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Why Do the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions Usually Play On Thanksgiving? A Peek Back Across Time

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If you’re reading this on Thanksgiving, I’m guessing you’re sitting in your chair after one too many slices of pumpkin pie, settling in to watch some NFL football. 

As you’re watching two lousy teams play on Thanksgiving, it dawns on you: why do the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys ALWAYS play on Thanksgiving?

Well you know it’s a tradition for a long that these two teams play on Thanksgiving and here we are going to explain why and how it became a tradition.

Let’s go back in time to find out when it all started and see if we can figure out why it’s still happening.

When did it all start?

WHY DO THE DALLAS COWBOYS AND DETROIT LIONS USUALLY PLAY ON THANKSGIVING? A PEEK BACK ACROSS TIME

Also read: What Happened to Troy Aikman? The Nfl’s Thanksgiving Staple Will Be Noticeably Absent From the 2022 Games

According to Princeton University, Princeton and Yale played football against each other in 1876, and the game became a tradition until 1893. Thanksgiving games proliferated alongside professional football in the early twentieth century. Can we maybe get to the Lions and –

The Pro Football Hall of Fame records Thanksgiving games between teams such as the Decatur Staleys and the Chicago Tigers, as well as the Dayton Triangles and the Detroit Heralds, dating back to 1920. Thank you for the history lesson, but the tryptophan is starting to kick in…

That’s OK. In 1934, Detroit Lions owner George Richards believed that playing on Thanksgiving would be a wonderful way to sell his team. He also agreed to enable NBC’s radio station network to broadcast the Lions’ inaugural game against the Chicago Bears. According to the Hall of Fame, he had discovered something:

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The 26,000 tickets for the Thanksgiving Day game at the University of Detroit Stadium were sold out two weeks before the event. Another 25,000 people were expected to attend if seats had been available.

They repeated it the following year and the year after that, and thus a tradition was formed.

What about the Dallas Cowboys? That’s what you did there. Dallas owner Tex Schramm wanted some national spotlight as well, so he offered his club to play. 

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The NFL was anxious about how many tickets the Cowboys could sell that day, but the same thing happened with the Lions: once the league received a guarantee of minimum ticket income, the Cowboys drew reported 80,000-plus spectators to watch them play the Cleveland Browns.

So, why is this still a thing? Why not allow other teams to compete?

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Concerning the second, they now do! In 2006, a third game was added, allowing additional teams to rotate in and compete.

What about the first? I haven’t discovered a definitive answer, so here’s an educated guess: it’s tradition with the Lions, who are under.500 on Thanksgiving Day. And the NFL likes tradition, even if it’s a bad team that can’t seem to get it right year after year when it comes to playing on a national holiday.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, are a different story. The notion that they are “America’s Team” appears to have faded, but the truth remains that they are a major national draw, to begin with. We watch as a dominant offensive steamrolls an opponent squad, or with schadenfreude if they’re bad.

If you’re reading this on Thanksgiving, I’m guessing you’re sitting in your chair after one too many slices of pumpkin pie, settling in to watch some NFL football. 

As you’re watching two lousy teams play on Thanksgiving, it dawns on you: why do the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys ALWAYS play on Thanksgiving?

Well you know it’s a tradition for a long that these two teams play on Thanksgiving and here we are going to explain why and how it became a tradition.

Let’s go back in time to find out when it all started and see if we can figure out why it’s still happening.

When did it all start?

WHY DO THE DALLAS COWBOYS AND DETROIT LIONS USUALLY PLAY ON THANKSGIVING? A PEEK BACK ACROSS TIME

Also read: What Happened to Troy Aikman? The Nfl’s Thanksgiving Staple Will Be Noticeably Absent From the 2022 Games

According to Princeton University, Princeton and Yale played football against each other in 1876, and the game became a tradition until 1893. Thanksgiving games proliferated alongside professional football in the early twentieth century. Can we maybe get to the Lions and –

The Pro Football Hall of Fame records Thanksgiving games between teams such as the Decatur Staleys and the Chicago Tigers, as well as the Dayton Triangles and the Detroit Heralds, dating back to 1920. Thank you for the history lesson, but the tryptophan is starting to kick in…

That’s OK. In 1934, Detroit Lions owner George Richards believed that playing on Thanksgiving would be a wonderful way to sell his team. He also agreed to enable NBC’s radio station network to broadcast the Lions’ inaugural game against the Chicago Bears. According to the Hall of Fame, he had discovered something:

The 26,000 tickets for the Thanksgiving Day game at the University of Detroit Stadium were sold out two weeks before the event. Another 25,000 people were expected to attend if seats had been available.

They repeated it the following year and the year after that, and thus a tradition was formed.

What about the Dallas Cowboys? That’s what you did there. Dallas owner Tex Schramm wanted some national spotlight as well, so he offered his club to play. 

The NFL was anxious about how many tickets the Cowboys could sell that day, but the same thing happened with the Lions: once the league received a guarantee of minimum ticket income, the Cowboys drew reported 80,000-plus spectators to watch them play the Cleveland Browns.

So, why is this still a thing? Why not allow other teams to compete?

Concerning the second, they now do! In 2006, a third game was added, allowing additional teams to rotate in and compete.

What about the first? I haven’t discovered a definitive answer, so here’s an educated guess: it’s tradition with the Lions, who are under.500 on Thanksgiving Day. And the NFL likes tradition, even if it’s a bad team that can’t seem to get it right year after year when it comes to playing on a national holiday.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, are a different story. The notion that they are “America’s Team” appears to have faded, but the truth remains that they are a major national draw, to begin with. We watch as a dominant offensive steamrolls an opponent squad, or with schadenfreude if they’re bad.

If you’re reading this on Thanksgiving, I’m guessing you’re sitting in your chair after one too many slices of pumpkin pie, settling in to watch some NFL football. 

As you’re watching two lousy teams play on Thanksgiving, it dawns on you: why do the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys ALWAYS play on Thanksgiving?

Well you know it’s a tradition for a long that these two teams play on Thanksgiving and here we are going to explain why and how it became a tradition.

Let’s go back in time to find out when it all started and see if we can figure out why it’s still happening.

When did it all start?

WHY DO THE DALLAS COWBOYS AND DETROIT LIONS USUALLY PLAY ON THANKSGIVING? A PEEK BACK ACROSS TIME

Also read: What Happened to Troy Aikman? The Nfl’s Thanksgiving Staple Will Be Noticeably Absent From the 2022 Games

According to Princeton University, Princeton and Yale played football against each other in 1876, and the game became a tradition until 1893. Thanksgiving games proliferated alongside professional football in the early twentieth century. Can we maybe get to the Lions and –

The Pro Football Hall of Fame records Thanksgiving games between teams such as the Decatur Staleys and the Chicago Tigers, as well as the Dayton Triangles and the Detroit Heralds, dating back to 1920. Thank you for the history lesson, but the tryptophan is starting to kick in…

That’s OK. In 1934, Detroit Lions owner George Richards believed that playing on Thanksgiving would be a wonderful way to sell his team. He also agreed to enable NBC’s radio station network to broadcast the Lions’ inaugural game against the Chicago Bears. According to the Hall of Fame, he had discovered something:

The 26,000 tickets for the Thanksgiving Day game at the University of Detroit Stadium were sold out two weeks before the event. Another 25,000 people were expected to attend if seats had been available.

They repeated it the following year and the year after that, and thus a tradition was formed.

What about the Dallas Cowboys? That’s what you did there. Dallas owner Tex Schramm wanted some national spotlight as well, so he offered his club to play. 

The NFL was anxious about how many tickets the Cowboys could sell that day, but the same thing happened with the Lions: once the league received a guarantee of minimum ticket income, the Cowboys drew reported 80,000-plus spectators to watch them play the Cleveland Browns.

So, why is this still a thing? Why not allow other teams to compete?

Concerning the second, they now do! In 2006, a third game was added, allowing additional teams to rotate in and compete.

What about the first? I haven’t discovered a definitive answer, so here’s an educated guess: it’s tradition with the Lions, who are under.500 on Thanksgiving Day. And the NFL likes tradition, even if it’s a bad team that can’t seem to get it right year after year when it comes to playing on a national holiday.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, are a different story. The notion that they are “America’s Team” appears to have faded, but the truth remains that they are a major national draw, to begin with. We watch as a dominant offensive steamrolls an opponent squad, or with schadenfreude if they’re bad.

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