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.