From August to February each year we are inundated with football games on TV. Even after college games have ended, we have to endure the playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl (which gets later on the calendar every year, I might add).
But have you ever wondered why football became one of the traditions of Thanksgiving Day? Along with your turkey drumstick, why do you have to have pigskin in there somewhere too?
It goes w-a-a-a-y back to 1893 when the Universities of Michigan and Chicago would meet on Thanksgiving Day for their annual game. However, this tradition ended in 1899 when the Michigan coach refused to split gate receipts with the Chicago team. They had a dispute about the location of the next game, so in 1900 the match up with Chicago Maroons was the Wisconsin Badgers.
High school teams have also been playing traditional Thanksgiving games. One of the oldest rivalries is between two Missouri teams, Kirkwood and Webster Groves. These two have played each other since the late 1890’s.
Pro-football has played games on Thanksgiving since the league began in the early 20th century. For two decades, except in 1952, the NFL played one game on Thanksgiving which was always hosted by the Detroit Lions. In 1946, the All-American Football Conference played a game on the holiday until the league folded in 1949.
When the AFL began in 1960 it had a game scheduled for that special Thursday. Then in 1966, Dallas Cowboys owner, Tex Schramm, saw a Thanksgiving game as a marketing opportunity so a second game for the day was scheduled.
You get my drift here, right? Rather than continue with the history, let’s just say it’s still going on, with more being added over the years. Now from lunch to bedtime and sometimes thereafter, an oblong leather ball with pointed ends is flying across your table wearing the colors of different mascots. The games last through the leftovers, chips, dips, pretzels, popcorn, and pumpkin pie.
East to west, north to south, college to pro, a Thanksgiving football blowout has become an American tradition. This year our son and daughter-in-law surprised us with an early Christmas present—tickets to Saturday's game for the Alabama Crimson Tide. So not only do we get to watch games on television all week, we got to see one from the direct view of the stands. It doesn't get much better than that!
Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the game, whoever you root for. So now that you know some history of the holiday game, how do you weave this TV spectacular into your celebration?