Thanksgiving: A Detroit Football Tradition

Long before the days of extravagant halftime shows on Thanksgiving or television awards marking the MVP of a regular season game, the Lions have hosted football games on Thanksgiving afternoons. For the 69th time on Thursday, the Lions will take the field on Thursday afternoon as part of the NFL’s Thanksgiving Classic.

The Thanksgiving game was originally a gimmick by original owner G.A. Richards to get fans to attend Lions games – a tradition begun by the Detroit Heralds, Tigers, Panthers and Wolverines of the 1920s. While slow at first to catch on, the Lions Thanksgiving game was the only one to survive throughout the years until the Cowboys joined in during the 1966 season. In 2006, the Chiefs hosted the first evening game to complete a three-game slate of football.

Each team has not played every year since the special game’s inception. The Lions took a break from 1939-1944 for the war, while the Cowboys took 1975-77 off for the St. Louis Cardinals. In fact, many fans will also remember that Thanksgiving used to always mean Lions-Packers. These two teams squared off every year from 1951-1963 and have played a total of five times since the merger, including last year’s 37-26 loss.

Detroit’s 35-32-1 all-time record will yet again be placed on the line Thursday along with that 0-11 number that’s been hanging over their head’s since that perfect preseason. The Lions have not won a game in five tries and look for that streak to end against the Titans on Thursday.