As a die-hard fan of the National Football League and a football purist (believe it or not, I don’t even have to play fantasy football to enjoy watching!), I could not go another year without venting about the annual Thanksgiving gameday offering. On yesterday’s menu was the 8-2 New England Patriots at the 2-8 Detroit Lions, the 7-3 New Orleans Saints at the 3-7 Dallas Cowboys, and the 2-8 Cincinnati Bengals at the 8-2 New York Jets. Seriously, the only people thankful for this barn-burner lineup were Turkey Day gamblers receiving the gimme three-team parlay. I admit that the Cowboys at home under new coach, Jason Garrett, had a chance at knocking off the defending Super Bowl champs, but having won a single playoff game in the last fourteen years, “America’s Team” has to be “America’s Most Overrated Team”.
In an attempt to cool my frustration with America’s favorite pastime (you don’t honestly think it’s still baseball), I wanted to find out why the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys host a Thanksgiving Day game every year, and why a third AFC game has recently been added to the mix. As it turns out, the reasons behind two of the three traditions are pretty interesting:
Detroit Lions: While Thanksgiving Day games in the NFL started several years earlier, it wasn’t until 1934 that a team became a permanent fixture, when original Lions owner, GA Richards, hosted a game in an attempt to raise attendance. The move worked, and I have to give him credit for the idea, but shouldn’t owners consider some kind of mercy rule here. I propose that if you lose ten straight Thanksgiving Day games (the Lions are at eight), your license to be nationally televised is permanently revoked.
Dallas Cowboys: Nothing too revolutionary here. About thirty years after the Thanksgiving Day games became a regular part of the Lions schedule, the NFL decided to add a second helping. Supposedly, the Cowboys were the only team to volunteer. The Cowboys are still, somehow, the league’s biggest television draw, so this game is not going anywhere, anytime soon. Who is tuning into all these lopsided Thanksgiving and Sunday Night Football matchups featuring the Cowboys??
Part III of the Triple Header: Yes, there is a third game, you just may not have heard about it because it is on NFL Network. The third Thanksgiving Day game started in 2006 as a result of the long-time urging of AFL / NFL pioneer, Lamar Hunt (the late, great). These games have added some refreshing matchups to the Thanksgiving Day slate, starting with the Kansas City Chiefs 19-10 victory over their division-rival, Denver Broncos, in 2006 at Arrowhead Stadium. Sadly, this game was missed by the Chiefs owner as he was unable to see the NFL network from his hospital bed.
While two of the three games seem to have legitimately historical roots, I must say that in the case of the Lions and Cowboys, I simply cannot fathom why the NFL isn’t doing anything to change the current setup. They are kings of the professional sports world, blowing out other leagues in almost every category, but are missing one of their biggest opportunities to deliver a final knockout blow. Thanksgiving has become synonymous with football. These games have become similar to the Super Bowl in that they are among the handful of games each year that everybody is watching. Admit it, your grandma watched football yesterday. I love my grandma, and I don’t want to have to put her through anymore 45-24 Detroit Lions games. Don’t you love your grandma, NFL? Then do the right thing.