Another Thanksgiving, another year of not getting to watch your team play on Turkey Day. Though the NFL is fairly regular as far as schedules and who plays who, it somehow continues to disappoint me that I’m forced to watch the Dallas Cowboys or Detroit Lions play. Yes, their competitors get switched up (this year it’ll be the Chicago Bears at Detroit and the Buffalo Bills at Dallas), and in 2006, the NFL officially added a "primetime match-up" game to the mix, bringing the total Thanksgiving games played to three, where two teams other than the Lions and Cowboys get to play on the holiday -- but you could be waiting a decade for your team to come around again.
So, unless you’re a I-just-love-the-game football fan (which, more power to ya), you’re SOL when it comes to Thanksgiving football. Which is a shame, because what’s more relaxing than falling asleep to refs explaining their flags and artificial crowd noise with a belly full of stuffing?
College teams had been playing on Thanksgiving since as early as the 1870s, but the Detroit/Dallas tradition began with the Lions in 1934 when the team’s owner, George A. Richards, was looking for a way to attract more fans. He also happened to own an NBC-affiliated radio station and was able to strike a deal with the parent conglomerate to broadcast his game on television. That network reach basically wrote their Thanksgiving schedule in stone for years to come, and here we are still honoring it.
That’s good marketing, people.
Dallas, on the other hand, didn’t become a Turkey Day mainstay until the ‘60s, when in 1966 manager Tex Schramm simply...signed up to play on the holiday. They hosted record-breaking crowds at that game and figured it wouldn’t hurt to keep doing it every year.
Which...it hasn’t! Cowboys and Lions fans, enjoy your Turkey Day games. The rest of us will enjoy a nap in front of them.