Football on Thanksgiving, since 1934


Collin Johnson, Sports Team


A juicy turkey, homemade mashed potatoes, warm stuffing, and soothing pumpkin pie with ice cream.  Those words add up to the day many football lovers look forward to: Thanksgiving.

It all started back in 1934, where the Lions owner George Richards wanted his team to be noticed.  He scheduled his team on the first Thanksgiving game against the Chicago Bears, who were 11-0 back then.  

There was no tradition for Thanksgiving football at the time. It was a marketing move for the Lions, and it turned out that the fans enjoyed the game.

The Lions came into that game at home as 10-1, and the entire stadium was packed out on turkey night.

The Dallas Cowboys hopped on the bandwagon in 1966 by general manager Tex Schramm.  Schramm thought it would be neat to play on Thanksgiving because it was a unique way to get the team and some national publicity involve, as they were doing poorly during that time frame.

As Schramm signed his team to play on turkey day, the NFL was worried if the fans would not support the Cowboys.  The league guaranteed the team a required gate revenue just in case that no one will represent the team.  For the Cowboys, they defeated the Cleveland Browns, 26-14.  Since then, the Cowboys only missed two Thanksgiving games.

Today, there are three games that are played on Thanksgiving day: at noon, in the afternoon, and in the evening.  As the Cowboys and the Lions will always play on turkey day, they will never play each other for an undisclosed reason. But for the other teams, they are selected by the NFL to play against other teams for the possibility of a Turkey Leg Award.