November 23, 2005

Why do the Lions always play on Thanksgiving day?: Why the Cowboys? For Detroit it may have something to do with the power of radio. In Dallas' case it probably had a lot to do with Tex Schramm and his role in the merger of the AFL and NFL in 1966—the first year that Dallas made an appearance on Thanksgiving day. Both teams at one point could (or did) call themselves "America's team." [more inside]

posted by scully to football at 07:33 PM - 37 comments

The Lions have played on Thanksgiving day more than any other NFL team (65 games), dating to 1934. Dallas has played in 37 contests since 1966. More on the history of Detroit and their holiday tradition can be found on the Lions' official site. Scores from every Thanksgiving game are also available. What I'm having trouble figuring out is why did the (then) St. Louis Cardinals take the Cowboys' spot in 1975 and 1977?

posted by scully at 07:34 PM on November 23

What that stuff that makes you tired on Thanksgiving? Oh yea! It's watching the Lions trying to play Pro Football. This is a team with 1 playoff win since 1958! I'd prefer seeing some of the better teams rotate the Game or even better add an evening game with some meaning. The game this year is two number 1's(a rare Turkeyday Treat). Bronco's at Dallas. P.S. Go Bears!

posted by skydivedad at 08:36 PM on November 23

All for rotating all 32 teams on turkey day. Tired of the same old crappy teams every year, put some other crappy teams on to!

posted by Sasquatch12154 at 08:55 PM on November 23

Just so some of you will remember, the Lion's opponent was always the Packers for alot of those years and then the league started rotating other teams into the game. Not sure what year that change was made though.

posted by coach at 09:14 PM on November 23

coach said: "Not sure what year that change was made though." The Lions and the Packers played every year on Thanksgiving day from 1950-1963 according to the last link in the first comment. That was before my time, so no fond Turkey day memories for me.

posted by scully at 09:20 PM on November 23

For the most part all 32 teams already do get a chance to play on Thanksgiving day, as they have been rotating which team plays the Lions every year sice 1963. The Cowboys have played a rotating schedule ever since their first Thanksgiving day game in 1966. The networks make the decision though. Who is broadcasting the game decides whether Detroit plays an AFC team or an NFC team. If the latter, they emphasize traditional regional rivalries like the Packers, Bears or Vikings. The link under "Why the Cowboys?" was originally supposed to go to this ugly page.

posted by scully at 09:36 PM on November 23

My understanding, as a Dallas fan, is that no one else wanted the Thanksgiving game when Schramm made the play to get it. I love the tradition, naturally. My favorite Turkey Day game was the infamous Leon Lett blunder against the Miami Dolphins in the snow, which gave them a chance to win the game with a second kick after a block.

posted by rcade at 09:43 PM on November 23

As a lifelong Lions fan (God help me) who doesn't live in Michigan any longer, Thanksgiving is the only time of the year that I get to see them play. Of course it's the sports equal to lashing myself on the back until I pass out, but still I'm glad to be able to relive the memories of the past 49 times I've seen the game, esp when it was the highlight of old family gatherings. I hope it stays the way it is.

posted by commander cody at 11:19 PM on November 23

For the most part all 32 teams already do get a chance to play on Thanksgiving day, as they have been rotating which team plays the Lions every year sice 1963. When did the Chargers play?

posted by mrrocnron at 03:40 AM on November 24

Don't take the Thanksgiving Day game from the Lions, its the only thing in the season we have to look forward to until our annual (sure to be a bust) top ten draft pick.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 07:27 AM on November 24

mrrocnron: Did you read any of the links? The link I provided for "Scores for every Thanksgiving day" shows that the Chargers played in 1964 (24-27 loss to the Bilsl), 1965 (20-20 tie with the Bills), 1967 (24-20 win over the Broncos), 1969 (21-17 win over the then Oilers). So anyone find out why the Cardinals played in place of the Cowboys in '75 and '77?

posted by scully at 07:58 AM on November 24

neat links-Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

posted by daddisamm at 08:51 AM on November 24

Walk down memory lane One of the greatest Thanksgiving Day games occurred in 1963(?). The Packers were heavy favorites against the Lions. The Lions won the game and sacked Bart Starr 13 (?) times. This great defensive charge was led by Alex (Mongo) Karras and Roger Brown. I would really like to see a replay of that game.

posted by jiminnc at 09:05 AM on November 24

Congrats to all for some excellent comments. Good facts, interesting takes, and no bashing. Must be thanksgivung day.

posted by Richard j Garcia at 09:05 AM on November 24

I thought they put crappy games on for Thanksgiving because you are too sleepy from the turkey dinner to care about watching a game that matters.

posted by evil empire at 09:26 AM on November 24

I still don't know why the Cards played in place of the Boys in '75 and '77 but after checking attendance records I saw why they gave it back. In most places people apparently have a tradition of being with their family and watching the game on t.v. Meanwhile, in Dallas at least, tradition includes going to the game and eating dinner later, like Sunday when all those teams that haven't been to 8 super bowls play.

posted by texoma-slim at 09:43 AM on November 24

Somebody, give the Dog a hand, here. It's Thanksgiving and I gotta work. Someone e-mail me some bird and some mashed potatoes and gravy. It would be greatly appreciated. Go Cowboys!

posted by Desert Dog at 11:44 AM on November 24

I'm at one of "those" parties, so maybe I'll let someone else send you some mashed potatoes. After what I've done to ours, trust me, you won't want any. And if you really want someone to give you the bird, I have no doubt someone will be happy to oblige.

posted by chicobangs at 12:02 PM on November 24

*e-mails boneless turkey breast stuffed with an onion, lemon zest, sage, olive oil and salt paste; served with horseradish mashed potatoes, wilted kale with onions and soy sauce, and savory bread stuffing (red wine in it) to the Desert Dog* Sure hope this thing gets through your spam filters. There's plenty for everyone as there's only two of us here on this snowy Thanksgiving in New England. I'll leave the rest here in the thread in case anyone gets hungry. Happy Thanksgiving Sportsfillians! Where's my beer, chicobangs?

posted by scully at 12:15 PM on November 24

chicobangs, I think you may have misread what I wrote. I would like to have 'some' bird, not 'the' bird. But thanks nonetheless. Just curious, what are one of "those" parties? And thanks, terrapin. I trust you've also got a nice, warm fire in the fireplace. I'm out here in the Mojave desert. It's a sunny 72 degrees. Having Thanksgiving on a snowy day reminds me of when I was a kid. Enjoy.

posted by Desert Dog at 12:27 PM on November 24

chicobangs, if you could just send me a bag of White Castle's, you could also send me 'the' bird. I don't mind.

posted by Desert Dog at 12:29 PM on November 24

Are the Lions playing today? (posted during halftime)

posted by ajaffe at 01:25 PM on November 24

I'm in Canada, so we've already had our Thanksgiving, but having the TV on here in my store reminds me of many other holidays, gathered with family and friends, drinking nog and watching the Lions stink like last week's turkey carcass.

posted by wfrazerjr at 02:08 PM on November 24

Yes, the Lions stink. The Lions almost always stink. But at least it's good to know there is at least one thing you can always count on. Of course the RedWings stunk for more then 40 years and then became one of the most feared teams in the NHL, so there is always hope.

posted by commander cody at 02:15 PM on November 24

Are the Lions playing today? (posted during halftime) Final score seems to indicate they didn't play today. chicobangs, where's my beer!?! Please?

posted by scully at 04:14 PM on November 24

What a pathetic performance by the Lions. I rest my case!

posted by skydivedad at 05:55 PM on November 24

wilted kale with onions and soy sauce ah, so that's what that stuff is. looks tasty.

posted by goddam at 06:57 PM on November 24

I forgot to mention the balsamic vinegar too, goddam. It is yummy.

posted by scully at 07:11 PM on November 24

The question becomes why do the Lions stink so bad? They have tried many QB's, RB's, WR's, Coaches and General Managers since the late 50's. The only consistent factor in the 40 plus years since they were champions is the owner. As long as the team turns a profit year in and year out (and it does) the Fords will not do the things needed to make this team a winner. They are the Bidwells of the North.

posted by commander cody at 09:34 PM on November 24

Terrapin what are you talking about when you say that Detroit has rotated playing all NFL teams since 1963? Detroit played GB in 2003, 2001 and 86 they played Chicago 99,97,93,91,79,80 they have played Minn a few times as did Dallas

posted by bemi at 08:46 AM on November 25

Terrapin what are you talking about when you say that Detroit has rotated playing all NFL teams since 1963? I didn't say that, bemi. What I said was that since 1963 teams have been rotated to play against the Lions. All teams have the a chance of playing now, where it used to be always the Lions and the Packers (at least from 1950-1963). I was responding directly to the people who said they wished all the teams had a chance to play, because for all intents and purposes that already is the case. What I also said is that the decisions are made by the networks that broadcast the games (again, something that is one of the links I posted that no one seems to even have bothered reading). When the network who has rights to AFC games is broadcasting the Lions' game they can pick an AFC team for the match-up. When the network that has rights to the NFC games has the rights to broadcast the Lions' match, they have the option to pick an NFC team. At least that is how I understand it. The links I found indicate that when the latter occurs, a traditional rival (Packers, Bears, Vikes) is usually chosen, but doesn't have to be (i.e., Atlanta yesterday).

posted by scully at 11:24 AM on November 25

After hearing that Mariucci might be out from Detroit, it makes u wonder why are the Lions still playing on Thanksgiving Day. The lions only play on this day because it is the only game were they can be exposed on national television without even winning a playoff game. Yes, it is tradition but then again, if the Detroit Lions had tradition, don't you think they would have made an extra effort on acquiring great football players back in the 80s, 90s, and this era. They had Barry Sanders and to all you Detroit Lions Fans, now you wonder why he retired all of a sudden?? Now, they have great players such as Garcia, Herrington, The Williams receivers, Rogers, and yet, they can't even go to the playoffs. Mariucci should just quit and go to a team such as Green Bay, he would do a better job than Sherman...Believe it or not.

posted by usalinas63 at 12:56 PM on November 25

I assumed they played the Pack, Bear and Vikings so much because they were divisonal rivals and played they every year so they just had more of a chance to play them on Thanksgiving or any other day then they would play any other team. The lions only play on this day because it is the only game were they can be exposed on national television without even winning a playoff game In response to this I say if you know anyone from the Michigan area will tell you its just a tradition. Its been around a lot longer then most of them can remember but it happens every single year. I personally don't see the big deal especially when they suck as much as they do right now. If they were in some kind of contention for a playoff spot and were playing a divisoanl rival then we might have a good game, but they are the lions and it was just another pointless game in the horrific tradition of Michigan pro football.

posted by HATER 187 at 01:26 PM on November 25

The lions only play on this day because it is the only game were they can be exposed on national television without even winning a playoff game. It actually appears to have more to do with the radio exposure of 90 something stations in the early 30s. This is why I mentioned having a right to call themselves "America's team." The team had a national following because their games could be heard nationally on radio. No other team could claim that at the time. Only later did it have more to do with tradition. And now, like with the Cowboys, the tradtion is so ingrained in Detroit that it would be hard to take away. People in Detroit and Dallas plan their Thanksgiving around the football game, or aat least I am led to believe this. It would take a while for another city and team to make that happen, should the game be taken away from the Lions. I hope it doesn't happen. I personally like tradtion. The Lions' have issues with their ownership and management that make it hard to field a good team. Just ask Barry Sanders. I, personally, do think it has anything to do with Mariucci. My only real Thanksgiving day football memory is a bad one. In 1998 when the Lions beat my beloved Steelers because of a miscommunication between Bettis and the referee during the coin flip for OT. In Jerome's hometown of Detroit, of course.

posted by scully at 03:05 PM on November 25

The Cowboys game is definitely a part of Thanksgiving in Dallas. I grew up there, and every holiday was either at the game or at a family gathering where everybody watched.

posted by rcade at 03:15 PM on November 25

The way I hear it; back in the 60's the networks wanted teams (any teams) to play on Thanksgiving and not other teams wanted to play except Detroit and Dallas. They played and was a huge ratings success. Later, other teams wanted in on the action, but Detroit and Dallas then and now have the exclusive right to host the Thanksgiving games.

posted by Grobowski at 11:14 PM on November 25

Interesting theory. Got any links to support that, Grobowski?

posted by scully at 09:41 AM on November 26

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