Lions, Cowboys continue their time-honored tradition of hosting Thanksgiving games

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For every year since 1966 (with two exceptions), the Lions and Cowboys have hosted football games on Thanksgiving. From time to time, the question of whether that practice should continue becomes a hot topic.

It peaked during the low point of the Lions franchise, when they didn’t win a single game in 2008. The advent of the league’s staging of a Thanksgiving night game (plus plenty of Thursday games throughout the year) largely has kept the issue on the back burner, since the third game of the day rotates, except for the last two years, when it’s been Falcons at Saints and now Saints at Falcons.

So should the practice continue? The league gives the Lions and the Cowboys permanent shotgun because they volunteered to sit in the front seat on Thanksgiving when everyone else preferred to sit in the way back of the station wagon. While it’s hard to stomach the idea that they secured the privilege permanently simply because they said yes when others said no, the NFL has shown no inclination to change it.

It’s lasted for so long that the Lions and Cowboys hosting football games on Thanksgiving has become as much of a tradition as turkey, stuffing, and the awkward comments at the dinner table from the elder members of the family whose filters are gradually eroding. And even though the proliferation of Thursday football gives Detroit and Dallas a bit of an advantage because they never play a short-week game on the road, it’s not as if the Lions or Cowboys have run roughshod over the league; the Cowboys last made it to the NFC Championship in 1995, and the Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991.

So don’t expect either team to lose their Thanksgiving home games, temporarily or permanently. The last deviation came in the 1970s, when the then-St. Louis Cardinals supplanted Dallas as the host of a Thanksgiving game, losing 32-14 to the Bills in 1975 and 55-14 to the Dolphins in 1977.

Since 1978, it’s been Lions and Cowboys exclusively, and there’s simply no good reason to change it. So embrace it. Enjoy it. It’s a special day for our nation, and part of the familiarity of the fourth Thursday in November is that we’ll all enjoy the Lions and Cowboys hosting the two afternoon games — a familiarity I hope to enjoy until I’m the one at the dinner table whose filter is quietly eroding.

36 responses to “Lions, Cowboys continue their time-honored tradition of hosting Thanksgiving games

  1. It’s not going to change. May as well rest your fingers. The Lions helped build this league. Part of that legacy was hosting the game on a day no other team was willing to. The end.

  2. Of course the Cowboys and Lions play on Thanksgiving.
    It’s the biggest day of the year for high school football.

  3. Every year the Lions get the early slot. Every year they have a losing record. Every year I think to myself, “Why the heck does the NFL continue to put one of the league’s worst teams on Thanksgiving?

    Tradition? Baloney. College Football abandoned tradition for better bowl games. Step up Rodger

  4. “While it’s hard to stomach the idea that they secured the privilege permanently simply because they said yes when others said no, the NFL has shown no inclination to change it.”

    Why is it hard to “stomach”? Those 2 teams stepped up and none others did for a long time. I doubt many of the others want a Thanksgiving game either.

    The only issue is the Lions have been terrible for so long. The league revenue sharing is set up to reward bad owners equally with the good ones. You want to see competitive teams from the lousy owners there’s a simple solution. Take half the TV money and split it into 256 shares for the 256 regular season games, winning team gets the share for a given game. Within 3 years all the bad franchises would suddenly be fielding more competitive teams.

  5. “”So don’t expect either team to lose their Thanksgiving home games, temporarily or permanently. “”

    Plan on the Cowboys “losing” the Thanksgiving game today..

    LOL

  6. Nice article. I think the Lions and Packers pre-date the 1966 mention. Of course, my filter isn’t what it used to be. But, with my filtered memory, the Lions do stand out as one of the originators.

  7. I think it is a great tradition. And we live in a time that does not value tradition because we are SO concerned with “fairness”. I believe they, the Cowboys and Lions should continue with it, until they no longer want to do it. And it is one of the few times the people away from Detroit get to see the Lions.

  8. The original game was the Packers- Lions and it started well before 1966 when Dallas decided they wanted a short week home game plus the AFC also had a Thanksgiving Day game so the NFL wanted to hurt their audience.

  9. All those supporting the continuation of this tradition, good for you. I said this yesterday when someone else was whining about the Bears – Lions matchup: if you don’t like it, don’t watch. Simple. I didn’t know the story about Dallas and Detroit being the only two teams who would step up and host Thanksgiving Day games but if that’s how it went down, then they get to keep it until they don’t want it anymore, which probably won’t happen. As a Bears fan, of course I’ll be interested in this game but for those of you who are too good to watch, find your entertainment elsewhere, we won’t miss you or care. I believe they show the parade again, maybe you prefer that.

  10. what else does detroit have? let them keep the game. however, maybe give us some outdoor football for the night game. hate watching all 3 indoor games

  11. The most dangerous phrase is “That’s the way we always do it”
    If you’re not evolving, you’re falling behind.
    The league says tradition is important, but wants to play games in England and Mexico, They also want to increase to 18 games…So much for tradition.

  12. As a Packer fan I always prefer not to play on Thanksgiving because the Lions have the advantage since the game is always in Detroit and they do this every year. It’s great when your team wins but when they don’t it spoils your holiday. Remember the Joey Harrington game ugh!

  13. nflnfl13 says:
    November 28, 2019 at 10:03 am
    That away game vs the Lions on Turkey day was a nightmare game for the Packers year after year after year.
    =====================================================================================================
    and then came Walter Stanley

  14. Mosi Tatupu says:

    Of course the Cowboys and Lions play on Thanksgiving.
    It’s the biggest day of the year for high school football.
    ********************************************************************
    you are just jealous that the Patsies are not as popular as the Cowboys are.

  15. if the NFL was able to generate more revenue my changing the home team every year then things would change like they did with the draft…since a home game on thanksgiving doesn’t generate a meaningful amount of revenue there is no need to change it up…

  16. screamingyellowzonkers says:

    Boy, you are really going out on the limb predicting the favorites.

    ______________

    Stop screaming!
    I can hear you.

  17. Poor Joe still can’t get over how Ralph Wilson bailed out Al Davis back in the early AFL days. Without the Bills support there would be no Raiders! Show some respect to the franchise that saved your team from obscurity.

  18. A cool tradition that I suspect will be entirely phased out eventually but still going strong in year forty-two.

  19. “dbluv says:
    November 28, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    Poor Joe still can’t get over how Ralph Wilson bailed out Al Davis back in the early AFL days. Without the Bills support there would be no Raiders! Show some respect to the franchise that saved your team from obscurity.”

    No one ever “bailed out” Al Davis. Ralph Wilson needed an 8 team league just as much as anyone because they couldn’t even let the runts die off. And it happened when Al Davis was an assistant coach with the Chargers.

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