Greenland Apparel has spent many past Thanksgiving days watching and enjoying Turkey Bowl Football. In this special edition of Greenland Apparel’s #MotivationMonday, we share with you the history of Thanksgiving Day football, and some of our favorite rules for watching on our #TurkeyTuesday.
Thanksgiving is a special time of year when friends and families come together to give thanks for what they have. It is also a time for football. Thanksgiving Day football, once a tradition among the high schools and colleges of America, has more or less faded into oblivion in most sections of the country, but is still alive and well in the National Football League. In two of the NFL’s franchise cities, Detroit and Dallas, Thanksgiving Day football has become a normal, expected way of life. Since 1966, Dallas has missed playing on Thanksgiving Day only twice: in 1975 and 1977.
When it comes to NFL football on Thanksgiving Day, a lot of fans might first think of the Detroit Lions and the tradition that was started in 1934. It was their first year in Detroit after a local radio executive, George A. Richards, had purchased the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans, who had been part of the NFL from 1930 to 1933, and moved the team to Detroit. Not only was Richards bringing a proven, quality team to Detroit, but he was bringing at least one super-star, Earl “Dutch” Clark, one of the most versatile backs ever to play the game. Clark had an outstanding supporting cast in the Detroit backfield with a big, talented line anchored by Frank Christiansen.
Even though he knew there was some risk in scheduling a game on Thanksgiving Day, Richards recognized that his Lions were taking a back seat to the baseball Tigers on the sports pages. So, to attract Motor City fans during the Spartans’ first season in the city, Richards opted for the Thanksgiving Day contest. The matchup between the Lions and the World Champion Chicago Bears proved to be an all-time classic. The 1934 Lions had not allowed a touchdown until their eighth game and entered the game with the Bears with a 10-1 record. But with 11 straight wins, Chicago had an even better record. Still a win would put the Lions into a first-place tie with the Bears with only a game left, a repeat clash with the Bears in Chicago, just three days later on December 2.
The 26,000 tickets for the Turkey Day clash in the University of Detroit Stadium were sold out two weeks in advance of the game. It was estimated that another 25,000 would have attended had there been seats available. The Bears edged out the Lions 19-16 in the classic holiday struggle and then prevailed 10-7 three days later to clinch the NFL Western Division crown. Not despondent over the last two losses, Richards reasoned that his team had done well in its first year in Detroit. His confidence was rewarded the next year when the Lions won the 1935 NFL Championship. The key game in the title drive came on Thanksgiving Day, when the Lions defeated the Bears 14-2 to clinch the West championship.
Thus, the football-on-Thanksgiving tradition became firmly established in Detroit. With the exception of a six-season gap from 1939 to 1944, the Thanksgiving Day game has been played with no interruptions. The Detroit Lions’ Thanksgiving Day heritage gained national attention in another way, starting with the very first game in 1934. Knowing the publicity potential of radio, Richards along with NBC Radio, set up a 94-station network to broadcast the Lions-Bears showdown. The famous announcing team of Graham McNamee and Don Wilson described the action.
Greenland Apparel’s Thanksgiving Football Rules
1. Do not fall asleep on the couch (drunk or otherwise). This day is about spending time with family, not catching up on your beauty sleep. That’s what your bed is for. Drink an espresso and be social.
2. Don’t watch the pregame, halftime or postgame shows. This is a waste of valuable time that could be used eating, snacking, grazing or refilling the gravy boat. Trust us, there are better things that you could be doing.
3. Someone in your family will be silently watching the Packers game, still wondering which one is Brett Favre. No one will ever admit it.
4. Someone (no doubt some distant cousin) is bound to ask why the Detroit Lions always play on Thanksgiving. You can reply that Greenland Apparel has already addressed this, and kindly refer them to this article.
5. If you are visiting someone else’s house for Thanksgiving, please remember that you have automatically given up any control of the remote.
6. One person is always the “Rules Guy”. This person goes nuts trying to explain to Aunt Florabell why one play was a catch and one was NOT a catch. Our advice is to act dumb so that nobody asks you questions and you can watch in peace.
7. At one point during the day, whether it’s the after effects of too much turkey, or one too many brewskies, you may feel tempted to warm up the ‘ole arm and show your friends and family your ball moves from back in the day. Don’t do it. You’re older, and much wiser. Leave the football to the pros. You’re asking for an emergency trip to the hospital. Instead, this would be the time to think about taking a nap.