Monopoly, "Being: Liverpool" occasionally dragged life at Anfield into "Waiting for Guffman" territory. Yet this season, the play of Suarez has been no laughing matter. His league-leading 10 goals have enabled the toothy striker to defy the tabloids' characterization of him as a silent movie villain. Thanks to wonder strikes like this, the Uruguayan is now a man who receives furious wanker signs and begrudging admiration in equal measure.
West Bromwich Albion's fourth place. No fluke.
Steve Clarke's squad have been this season's stealth delight, savoring their best start since 1978. Shane Long, Claudio Yacob and Youssouf Mulumbu have restored a fluent footballing tradition. In the late 70s, the Midlands team became the first to field three black players: Cyrille Regis, Brendan Batson and Laurie Cunningham. Coarsely referred to as “The Three Degrees,” the trio led the team to third place. Defensively well drilled, and coiled to counter, the Baggies have fans and neutrals praying those heady days are back again.
The wonder of Brad Friedel's age defiance
The Betty White of the Premier League may have been ensnared in English football's most awkward goalkeeping duel, yet Friedel has performed with both athleticism and dignity. His young rival, French national team captain Hugo Lloris, was just seven years of age when Friedel experienced the 1994 World Cup alongside the likes of long-since-retired Alexi Lalas and John Harkes. When Old Man Friedel takes the field, age cannot wither him. His reflexes and concentration mock the passage of time.
The pecs of Marouane Fellaini
From the opening fixture, in which the soaring Belgian nutted home the only goal against an overpowered Manchester United, Fellaini has been one of the Premier League's most influential players. Sprouting out of Everton's midfield like a belligerent oak tree, the midfielder has single-handedly dictated the outcome of games. Has any human since Dolly Parton been more productive with their chest?
The lounge cool of Dimitar Berbatov
Watching Berba has felt like a self-indulgent treat. The Fulham striker has outfoxed defenders and berated teammates for their failure to compute the complex footballing algorithms he sees as self-evident in the opponent's box. The suave Bulgarian cuts the figure of a man impatient for modern football to evolve to his level. A game in which everyone can understand the flow of play as he does. In four dimensions.
Theo Walcott's Movember
In future thesauruses, the Arsenal star's moustache will be listed as the antonym of the adjective “Lalas-ian.” (Also take a look at football’s top 15 ‘staches of all time.)
The most human Premier League race of all time
Nobody is perfect. Least of all the Premier League favorites. Manchester City have won ugly and are yet to identify their most effective system. United have seemed flabby in the middle. Chelsea are blunt up front, uncharacteristically flimsy at the back, and without a manager as I type. With every team vulnerable, the rest of the season promises to be less a sprint, more a limp, to glory.
Sir Ian Darke
It is all too easy to take the amount of football available on American shores for granted. When I first moved to the United States ahead of the 1994 World Cup, television was a footballing wasteland. Then, in the mid-90s we had to satisfy ourselves with a single Premier League broadcast weekly on the then-Fox Sports World. American cable is now a footballing feast supplying access to every significant global game on a daily basis. The result is self-evident. A fast-growing fan base that is passionate, informed and conversant in the storylines of the world's major leagues. ESPN's wordsmith Sir Ian Darke is the symbol of that progress. A purveyor of intelligent accessibility. The sport's poet laureate.
Roger Bennett is a columnist for ESPN and, with Michael Davies, is one of Grantland's "Men In Blazers." Follow him on Twitter: @rogbennett.