A suburban Turkey Bowl that has stood the test of time

  • The 2021 Casey Turkey Bowl was the first celebration without one of the original members of Uncle Al's Annual Turkey Bowl, as it was the first without Bob Casey's wife, Rosemary. Tim Drevline described her as "the most positive person I've met."

    The 2021 Casey Turkey Bowl was the first celebration without one of the original members of Uncle Al's Annual Turkey Bowl, as it was the first without Bob Casey's wife, Rosemary. Tim Drevline described her as "the most positive person I've met." Courtesy of Tim Drevline

  • The Turkey Bowl has been played at many different locations since its inception in Glencoe in 1961 including Highland Park and Deerfield. Since 1997, the Casey Turkey Bowl has been played by Drevline's family's home in Grayslake.

    The Turkey Bowl has been played at many different locations since its inception in Glencoe in 1961 including Highland Park and Deerfield. Since 1997, the Casey Turkey Bowl has been played by Drevline's family's home in Grayslake. Courtesy of Tim Drevline

  • The original Uncle Al's Turkey Bowl banner, which was painted the night before Thanksgiving Day in 1961. It has since been replaced with a "Wings vs Legs" chalkboard where the family can write in the year each Thanksgiving for pictures.

    The original Uncle Al's Turkey Bowl banner, which was painted the night before Thanksgiving Day in 1961. It has since been replaced with a "Wings vs Legs" chalkboard where the family can write in the year each Thanksgiving for pictures. Courtesy of Tim Drevline

  • Every year after Thanksgiving dinner, the family doles out individual MVP trophies from the morning football game. The kids get to engrave their names into each trophy and hold onto it for a year until next Thanksgiving.

    Every year after Thanksgiving dinner, the family doles out individual MVP trophies from the morning football game. The kids get to engrave their names into each trophy and hold onto it for a year until next Thanksgiving. Courtesy of Tim Drevline

  • Casey Turkey Bowl

    Casey Turkey Bowl Courtesy of Tim Drevline

 
By Kyle Leverone
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 11/24/2022 8:07 PM

"Uncle Al's Annual Turkey Bowl: Wings vs Legs."

The first Casey family Turkey Bowl, which started in 1961, means a whole lot to those who are involved.

 

"I'm sure this will go on for another 60 years," Tim Drevline said.

Drevline was first introduced to the tradition in 1992 when he started dating Jenn Casey, but the game and the award ceremony and the dance party and the whole shabang started 31 years before in 1961.

"Uncle Al" Fellinger was the one who started it. One random Thanksgiving, he took his sons, a couple nephews and his brother-in-law Bob Casey out to a local field in Glencoe and started the tradition there: Wings versus Legs. He had a giant banner painted with the phrase and soon had an MVP trophy made.

In 1975, Bob Casey died suddenly at 50 from a heart attack

He was survived by his wife Rosemary.

By 1982, Rosemary was a single mother to 7 kids, including Jenn. The family lost a son, Sean, to a drunk driver at 19 that year.

"She was the most positive person I've met," Drevline said of Rosemary.

The Turkey Bowl has stood through all the family tragedies, and that makes it all the more special.

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"When I met my wife," Drevline said, "on our first date, she was telling me how she lost her dad and lost her brother. And then I met her mother and her brothers and sisters, I was just amazed how positive and happy they were because they have every reason to be bitter."

"So, I think it's helped me in my life to kind of count your blessings a little bit more that way."

The game happens at 10 a.m. every Thanksgiving.

Well it's scheduled for 10, it normally starts about 45 minutes later, as Drevline describes the Casey family living on Irish time.

It consists of a few male family members in their 50s, and then nieces and nephews in their 20s and 30s, and then a slew of others.

It started in Glencoe, moved to Highland Park, then to Deerfield, and then to Grayslake in 1997 after Drevline and Jenn Casey got married.

It is currently played at a field behind St. Gilbert Parish in Grayslake.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If you're thinking this sounds like a very serious football game, it's not. Drevline usually wakes up around 8 a.m. to set up cones and a firepit, and during the game, the cones are spread out about 20 yards apart, representing a first down. A t-shirt is used for the line of scrimmage.

"Sometimes you can't remember the score," Drevline said. "We've had plenty of games that have ended in ties."

While this may be true, either team has the perfect tie-breaking play readily available with some of the younger members of the family.

"Special! Special!" the team will call out. "That means one of the littlest guys is going to get the ball, and they're magically going to score a touchdown," Drevline explained. "Yeah, it's a bit of a cheat code."

After the game, the Drevlines hold brunch at their house, and everybody winds down for a couple of hours in between the game and the evening festivities.

Claudia (another of the seven Casey kids) and Steve Hippel then host dinner in Lake Forest

Drevline estimates that there are about 60 people in attendance, and "to fulfill all Irish stereotypes, they're loud, they're merry," he said.

"The Turkey Bowl starts at 10 in the morning and finishes about 2 in the morning after the trophy presentation."

As loud as they might be, the one thing you can count on quieting down an Irish Catholic family is prayer. It wouldn't be appropriate to celebrate such a long-standing tradition without a prayer of thanksgiving and a toast to those who are no longer with the family. Matriarch Rosemary Casey died at 91 in summer 2021.

This year will be the second Turkey Bowl without her.

After dinner, Tim and Chris Casey, who Drevline says should be professional comedians, stand up and dole out the awards. There is an overall MVP, Offensive and Defensive MVPs and an ever-so important Sportsmanship Award.

"Magically, the MVPs seem to be perfectly distributed amongst all the nephews and nieces," Drevline said.

The dance party ends the night with loud music and dancing out whatever sort of energy the family members might have left.

It's a whole day affair, and it's got a little something for everyone. The younger kids are the most into the football game and the awards ceremony, as they get to have their names engraved on the trophies and hold onto them for a year, and the parents get to watch their kids' excitement.

The only concern about the event these days is that "not enough people are having enough kids," Drevline said. "We gotta get that going."

It's difficult to find many long-standing traditions that are as longer-standing than this one.

Heck even the Super Bowl is younger than the Casey Family Turkey Bowl tradition.

Throughout the years, it's seen 13 different United States presidents, international wars, drastic social change, and many more Bob Dylan albums. It celebrated its 61st anniversary Thursday, but surely, there will be many more celebrations to come.

"I guarantee this will go on forever because my kids would never let it go," Drevline said. "I would say it's their favorite day of the year."

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