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Cottam’s Corner: The NFL’s Longest Standing Tradition: Thanksgiving Football

Zach Cottam, Reporter

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In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

In the 524 years since that year, American culture has grown and established itself as the most dominant pop culture in the world. One of the largest parts of this culture is the holiday of Thanksgiving, in which family members from all over the country come together to give thanks, eat turkey, and watch some football.

Since the NFL’s inception in 1920, the league has held three games on Thanksgiving Day. The first two games are always hosted by the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, and the third game has no specific teams. Before the NFL, Yale and Princeton’s college football teams played each other on Thanksgiving Day, due to it being a day that everyone had off.

Due to the Detroit Lions’ failing economical situation, the original owner G.A. Richard used the Thanksgiving as a gimmick to get people to come to the Lions’ games. Since their first official Thanksgiving game in 1920, the Lions hold a record of 36-38-2. The Lions are the only NFL to play on everything Thanksgiving gameday since its conception.

After the Cowboys were created in an expansion deal in 1960, owner Clint Murchison Jr. was looking for a way to get the team a foothold in the league. He struck a deal with the NFL and in 1966, 6 years after their conception, was added to the permanent slate for all Thanksgiving games. Since then, the Cowboys have gone 29-18-1 on Turkey Day.

In 2006, a third game was added on top of the Detroit and Dallas games. These games were given to random teams, rather than being hosted by the same team every year. One of Thanksgiving Day’s biggest attraction was the introduction of the throwback uniforms, worn by all 4 or 6 teams. Although, due to the games’s being on a Thursday, and the NFL’s new deal with Tide for the Color Rush jersey, if Thanksgiving is a team’s only Thursday game, they wear the Color Rush uniforms.

The Thanksgiving games also hold separate MVP awards depending on which station holds the games. CBS and Fox handed out the Turkey Leg Award to the best performing player, which is a literal turkey leg, from 1989-2001. From 2001-2006, Fox handed out the Galloping Gobbler, a silver turkey donning a football helmet, striking the Heisman pose. Since 2006, CBS has handed out the All-Iron Award, which is a small silver iron.

This year, the 6-4 Minnesota Vikings fly to face the 6-4 Lions in Detroit at the 11:30 time slot on CBS. In Dallas, the 9-1 Cowboys welcome the Washington Redskins in a rivalry as old as time itself. That game takes place at 3:30, and can be seen on Fox. In the 7:30 time slot, the 5-5 Pittsburgh Steelers and 5-5 Indianapolis Colts battle head to head on NBC.

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Cottam’s Corner: The NFL’s Longest Standing Tradition: Thanksgiving Football