"Holy Toledo!"

November 25, 2009

The Origin of Thanksgiving Day NFL Football

Filed under: Life, NFL, Oakland Raiders — Bill @ 9:46 pm

When did the tradition of Thanksgiving Day football begin?

My earliest memory of Thanksgiving football was 1970 when the Raiders lost an early lead to the Detroit Lions behind Charlie Sanders & Mel Farr.  I was 9 years old.  The tradition of having an NFL game on Thanksgiving began in 1934.  The Detroit Lions were trying to capture some of the popularity of college football and thought a game on a national holiday would be a good marketing concept.  For many years the game was always Green Bay at Detroit at Briggs Stadium.  Fans could go to a game and still be home in time for Mom’s traditional feast.

Pete Rozelle wanted to capture more of the TV market so in 1966 he tried to sell the idea of a second game on Turkey Day.  The Cowboys agreed to give it a try and they have been hosting a game on the 4th Thursday of November ever since.  Now we simply accept these two games as being as much of a Thanksgiving tradition as the Macy’s parade and the cooking of a turkey.

The launch of the NFL Network gave the league an opportunity to provide fans with a 3rd Thanksgiving game in 2006.  At the time it was thought that the last game on Thanksgiving would always be played in Kansas City in honor of longtime owner Lamar Hunt.  This however did not prove to be the case.  Perhaps all those in the east were far too full or fast asleep for this game to get decent ratings.

For most of us NFL football games in Detroit & Dallas has always been as much of a Thanksgiving tradition as driving to Grandma’s house.  It has become so ingrained in our culture that it’s hard to imagine it any other way.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

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