Thanksgiving Football History and Facts

Thanksgiving Football History and Facts

-          Thanksgiving was made an official Holiday in the 1860’s by President Lincoln.

-          Football games on Thanksgiving date back to 1876 when Yale & Princeton began the tradition.

-          The University of Michigan also made it a tradition to play annual Thanksgiving games from 1885-1905. Thanksgiving games between Michigan and the Chicago Maroons in the 1890’s are known as “The Beginning of Thanksgiving Football”.

-          Pro Football began Thanksgiving football in the 1890’s with the Allegheny Athletic Association of Pittsburgh.

-          In the early 1900’s, an unrelated NFL, held its championship game on Thanksgiving.

-          In the Ohio League, marquee match-ups were held on Thanksgiving.

-          In 1919, the New York Pro Football League featured a match-up between the Buffalo Prospects and the Rochester Jeffersons. The game ended in a scoreless tie and a rematch game for the championship was held the following week.

Thanksgiving NFL History and Facts

-          G.A. Richards, the first owner of the Lions, previously the Portsmouth Spartans started the Tradition of Thanksgiving football as a gimmick to get people to attend games.

-          In the first 19 years of the NFL, several teams held their own Thanksgiving Games including the Chicago Bears, Chicago Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Frankford Yellowjackets and the New York Football Giants.

-          The Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Tradition has played their game annually since 1934. Their first game was a lost to the Chicago Bears 19-16.

-          In 1939 and 1940. President Franklin Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving a week earlier during The Great Depression to help bolster the economy. This led to great protests and came to be known as “Franksgiving”. The only two teams to play the Thanksgiving game during those two years were the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles. In 1941, Thanksgiving moved back to being celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

-          The AAFC, which was absorbed into the NFL, played Thanksgiving Games from 1947-1949.

-          The AFL also played Thanksgiving Games every year before the AFL-NFL Merger.

-          In 1966, the Dallas Cowboys started their annual Thanksgiving Game Tradition.

-          Detroit Lions are always the early game, starting at 12:30, while the Dallas Cowboys are always the late game, the early game starts at 12:30 as opposed to the regular 1:00 start to allow 30 minutes for overlapping.

-          From 1975-1977, The Dallas Cowboys were replaced by the St. Louis Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) as the Thanksgiving Game Hosts.

-          St. Louis hosted the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving in 1976.

-          Because of the Kirkwood-Webster Groves High School Football game that takes place on Thanksgiving in St. Louis, The Cardinals hosting the game proved to be unpopular. Therefore, the Dallas Cowboys returned the hosting the game in 1978. Because of this reason, the now St. Louis Rams have not played on Thanksgiving for the same reason.

-          Since the NFL Re-Alignment in 2002, the AFC North is the only Division not to feature a team to play on Thanksgiving.

-          The AFC North is currently locked out of the schedule rotation due to the Lions and Cowboys playing against the NFC in the years those teams play that division.

-          The last time an AFC North team played on Thanksgiving was when it was the AFC Central. The Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Detroit Lions in Overtime in the game best known for the “Coin Toss Controversy”.

-          That changed in 2010 when the Cincinnati Bengals hosted the New York Jets for the night game.

-          Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt lobbied for an AFC team to host a Thanksgiving game and lobbied in favor of his Chiefs for the game.

-          In 2006, as part of a compromise the Lions and Cowboys will keep their Traditional games and the NFL added a 3rd tripleheader night game. The night game hosts are rotated every year. The Kansas City Chiefs hosted the first Thanksgiving Night Game, beating the Denver Broncos 19-10.

-          The 3rd night game was hosted by the NFL Network from 2006-2011.

-          Rule changes in the 2012-22 television contracts will permit the Detroit/Dallas rotation to be flexed out, allowing two AFC teams to play each other on CBS, Detroit and Dallas to host NFC teams, provided one game is on NBC and the other is on Fox.

-          The only two NFL Franchises who have never played a game on Thanksgiving are the two 1995 Expansion teams, the Carolina Panthers and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

-          The team with the most non-host Thanksgiving game appearances are the Green Bay Packers with 34. Their record on Thanksgiving is 14-18-2.

-          The Chicago Bears are second with 31 appearances, with a record of 16-13-2.

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