why do the detroit lions always play on thanksgiving

The are one of two teams who play on Thanksgiving every season. The other is the, but the tradition started with the Lions decades ago. This season, the Lions are taking on the
in an NFC North matchup with big implications between two teams vying for a division title. For some, it might not be the most attractive game with the biggest names, but it is the one that carries the most history. HereБs the history behind the game, maintained by the Lions. The first owner of the Lions, G. A. Richards moved the Lions from Portsmouth, Ohio to Detroit. In 1934, they played their first Thanksgiving game against the and legendary coach George Halas. , with 26,000 fans in attendance. While the Bears won the game, a new tradition was born. It was a success that has been carried on ever since Б one thatБs older than 24 of the 32 NFL franchises today. The Lions topped the Packers by a final score of 26-14. The Packers would go on to be champions that season, with the Thanksgiving loss their only of the year. While sacks werenБt an official stat until 1982,. Roger Brown had six of those, one of which resulted in a safety. The most infamous moment, however, came in 1998 The Lions were going into overtime in 1998 against the, where would call for heads or tails on the coin toss. Bettis alleges he called for tails, and it was tails. But referee Phil Luckett rewarded the Lions with the ball, claiming that Bettis had called Бheads-tailsБ instead. Poor Luckett. Green Bay Packers guard Josh Sitton was asked during the week if he believed the Lions would hit hard during the game.


Sitton didnБt hold back, calling the players dirtbags, and criticizing then-head coach Jim Schwartz "Absolutely," Sitton told WSSP-AM in Milwaukee ( ). "I don't think there's any question about that. They go after quarterbacks. Their entire defense takes cheap shots all the time, that's what they do, that's who they are. They're a bunch of dirtbags, or scumbags. I mean, that's how they play. " "It starts with their frickin' coach," Sitton said. "Starts with the head coach. Schwartz, he's a (expletive), too, I wouldn't want to play for him. Starts with him, their D-coordinator and their D-line coach. They're all just scumbags, and so are the D-line. " The Lions responded to the criticism with a big game. Green Bay ended up playing without Rodgers, as started the game. The result? a 40-10 Lions win. As of the completion of 2016Бs game against the Vikings, the Lions are 37-38-2 on Thanksgiving Day. TheyБve had their stretches of winning and losing streaks, but none greater than the nine-game losing skid they had from 2004 to 2012. Since that streak ended, they havenБt lost. They can make it five consecutive Turkey Day wins with one against the Vikings, but itБll prove to be one of the more difficult tasks theyБve had in recent memory. Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. When this yearБs 7-3 squad squares off against the undefeated Green Bay Packers, you might find yourself wondering why the Lions get the plum gig of playing a nationally televised game every Turkey Day.


So whatБs the origin of DetroitБs most beloved football tradition this side of the old БFire Millen! Б chants? And what about the other Thanksgiving NFL stalwart, the Dallas Cowboys? It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasnБt quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934. Although RichardsБ new squad was a solid team, they were clearly playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg -led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchisee, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. б Since RichardsБ WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide. The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFLБs Western Division.


The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and thatБs why the Lions still play on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no reassurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly. Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up Б the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice. Answer via Mental Floss.

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