History of The Big Turkey

Updated Through 2012


The Big Turkey was developed in 1984 to provide entertainment and diversion over the Thanksgiving weekend.  The program was designed to help young people with the variety of challenges faced at this time of the year:

In the early days, contributions to The Big Turkey could be as low as $1, but with the significant diplomatic efforts of many of the charter Turkeys, we were eventually able to move Jim Hall off of that number.  Minimum contributions continued to move up, to the $25 minimum in use today.  The total pool stayed below $500 until 1990, and topped $1,000 for the first time in 1994.  The 2012 pool was over $17,000.

As with most things, The Big Turkey has had to cope with change over the years.  The untimely death of our original banker, Trigger Spinutto, was due to the now-legendary Seven Team Parlay of '98 - as a result, Trigger was unable to pay year-end bonuses to his button men, who reacted in an all too predictable fashion.  New investment bankers with more substantial financial backing were put in place.  In addition, the call-in system for up-to-the minute Big Turkey results was replaced by the more effective Internet posting of progress on a real-time basis.  However, new and ominous dangers have arisen, as Congress has enacted legislation and regulation that would make Internet betting illegal.  I said illegal - not impossible.  And don't ask any more questions.

In 2001, The Big Turkey foolishly let the Turkey inmates take over the asylum.  Faced with a 50% loss, the Turkeys launched a massive campaign to bet the entire farm on the Monday night game - which, of course, was a loser, and we lost more money than the gross national product of Afghanistan.  As important as the overwhelming 29-2 vote in favor of this idiocy were the all-important "Jim" votes - the two no votes came from Diamond Jim (Cummings) and Tanzanite Jim (Dillavou), while there was a strong vote in favor from Cheapass Jim (Hall) - the Jim votes left the Big Turkey dazed and confused, and vulnerable to the whims of the masses.

In 2003, after a mildly poor start, the Turkeys went on a 21-9 tear on Saturday and Sunday to come up big winners.  Most notable, though, was that the Hens were a dazzling 9-1 on those days (and the lone loss was because Barney Sellyei went to her brothers for advice).  This resulted in the Skirts Parlay, a five-team winner that paid $1,260 on a $50 bet.  The '03 Big Turkey was the second most successful of all time, thanks to the distaffers.

The 2004 Big Turkey was another storybook finish - down nearly $2,000 at the end of Saturday action, the Turkeys finished with a 12-3 run that resulted in a $5,000 comeback.  Included was another incredible performance from the Hens - they went 7-0 on Sunday and Monday, capped by Owl Lawrence picking against her alma mater, and against the sage advice of our self-designated expert Turkeys, all of whom shut up and got rich when Rice was drubbed by 37 points.

In 2012, the Turkeys broke a five-year losing streak, the longest ever.

For several years, the concluding paragraph of this History page has included with following: 

What does the future hold?  Hard to say at this point.  Another bad year may cause Turkeys to re-think their level of participation.  The agony we deal with when a paid-off zebra throws a late flag for holding that wipes out a covering touchdown can be enormous.  And of course there's the slightly criminalized nature of these activities. 

In 2013, it happened.