Football fans across America are no strangers to the long-standing tradition of watching the Detroit Lions play on Thanksgiving Day. This annual event has become synonymous with turkey, family, and football. But how did the Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Tradition begin? In this article, we will explore the origins of the Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day game and the reasons why it has become such an important part of the Thanksgiving Holiday.
The tradition of the Detroit Lions playing on Thanksgiving Day dates back to 1934. At the time, the Lions were still relatively new to the National Football League (NFL). The team had been established the previous year as the Portsmouth Spartans, but due to financial difficulties, they were sold and relocated to Detroit.
In an effort to boost attendance and generate interest in the team, the Lions' owner, George A. Richards, decided to schedule a game on Thanksgiving Day. This decision was met with some skepticism, as Thanksgiving Day was traditionally reserved for college football matchups. However, Richards saw an opportunity to capture the attention of a larger audience and showcase his team to a national audience.
On November 29, 1934, the Detroit Lions took the field for their first Thanksgiving Day game against the Chicago Bears. The game was played at the University of Detroit Stadium, and more than 26,000 fans attended. Despite the snowy conditions and a final score of 19-16 in favor of the Bears, the event was considered a success. The Lions' Thanksgiving Day tradition was born.
In 1962, the Lions traveled to the New City Stadium in Green Bay (later named Lambeau Field) with a 3-0 record to play the defending champion Packers. They led, 7-6, with a little under two minutes remaining. In the last minute, Paul Hornung kicked a field goal and the Packers escaped with a 9-7 victory.
The two teams were to meet again on November 22, 1962, Thanksgiving Day, and the Lions had that date circled on their calendars.
The Packers went to Detroit with a 10-0 record, and were massacred by the Lions. The final score was 26-14, but the Lions beat the Packers much worse than the final score indicated.
In the years following 1934, the Detroit Lions continued to play on Thanksgiving Day, establishing a tradition that would endure for decades. To further solidify the tradition, Richards approached the NBC radio network in 1939 to broadcast the Thanksgiving Day game nationwide. This move helped to popularize the event even more, as families across America could now gather around their radios and listen to the game.
There are several factors that have contributed to the enduring popularity of the Detroit Lions' Thanksgiving Day game.
Firstly, the timing of the game is perfect. Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated by families across the country. By scheduling the game on this day, the Lions tapped into a captive audience of football fans looking for entertainment after a day of feasting and family time.
Secondly, the Lions' Thanksgiving Day game became a cherished tradition for Detroit locals. For many residents of the city, attending the game or watching it on television became an integral part of their holiday celebrations.
Lastly, the Thanksgiving Day game served as a platform for the Lions to showcase their team and city to a national audience. With millions of Americans tuning in, the Detroit Lions had the opportunity to gain exposure and build their fan base. This exposure also helped to elevate the status of Detroit as a sports city.
The Detroit Lions' Thanksgiving Day game has evolved into much more than just a football game. It has become a cherished tradition that brings families and communities together, and that is deeply ingrained in the fabric of American culture. From its humble beginnings in 1934 to the present day, the Lions' Thanksgiving Day game continues to captivate audiences and serve as a symbol of unity and celebration on this special holiday.
I hope you found this article interesting. And this Thanksgiving, enjoy the game.
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