Thanksgiving Day in the United States is synonymous with family, food, and football. The National Football League (NFL) has been a significant part of this tradition, with games played on Thanksgiving Day since its inception in 1920. This blog post will delve into the historical context of these games, their impact on teams and players, and the fan traditions that have evolved around them.
The concept of American football games being played on Thanksgiving Day dates back to 1876, shortly after the game had been invented. It was a day that most people had off from work, making it an ideal time for football games. The NFL adopted this tradition, and since 1934, the Detroit Lions have hosted a game on Thanksgiving Day. The Dallas Cowboys joined this tradition in 1966, and since 2006, a third prime time game has also been played on Thanksgiving.
The tradition of the Lions playing on Thanksgiving started as a publicity stunt by George A. Richards, a local radio executive who had purchased the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans and moved the team to Detroit. Richards scheduled a game on Thanksgiving Day to attract fans during the team's first season.
The Dallas Cowboys started their Thanksgiving tradition for similar reasons. In the 1960s, the NFL was looking for another team to commit to playing on Thanksgiving. Dallas Cowboys GM Tex Schramm believed the publicity of playing on Thanksgiving would be good for his struggling team.
Impact on Teams and Players
The Thanksgiving Day games have had a significant impact on the teams and players involved. For the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, these games have become a cherished tradition. However, the performance of these teams on Thanksgiving has varied. The Lions have a record of 37-44-2 all-time on Thanksgiving, while the Cowboys have a record of 32-22-1 all-time.
The Thanksgiving games have also provided a platform for players to showcase their skills to a national audience. For example, in 2008, quarterback Tony Romo led the Dallas Cowboys to a convincing 34-9 win over the Seattle Seahawks by throwing for 331 yards and 3 TDs.
For fans, the NFL's Thanksgiving Day games have become an integral part of the holiday. Watching the NFL is right there with being with family, carving the turkey, and slicing the pumpkin pie when it comes to traditions on this special holiday in November each year. The Cowboys' Thanksgiving game has regularly been the most-watched NFL regular season telecast each year, with the Lions' Thanksgiving game usually in the top five
The NFL's Thanksgiving Day games have become a significant part of the holiday tradition in the United States. They provide a historical link to the early days of football, impact the teams and players involved, and have led to unique fan traditions. As we look forward to future Thanksgiving Days, we can expect the NFL to continue to be a central part of the celebration.