Why Do the Detroit Lions & Dallas Cowboys Play on Thanksgiving?
Every year, football fans across the US hunker down of the TV and watch the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys football game. No doubt, many of those fans wonder why the Lions and Cowboys play on Thanksgiving every year. The tradition is particularly frustrating in the case of the Lions because they've been a bad team since the Pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower.
The tradition goes back as far as 1934, the year the Lions franchise moved to Detroit from their original home, Portsmouth, Ohio. New Lions owner George A. Richards was looking for a way to boost attendance for his new team, which was struggling to draw 10,000 fans a game. Richards decided to schedule a game on Thanksgiving as a way to draw attention to the fledgling franchise. Richards, who owned a powerful Detroit radio station, used his connections in the media to have NBC broadcast the game nationally.
The move worked brilliantly as Richards drew 26,000 fans to the game plus a respectable radio audience. Seven decades later, football fans are having to pay the price for Richards' success by watching a horrible Lions franchise play year after year on Turkey Day. While they have been terrible in recent years, the Detroit Lions' Thanksgiving record before today was 33-33-2.
As for the Dallas Cowboys, they first played on Thanksgiving back in 1966. The NFL was looking to add a second game to its Thanksgiving schedule. Cowboys GM Tex Schramm jumped at the chance to give his team some national exposure.
The league was worried that fans wouldn't attend the first Thanksgiving game in Texas. They couldn't have been more wrong as a record crowd of more than 80,000 watched the Cowboys beat the Browns at the Cotton Bowl. Except for two occasions, the Cowboys have played every Thanksgiving Day since.
In 2006, the NFL added a third Thanksgiving game broadcast on the NFL Network.