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Football - A Thanksgiving Tradition

Updated on March 12, 2011


Photo by Jeff Lewis / Sharp Shot
Photo by Jeff Lewis / Sharp Shot

Pictures from Thanksgiving Day Games

Detroit Lions fans celebrating the Thanksgiving Day game.  Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Detroit Lions fans celebrating the Thanksgiving Day game. Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Pictures from NFL Thanksgiving Games Past

On the left, legendary Red Grange.  On the right, Tony Romo. Photo courtesy of
On the left, legendary Red Grange. On the right, Tony Romo. Photo courtesy of

The NFL and Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving Day across the United States. As we sit down at the dinner table, we are thankful for everything God has blessed us with family, health, plenty of food, and football.

The first Thanksgiving NFL games started on November 25, 1920, with the likes of the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, and the Decatur Staleys. That day saw six games involving NFL teams. Beginning in 1934, the Thanksgiving Day games included the Detroit Lions playing the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers playing the Chicago Cardinals, and the New York Giants playing the defunct Brooklyn Dodgers Football team.

The Detroit Lions first hosted the Thanksgiving Day game in 1934. The effort to host a game on Thanksgiving Day was spearheaded by then owner, George A. Richards. Richards purchased the Lions one year earlier and moved them from Portsmouth, Ohio to Detroit. Richards's scheduling of the game involved plenty of risks. The Detroit Tigers baseball team controlled the headlines. Hosting the Thanksgiving Day game was one way the Lions could attract fans. The first game in 1934 involving the Bears and Lions sold 26,000 tickets and could have hosted a crowd of 50,000.

George Richards was very innovatative and used his connections in the radio business to have the Bears/Lions game broadcast on NBC Radio. Ninety-four stations throughout the country broadcasted the game.

There was a gap between 1939 and 1944, where the Lions did not host the game due to World War II. Since 1945, the Lions have consecutively hosted the game. The Lions will face off against their division rival, the Green Bay Packers today.

In 1960, the AFL scheduled a Thanksgiving Day contest. The teams varied with the likes of the New York Titans/Jets, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans, and San Diego Chargers.

In 1966, the NFL included the Dallas Cowboys to host a Thanksgiving Day game. The Cowboys have hosted a game on Thanksgiving Day every year except 1975 and 1977. Since 1978, the Cowboys have consecutively hosted a game. This year, the Cowboys will take on the Oakland Raiders.

Beginning in 2006, the Thanksgiving Day game included a third game due to the creation of the NFL Network. The participatants in the third game of the day have varied each year. This year's matchup will feature the New York Giants at the Denver Broncos.

NFL Commissioner Roger Godell is looking into changing the hosts of Thanksgiving Day game. Fans are hoping the NFL will break with tradition and award the game to more deserving teams. The Lions have been awful over the last several years especially last season when they became the first NFL team to have an 0-16 season.

Whatever the NFL does, football is a major part of the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Family sit around the dinner table and watch the game. Maybe later in the day, families go outside weather permitting and play football to cure the turkey hangover. We are society that loves our football and being together with each other on Thanksgiving Day.

 The 2010 Thanksgiving matchups feature the New England Patriots vs. the Detroit Lions at 11:30AM, the New Orleans Saints vs. the Dallas Cowboys at 3:15PM, and the Cincinnati Bengals vs. the New York Jets at 7:20PM.  Going into the season, we thought these would be some good matchups.  Well, no matter what, we will sit down before and after our meal to watch the games because it is football on Thanksgiving Day.


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