What’s 45 and turns sane men into crazy boys? The Ruth Sabin Turkey Bowl

WNLP story and photos by Mike Kellems

45 years. That’s how long La Porte’s famous — or rather, should we say infamous — Turkey Bowl football game has been played.

On Thanksgiving Day a group of hardscrabble, physically fit, tough, athletic-minded individuals stayed at home and watched football on TV while a bunch of crazed, physically inferior and bone-weary friends gathered at the old Ruth Sabin Home for a spirited game of football.

Pat Zoll, who has participated for decades, acted as Football Commissioner. Pat’s judgment was final with the exception of one touchdown that was confirmed by yours truly and my trusty Nikon.

The game drew curious mix of spectators, mostly neighbors, who’ve enjoyed the annual tradition. A really neat part of the game was watching a few father/son teams play. And while there isn’t any proof, I suspect there was a ringer brought in to play; a guy made a spectacular interception in the end zone and robbed Mark Roule of a well-deserved touchdown. This guy was too quick, too athletic and too successful to be from La Porte!

Despite all of the misgivings, it’s obvious to this cub reporter that a fantastic time was had by all and another game goes down in the annals of time. Bring on the aspirin and the Bio Freeze… I strongly suspect there will be a lot of appointments made today with the area’s chiropractors!

Football Commissioner Pat Zoll lays down the rules before the game.


Time out for review: Even the WNLP photographer got into the action! This photo was used for an “official” replay to show that the ball broke the plane and a touchdown was scored!

Al Barcus, the most senior member of the players and a Turkey Bowl veteran, sprints toward the end zone.


Matt Boardman (orange cap) played college ball at Indiana State. He hasn’t forgotten how to intimidate his opponents.

It’s a rare occurrence in football these days — a tree time out. Players look to the branches for the ball. (And we have a Jay Cutler sighting.)

Casual game? The expressions on these guys’ faces say differently.

The Turkey Bowl crew. Ken Shuttleworth, who played in the first one 45 years ago, is front and center. Come on out next Thanksgiving Day to join in this great tradition!

3 Responses to “What’s 45 and turns sane men into crazy boys? The Ruth Sabin Turkey Bowl”

  1. Matt Boardman

    Nov 29. 2019

    Great photos Mike! No better way to start Thanksgiving Day by giving thanks for a (reasonably) strong body, fresh air, and friends. Bonus: exercise=extra pumpkin pie!

    Reply to this comment
    • Lisa Shaughnessy

      Nov 29. 2019

      Thanks so very much for sharing and showcasing this event! I’m the very proud mama of the awesome young man in red!!! James Harris!!!

      Terrific job, Jim!!!

      Reply to this comment
  2. BrokenHip

    Nov 29. 2019

    I remember a young buck named Garrett or Gman playing this game roughly 20-25 years ago. Was truely a legend back then.

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