The National Football League (NFL) has hosted some iconic games on Thanksgiving Day, including the infamous “Butt Fumble” in 2012 and “Leon Lett’s blunder” in 1993.
These games have produced some of the most memorable moments in NFL history, including Clint Longley leading a comeback for the Cowboys in 1974 and Barry Sanders being featured on national television.
Since the beginning of the league in 1920 (there were six games that first season! ), the National Football League has made it a tradition to play games on Thanksgiving.
This season will feature 3 games: the Detroit Lions will play host to the Buffalo Bills at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time (ET), CBS; the Dallas Cowboys will play host to the New York Giants at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time (ET), FOX; and the Minnesota Vikings will play host to the New England Patriots at 8:20 p.m. Eastern Time (ET), NBC.
Since 2006, there has been a third prime-time game that takes place on Thanksgiving day. This game features teams other than the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions, who each play one of their traditional Thanksgiving home games.
Why do the Lions play on Thanksgiving every year?
Thanksgiving isn’t complete without a Lions loss. The Lions have lost five straight Thanksgiving Day games and are 37-43-2 all-time.
You can blame George A. Richards for the Lions’ Thanksgiving games. In 1934, Richards transferred the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans to Detroit and renamed them the Lions (inspired by local baseball team, the Tigers).
While the NFL has always played on Thanksgiving, Richards took it to a new level. Radio executive Richards leveraged his connections to arrange a deal for NBC to air a Thanksgiving game on its 94-station network.
Richards persuaded Chicago Bears owner/coach George Halas to be the Lions’ opponent, saying the game would boost the NFL’s profile. The game was a huge success, with a Detroit-record crowd and listeners across the U.S. An American custom was born.
The Lions have played on Thanksgiving every year since 1934, except during World War II (1939-1944). In 1953, the Lions beat the Packers on national TV to capture their second straight NFL title.
The Lions won their first NFL title a year after that Thanksgiving Day contest. Detroit won 3 more championships in the 1950s before enduring a title drought.
Despite the Lions’ lack of success, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell briefly suggested changing the Thanksgiving Day schedule in 2009.
Why do Cowboys always play on Thanksgiving?
Around this time in the 1960s, the National Football League had already begun its meteoric rise to prominence as a cultural phenomenon.
In 1966, TV networks collaborated with the NFL to schedule two Thanksgiving Day games in order to better cater to viewers’ insatiable cravings for athletic events.
Tex Schramm, president of the Dallas Cowboys, was smart to offer up his team for a Thanksgiving game on the condition that the city of Dallas would serve as the annual host
This choice, together with the team’s consistent success from the mid-1960s through the 1980s, was a major factor in the formation of the “America’s Team” label.
With the exception of the 1975 and 1977 seasons, when the St. Louis Cardinals hosted Thanksgiving Day games, the Cowboys have hosted a Thanksgiving game every year since 1966.
This game is always played after the Detroit Lions’ traditional game. The Cowboys, in contrast to the Lions, have a winning record on Thanksgiving (31-22-1).