On Thanksgiving Day on the Lake Braddock field, Paul Sidhu watched his son, Sukhdev, and a nephew play their traditional Thanksgiving Day football game.
"This is the American way. My son played at Lake Braddock. He's here," Sidhu said, walking along the sidelines as friends, brothers and cousins mixed it up out on the field. Everyone on the lower field at the school was of Indian or Pakistani descent.
Over in the parking lot, other recent graduates were just arriving to carry on their tradition, as a few people from Lake Braddock's Class of '90 were done with their traditional football game and headed home.
Steve Finnera, Class of 2001 at Lake Braddock, was on auto pilot. On Thanksgiving, the day always starts on the field.
"Everyone knows there's a game," Finnera said. "Last year, we had about 35-40 people."
"For a lot of us, it's a given," said Jim Borell, another 2001 graduate.
Peter Ouk manned the cell phone, rounding up more players. As the years pass, enthusiasm for playing dwindles.
"Everyone's sleeping," Ouk said, before heading to the upper field to join some players that were tossing the ball around, waiting for more people to show up.
Class of '90 graduates Vance Wiesen and John Kraus were putting away their cleats from a flag football game they just finished. Opting for flag instead of tackle, they remembered last year when they played the 2001 graduates.
"We played tackle last year," Wiesen said. "We almost died."
"They were wearing jerseys still," Kraus said.
ON THE LOWER FIELD, the play continued, and as people were hitting the turf, some were slow getting up. It was all in the name of tradition that crossed nationality boundaries.
"It's a tradition we've been doing for 10 years. We're all like family," said Punu Nagra.
Jeb Stuart High School graduate Amit Anand was playing with six cousins and four brothers, while fellow Stuart graduate Meet Gill carried the ball into the end zone more than once.
"I scored three already. It is tradition, same place, same guys. As you can see, we're from different countries. You don't get this chance often," Gill said.
The game on the upper field was slow to get started. People weren't showing up as fast as they had in the past, so those who were there looked to join the game on the lower field. They were given the "tradition" line for a reason they couldn't join the game, but timing was also a factor. The game on the lower field was being played, while the other guys were just arriving. It may have been the tightly knit, ethnic backgrounds as well.
Kellen Meckelson, Lake Braddock Class of 2001, sat in the back of the truck nursing a football injury he received this year at Salisbury University, causing him to miss the second half of the college football season as well as the traditional Thanksgiving game at Lake Braddock. He watched the guys, who switched to a no-rush, self-hiking quarterback format from lack of players.
"It used to be the current football team played the alumni," Meckelson said. "Those are the ones that are more fun. It's bragging rights for the entire year. This is the first year I haven't played."
The players on the upper field yelled to the players on the lower field about joining the games, but there wasn't any reaction. Meckelson saw the other game last year as well.
"They always want, like, their game. We tried to play with them today, but they didn't want to," he said.
IT WAS A COLD MORNING, and Sidhu fulfilled his part of the tradition by showing up to watch friends and family play. He walked toward the parking lot, looking forward to another part of a traditional Thanksgiving. He followed the American custom.
"Turkey, food, beer and football," he said.
Only one thing could make it complete.
"Redskins, it would be really good if they win," he said.
The Washington Redskins followed tradition as well. They haven't won on Thanksgiving Day for years, and they lost again to the Dallas Cowboys, 27-20.