On November 29, 1934, NBC radio announcer Graham McNamee called the play by play for the first of many Thanksgiving Day appearances for the Detroit Lions.
The Lions faced the Chicago Bears who claimed a 19-16 victory at University of Detroit Titan Stadium in front of 26,000. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards wanted to give the city reasons to back the new franchise. The game was sold out two weeks before kickoff and was broadcast on 94 stations across the country.
The win allowed the undefeated Bears to clinch the Western Division title. The two teams had a rematch the following week to end the season at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Bears won 10-3.
The Bears season ended when they fell to the New York Giants in the championship game. The Lions claimed the 1935 championship title.
Football is about as American as the turkey, stuffing and apple pie on the Thanksgiving table, but do people ever stop to wonder why specific teams play every year?
Football was originally a tradition for many high schools and colleges throughout the country. There are still many schools with games on Thanksgiving, but ‘Turkey Bowls’ are not common as they once were.
The game in 1934 was a well thought out plan to bring the Lions to the public. It was the team’s first year in Detroit and they were looking for all the publicity they could get. The game was a hit and aside from a short hiatus during World War Two, the Lions have played on Thanksgiving every year.
The Lions are not the only team to find a traditional spot on the Thanksgiving Day schedule…
Dallas Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm saw Thanksgiving games as an outlet to give the team national publicity. The team has been participating in the Turkey Day tradition since 1966.
The Green Bay Packers joined the festivities in 2006 because American families needed a post-dinner game to bond, or fight over.
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