The Paw Print

The Paw Print

The Paw Print

History of Thanksgiving Football


Watching football after the Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the most popular traditions across the country, but how did this tradition start, and why do the same teams play on Thanksgiving every year?

The first ever Thanksgiving game ever is said to be held in 1869 between Young America Cricket Club and the Germantown Cricket Club just a few weeks after Rutgers vs Princeton which is considered to be the first football game ever. Then Yale and Princeton would continue this tradition playing each other on Thanksgiving from 1876-1887. Starting in 1888 Boston Latin School and English High School of Boston started playing each other at Harvard’s stadium still being played on Thanksgiving to this day.

The first professional game on Thanksgiving took place in 1934. The decision was made by owner George A. Richards gave LionsĀ  publicity for their first season in Detroit because of the gaining popularity of the Detroit Tigers in the newspapers. The game which took place at University of Detroit’s stadium had a sell out crowd of 26,000 people which sold out two weeks in advance. Richards also owned a radio company that worked with NBC Blue Network, Richards was able to strike a deal that allowed the game to be broadcasted to 94 stations around the country. Since then the Lions have hosted a Thanksgiving game normally against a division opponent.

In 1966 the Cowboys general-manager Tex Schramm signed up Dallas for a game to boost publicity similar to the Lions, due to the teams struggles that season. The NFL was worried that there wouldn’t be many fans in attendance due the teams struggles, but the teams franchise record for attendance was broken with 80,259 fans attending the game. Ever since the Cowboys joined the Lions hosting a game on Thanksgiving every year normally playing against a division opponent except in 1975 and 1977. In those years the NFL gave to the then St. Louis Cardinals now Arizona Cardinals trying to gain national attention, but the Cardinals lost both games resulting in the NFL giving the games back to the Cowboys. Then in 2006 the NFL added a third game to join the Cowboys and Lions with the game normally being a divisional game like the Lions and Cowboys. Having the Lions at 12:30, Cowboys at 4:30, and the primetime game at 8:15.

One of the most popular post traditions is eating turkey legs after the game is over. This was started by legendary coach and commentator John Madden in 1989, after giving Eagles d-line man Reggie White after their win over the Dallas Cowboys, and this has been a tradition ever since having the teams best players eat turkey legs after the game. Madden is also credited for popularizing the turducken. In 1996 during a Saints-Rams with the game being held in Louisiana where it was popular the turducken was brought to the for Madden and his partner Pat Summerall to try, Madden enjoyed so much that he started eating with his hands. These games don’t seem to be going anywhere with an average 34.1 million viewers over the three games these games only seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

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About the Contributor
Luke Broyhill
Luke Broyhill, Staff Writer
Luke is sophomore at Heritage, and in his second year of Journalism. Outside of school Luke loves watching sports with his family and playing video games. Luke also plays football for the school team and is a thrower on the track and field team.