The Turkey Bowl: a longstanding Thanksgiving tradition, a cross between a formal officiated football game and a free-for-all pickup game.
To create a rewarding and memorable Turkey Bowl experience, your bowl commissioner must enforce a set of clearly defined rules and regulations. Otherwise, the game can quickly spiral into pushing, shoving and tension-filled disputes over penalty calls.
There’s no arguing at the Turkey Bowl. Save that for after the family dinner. Read up on the most important Turkey Bowl rules and guidelines, below.
1. Field Selection and Dimensions
Locate a field approximately 50 yards long and 25 yards wide. Allot 5 to 7 yards for each end zone. Choose a flat patch of grass with a soft surface for when your clumsy cousin Carl takes out your legs and sends you tumbling to the ground. Depending on your level of grittiness, a muddy field could be your best option.
The kicking team kicks or throws the ball (throw-off?) from its own territory, approximately one-quarter of the length of the field, measured from the back of the end zone.
Standard offside rules apply to the kickoff, meaning members of the kicking team must remain behind the kicker (or thrower) until the ball is released. The ball is live after traveling 10 yards. Fair catches are permitted to protect the returner from the dreaded “Sky Ball.”
3. Two-Hand Touch
A ball carrier is ruled down by contact when touched with two hands above the waist. Both hands must touch simultaneously. Touches below the waist or at the feet do not constitute a takedown.
Two defenders each placing one hand on the ball carrier does not constitute a takedown.
If a ball carrier is touched by one hand and falls to the ground, he or she is considered down by contact. If a runner goes to the ground without being touched, he/she is not ruled down (i.e., NFL down-by-contact rules apply).
4. First Downs
There are two options for awarding first downs:
i. Two completions for a first down
The offensive team is awarded a first down if it completes two passes within their four allotted downs. Forward passes of any yardage apply.
ii. Crossing midfield for a first down
Midfield is marked using a cone, stick or other marker. The offensive team is awarded a first down when it crosses this marker.
5. Pass Rush
The defensive team can blitz the passer once every four downs. Once a first down is gained, a new blitz is awarded.
When not blitzing, the defense must count to “five Mississippi” before crossing the line of scrimmage to rush the passer. The count must be made out loud so everyone can hear. All syllables must be clearly pronounced.
Once the ball is handed off, pitched or thrown laterally in the backfield, the defense can cross the line of scrimmage to pursue the ball.
Our expert staff recommends playing to 40 points, with halftime occurring when a team reaches 20.
Teams are awarded the usual six points for a touchdown. Extra points consist of two-point conversions from the 3-yard line. If a field goal post is nearby, teams can kick for an extra point. The kick will be an unchallenged attempt from the 10-yard line.
Finally, field goal attempts are prohibited, which means you’re going for it on fourth down.
No gizzards, no glory.