The pumpkin pie was unbelievably good.

The cranberry sauce was tangy, the mashed potatoes fluffy and the yams yammy. But something was wrong.

It wasn’t the stuffing, of which there were two varieties. The gravy was flowing in rivulets of brown ooze, so it wasn’t that either. And it couldn’t have been the sauerkraut, a Maryland feast tradition I particularly enjoy.

The problem was the turkey.

No, not the one on the table. My uncle did a great job with that. He even used a computerized thermometer of some sort. The turkey on TV was the problem.

It wasn’t brown. It wasn’t plump. It wasn’t even edible. Worst of all, it only had two legs. Without John Madden and his six-legged Franken-bird, Thanksgiving football just wasn’t filling.

Joe Buck tried, through the snickering of Cris Collinsworth and Troy Aikman, to give away Fox’s replacement trophy with an air of dignity. But it just couldn’t be done. Without Madden’s mannerisms, charisma and mutated meat, the whole affair was forced. Emmitt Smith, whose 144 yards rushing earned him the chrome chicken, generously offered to donate the “award” to his children’s play room, instead of his trophy case.

He should throw it away. Traditions like the turkey leg award Madden doled out to Thanksgiving Day’s best gridiron performer can’t be strategized or marketed. They just have to happen.

I remember watching in 1990 when Madden gave out the award for the first time. Back then, his turkey still had only two legs, one of which was awarded to Smith. The tradition built from there, adding legs and prestige to the turkey-trophy as the years went on. But it wasn’t the bird that mattered. Madden’s gregarious nature made the whole thing work. That’s why Fox’s attempt to give away the “Galloping Gobbler” was such a flop. Without Madden to draw little yellow circles all over the screen diagramming the way the bird should be carved, the ceremony was as hollow as the presentation of Phil Simms’ all-Iron award.

But the holiday week didn’t slip by without at least a little turkey talk from Madden. He got his chance three days before Turkey Day on Monday Night Football, where he demonstrated to the nation the magic of the turducken. For those of you who don’t know — as I didn’t before the broadcast — a turducken is a boneless chicken stuffed inside a boneless duck stuffed inside a boneless turkey. After explaining the makeup of the beast, Madden carved the trinity fowl with his BARE HANDS. Al Michaels’ near-stroke at the site of his mitts covered in grease, stuffing and three kinds of bird made the event a classic Madden moment.

As hilarious as the incident may have been, it didn’t happen on Turkey Day. Thus, I was left on Thursday to watch Buck, Aikman and Collinsworth try to introduce an award they realized was a crude imitation of the big man’s. The result was an over-stuffed, under-satisfied stanza of football watching.

My only consolation was dessert.

Luckily, the pumpkin pie was unbelievably good.

Random Thoughts: Week 13

Dallas 27, Washington 20: Those Redskins’ throwback uniforms look an awful lot like Florida State’s.

New England 20, Detroit 12: Oh, those throwbacks. Patriots’ snapping Minuteman helmets sure are snazzy.

Buffalo 38, Miami 21: When the forecast calls for snow, the Bills call for victory.

Baltimore 27, Cincinnati 23: Ok, whoever cursed the Bengals, cut it out. It just isn’t funny anymore.

Green Bay 30, Chicago 20: Green Bay beats the pack into the playoffs.

Pittsburgh 25, Jacksonville 23: Nothing like the prospect of another stint on the bench to get Kordell going.

Kansas City 49, Arizona 0: KC offense: You mean we didn’t need to get 40 to win?

Atlanta 30, Minnesota 24: MVP: Michael Vick Power.

Tennessee 32, N.Y. Giants 29: Not-Scared-McNair willing Titans toward post season.

Carolina 13, Cleveland 6: In the words of the bald one: “This game is boring.”

Philadelphia 10, St. Louis 3: Third string QB? No problem. Eagles win with D, and D alone.

San Francisco 31, Seattle 24: Hasselbeck tries to climb to hero, ends up right back at zero.

Indianapolis 19, Houston 3: Yo! NFL! How ’bout some dap for Marvin Harrison? He’s on pace to break the single season receptions mark, after all.

San Diego 30, Denver 27: LaDanian Tomlinson keeps the Bolts in the hunt.

Monday Night Preview: N.Y. Jets at Oakland

These two teams played back to back games at the end of last season, with Oakland winning the game that really counted. Though Chad Pennington is perhaps the NFL’s hottest QB right now, the Raiders should get the W. Oakland 34, N.Y. Jets 28.