Dallas Cowboys/Detroit Lions: Thanksgiving Game History

The NFL’s first season was played in the 1920s. During that time, there were six games scheduled to take place on Thanksgiving. Since then, it has become the norm to schedule games on Thanksgiving (Find Thanksgiving NFL Picks at MyBookie).

Thanksgiving is an American holiday of great importance. And because the NFL is such a patriotically driven league, emphasizing American values whenever possible, it is only natural for Thanksgiving to play such a critical role in the NFL.

Back in the 1920s, you had teams like the Akron Pros and the Dayton Triangles winning their Thanksgiving games. Of course, very little about the details of those games has survived; you will be hard-pressed to find someone that can actually tell you who performed the halftime concert if there was indeed such a thing.

Today, everyone takes these things for granted, as they do everything else. Thanksgiving in the NFL has undergone a transformation over the decades, though its presence in the league has never been in jeopardy.

This year, the Detroit Lions will be in the early game, with the Dallas Cowboys coming after. Some people might be wondering how these two teams became such staples of Thanksgiving in the NFL.

The Lions have an especially deep-rooted connection to the tradition of Thanksgiving. In fact, their holiday tradition is older than that of the majority of current NFL franchises (24 out of 32). Looking at the Lions, you can trace their Thanksgiving tradition back as far as 1934.

It was the team’s first owner, G.A. Richards that pushed the tradition; in fact, having bought the team in 1934, he is the one that came up with the whole idea. He left Detroit and moved the Lions to Portsmouth.

The reasons were mostly financial. The Lions saw notable success in Detroit but the attendance wasn’t that impressive, so the move was initiated. Not long after that, a game against the Chicago Bears was scheduled, and that game date so happened to fall on Thanksgiving.

It took some effort to convince the NBC Radio Network to broadcast the game; from that point on, the Lions have been a part of the NFL Thanksgiving tradition. It is a testament to the NFL’s respect for tradition that they have allowed the Lions to maintain their place in the holiday schedule.

One cannot forget the 2008 and 2009 seasons during which rumors arose suggesting that the Lions might give up their Thanksgiving game; considering the struggles they were encountering on the field, the decision would have made sense, thought the NFL assured the Lions their place in the Thanksgiving schedule.

Unlike the Lions, the Cowboys took a while to come to the Thanksgiving party. It took the efforts of former General manager Tex Schramm to inject the holiday tradition into the team.

Apparently, Tex saw Thanksgiving as an opportunity to have his squad play in front of a national audience every season; he wanted to boost the team’s exposure and the Thanksgiving game provided the answer. When an opportunity to play a Thanksgiving game in 1966 arose, the Cowboys jumped at the chance.

Of course, exposure isn’t a problem the Cowboys have anymore. That hasn’t stopped them from pursuing the tradition over the decades.