Thanksgiving is for football fans.

While this is a holiday of thanks and too much food, it also marks the beginning of the best time of the year for the college football fan: Rivalry week and the end of regular-season play.

My dad and I were both college football fans, Mountaineers even across the border in Ohio. Every year we would stuff ourselves with triple helpings of mashed potatoes, turkey and pies (and leftovers throughout the weekend) and then settle on the couch for football.

We would compare every statistic we had, betting on who was going to dominate the Backyard Brawl, Iron Bowl and most importantly who would be heading to which bowl games in the postseason. No matter the champion, or those in the running, we always rooted for WVU.

This is the first Thanksgiving I have spent without watching football with my dad. Football was still watched. I still wondered who was taking home the ultimate win this season, but my dad wasn’t here. Last year at this time, I was positive he was going to see the next Thanksgiving. Life, like football, holds no promises.

My father passed away on Dec. 20, so he never saw that last WVU game or that last championship game, but it was the games that helped bring us closer together. Football is a family affair. I love the game, the actions and incredible athleticism of the players. I love that fans come together from all different areas of the crazy life given to us to loudly and proudly cheer for their team.

Family is too light of a word for the bond that football fans have with each other and with the team. Not everyone is born a Mountaineer, but we collectively decided that we wanted to die as one, supporting a flagship institution that brings together some of the best people in the world.

Football may not be the most important thing in a chaotic world, but it has the ability to do what seldom can be done — truly connect people. Every father-son pair throwing the ball out back, every mother driving a van full of high school kids to their next practice, every girl kicking field goals and throwing spirals with her brother, every spontaneous pickup game in the park or on the college quad is further proof of this great game’s ability to bring us closer.

There’s always an end to football. Fans and players alike know what it’s like to watch the game clock run out and wish for just a little more time to make that final pass and score that final touchdown. We don’t always get more time, but I know I’ll carry the lessons that football and sharing a passion for the game with my dad taught me until there isn’t another season for me to watch. I’ve never let the end of a season stop my love for the game, just like death doesn’t stop the bonds there. We just take the messy and fantastic plays and get better for the next time.

Follow The Dominion Post sports on Twitter @TheDPSports. Email Joe Smith: jsmith@dominionpost.com.