Why the Cowboys and Lions always play on Thanksgiving Day, NFL teams’ records on the holiday

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Since the beginning of time, okay maybe not that long ago, but since very early on in National Football League history, fans have been able to watch the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day. This season, the Lions host the Bears, the Cowboys host the Bills, and the Falcons host the Saints.

The Lions began the tradition in 1934 when the owner George A. Richards wanted to attract more fans. The marketing wizard’s plan worked and the team who usually lost fans to the more popular Detroit Tigers sold out their stadium and then some. The team had to turn people away at the gates because so many people showed up to watch their Lions play. 

Richards was not only the owner of the NFL franchise but also an NBC affiliated radio station as well and worked out a contract with NBC to show his games on television across 94 stations. 

The Lions did not invent football on Thanksgiving, other teams had done it before, but Detroit had the network deal that set it apart. The only seasons the Lions did not play on Thanksgiving were from 1939 to 1944, when the world was engulfed in World War II. 

In addition to the Lions, turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes being staples on Thanksgiving, the Cowboys are a regular on the holiday, as well. 

Their tradition began in 1966 when general manager Tex Schramm signed up to play on that day to get more national publicity. Like the Lions, the Cowboys had record-shattering crowds show up at the Cotton Bowl. 

Their tradition began that and other than in 1975 and 1977, when the St. Louis Cardinals were awarded the holiday game, the team has played on turkey day. 

A primetime matchup was included…


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