The Detroit Lions play on Thanksgiving every year for a reason

(Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)
(Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports) /

Traditions rarely last, but this one should for the Detroit Lions.

Football is synonymous with Thanksgiving, as the NBA is with Christmas. These sports don’t define the holiday, but they add entertainment to it, and not just for Detroit Lions fans. There is no better feeling in the world than devouring multiple plates of food after tossing the pigskin around with loved ones.

The sport has been played an integral part of the holiday well before the Super Bowl era. It began when George Hallas ran the show while Paul Brown and Otto Graham did their best Belichick/Brady impression dominating the league year after year. However, other teams needed to make a lasting impact, leading to one of the most forgotten partnerships in league history.

The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys are the only two teams to play on Thanksgiving annually. People gather around the television to watch “America’s team” but forget about the NFL’s middle child. So when they hear Detroit taking part in another Turkey day game, they question why the league does not replace them with a better option.

The tradition started well before the Lions turned into a dumpster fire franchise. But then, the Lions were barely an organization. They just wanted some attention.

Who is the reason for the Detroit Lions playing every Thanksgiving?

Break out those texts books! It’s time for a history lesson.

The Lions entered the league as the Portsmouth Spartans. In 1934, media mogul, George Richards, bought the team and relocated them to Detroit. In an attempt to gain fans, he had an idea to put them on the national stage.

George owned a radio station in the Motor City. He made a deal with NBC to broadcast their thanksgiving game on 94 affiliate stations. Fans packed the arena on Turkey day, but many were forced to turn around at the gates. The broadcast gave those fans a chance to listen to the game and cheer on their team. A tradition was born.

George’s plan to increase his franchise’s exposure worked, as the Lions have played on Thanksgiving every season, except for a brief period during WWII. It did not matter how good or bad the team played that. They always had a nationally broadcasted game on their schedule, which many believe should be stripped from them.

I’m sorry to inform you, but nothing is changing.

Why do the Detroit Lions deserve to play on Thanksgiving?

Any game played on the national stage must leave fans wanting more. Their goal is to have the audience on the edge of their seats throughout its entirety, causing them to return the following week. The Lions leave fans wanting more options after their games.

Thanksgiving is not the only opportunity teams have to have more eyes on them. The NFL gives teams chances to thrive in front of the entire country weekly. Thursday Night Football starts the week. Sunday Night Football ends the week, while Monday Night Football is the encore fans may or may not have requested.

The top teams hog the spotlight from the rest, especially with the league flexing certain games. The Patriots, Buccaneers, Chiefs, and Ravens have taken up residency on the national stage, but what about the bottom-tier teams? Well, that is what Thursdays are for.

Detroit’s football team may receive one invitation to play in the national spotlight a season. Thanksgiving is their only chance to have the light shined on them, even if they have to start a third-string quarterback off the practice squad. They make it work.

The Lions have transformed into the league’s court jester, wondering the next blunder to land on the not-top ten or what crazy factor will lead them to lose another game. But, unfortunately, the Lions are more than that.

Dan Campbell dedicates a lot of time and effort to rebuild the franchise into a legitimate threat. Unfortunately, the roster does not have the talent to make a highlight reel; instead, their work ethic determines their success.

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Traditions are meant to end, but not this one. Lions fans circle this day on the calendar every season with hopes to have two things to be thankful for this year. First, be thankful the Lions play on Thanksgiving. Who knows where the NFL would be if they did not.