As I sat back and started to watch the New England Patriots dismantle the New York Jets at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, I felt a shudder inside me as I thought of all those people who already had been on line for eight, 12, 28 hours (and more) in order to grab the biggest bargains for “Pre-Black-Friday,” which started for some retailers (and, of course, their least senior employees and their families) at the same time as the kickoff of the final NFL Game on Thanksgiving Day — which I believe is the first time that Black Friday has started on Thanksgiving Thursday.

The thing is…I do get it. “Stuff” is expensive these days. But, despite the stampedes and actual trampling of people of previous “Black Fridays,” which at least still started on…um….Friday, Wal-Mart, Target and many other major retailers still decided that getting masses of people to wait on line even earlier on this uniquely American holiday was a really good idea.

I also understand that Thanksgiving isn’t a religious holiday, but for most blue collar and even upper middle class working people, it’s one of precious few additional days off from work to be with their families and/or friends that isn’t a Monday. I can understand how Black Friday became a holiday tradition — there aren’t any NFL and precious few college games on the Friday after Turkey Day — but, in one man’s opinion, “Black Thursday” is a real turkey (sorry, but a really bad idea deserves a really bad pun).

Here’s the only way I can see Black Thursday working for anyone — and even in this scenario, I don’t see how “sleeping out” works for anyone making more than $40,000 or $50,000 a year…at all.

Let’s say, for whatever reason, that you can’t be with your family for T-Day anyway and you’re lucky enough to “only” wait on line for 12 hours to save an extra $300 off that 55-inch flat-screen TV. If you make $15 an hour, you got to save $120 more than what your time was worth if you were working, instead of standing or sitting on a line for the same period of time.

But, what if once you get inside, the item you waited all that time for was already sold out because some “evil genius” figured out how to gather the “tickets” the retailers give out in order to prevent future stampedes and re-sell the chances to buy those big-ticket Black Friday electronics discounts to now-even-more desperate shoppers for $30-$50 each? Are you just as happy now that your “profit” on the item is only $70-$90?

I have an idea for these “big box” retailers — many of whom recently claimed they, of all companies in the U.S., can’t afford to pay their fair share of health insurance costs for their full-time employees, so they are converting thousands of employees each to part-time to avoid having to pay for them.

Instead of making those low-level employees who need their jobs so badly that they have no choice but to come in to work — whether they have families they’re leaving behind on Thanksgiving or not — how about making “Black Thursday” an on-line shopping holiday only? On-line ordering is available 24-7 for most of these retailers anyway — and wouldn’t that make it easier for everyone — retail employees and everyone else — to sit down with their family members and click their way to buying the items they want and need most? And, if there’s a finite number of those items made available on Black Thursday, it would still give shoppers impetus to get out of the house for Black Friday. Wouldn’t it?

I had to work Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, putting this publication to bed, but I did spend at least a little bit of time at both large retailers and at some of our wonderful local small businesses over the weekend and perhaps the best news for me all weekend were the crowds in the parking lots at not only the Shops at Wiregrass, but also at the Cross Creek Center and the Shoppes at Amberly. There’s no doubt the economy is still a problem…still isn’t where any of us wants it to be…but I definitely do see signs of an uptick here.


Saying Goodbye To The ‘Macho Man’

The other sad thing that happened for me on Thanksgiving this year was the passing of boxing great Hector “Macho” Camacho, a few days after he was shot in the face and shoulder in Puerto Rico. Camacho, known for his uncanny hand and foot speed and surprising power, was one of the best known, most flamboyant of all boxing stars, during the second “Golden Era” of the sport which began with the birth of ESPN and HBO in the late 1970s.

Camacho won world titles in seven weight classes between 1983 and 2011in a career that saw him twice beat the great Roberto Duran and then end the career of the great Sugar Ray Leonard.

I met the Macho Man in 1984, when I was the 25-year-old assistant editor of The Ring boxing magazine and he already had won his first world boxing championship at age 21.

Camacho was the big “hit” of the day when he showed up for the “Writers vs. The Fighters” softball game with his signature  license-plate-sized “Macho” gold chain (photo) and wearing a loin cloth bathing suit. He proudly proclaimed that, “All the women love me” as he took his turn at bat and told me that it didn’t matter if he got a hit before swatting a line drive to left because, “I’m all business in the ring, but I’m just having fun here today.”

Like many pro boxers before him and since, Hector Camacho had some legal issues after his career ended, but he was, pound-for-pound, one of the best fighters of all time and one of the most renowned figures in sports history. RIP.

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