Why Do the Dallas Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
Parade, turkey, Dallas Cowboys football. Three things you're guaranteed every year on Thanksgiving, but why?
Since 2007, I have made it my goal to attend every Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving game. With the exception of last year (f*** you Covid) I have not missed a game. Everyone knows Thanksgiving day, the Lions and the Cowboys play. Why is it always these teams that play?
The Lions playing actually dates all the way back to 1934. Their new owner G.A. Richards thought it would be a good idea while everyone is home to have a game to look forward to. With no competition, it would be one of the only things to check out on that day due to the holiday. Thus a tradition was born, with the exception 1941-1944 (World War 2) the Lions have always played on Thanksgiving.
What about America's Team? Back in 1966 General Manger Tex Schramm was always thinking about ways to get the Cowboys national attention. Honestly, Tex is the reason the Cowboys got so big and honestly why the NFL advanced so much during his time in the league. Don Shula once said, "I truly believe he had as much, or more, to do with the success of professional football as anyone who has ever been connected with the league."
Tex wanted as many eyeballs on the Cowboys as possible. So the Cowboys opted in to play a game every year along with the Lions every Thanksgiving. Some were worried folks wouldn't show up to that Thanksgiving game. Nope, the Cowboys set an attendance record for the first Thanksgiving game at the Cotton Bowl. Over 80,000 people were there to see them play the Cleveland Browns.
The one thing that sucks about this tradition is that it's not perfect. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle allowed the St. Louis Cardinals to host two Thanksgiving games. One in 1975 and another in 1977. The Cardinals played the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving in 1976. The Cardinals lost all three seasons they played on Thanksgiving and the team opted out of playing. In their final game hosting on Thanksgiving they lost 55-14. The Cowboys have played on every Thanksgiving since.
So grab a leg, some mashed potatoes, and enjoy tomorrow's game. It's something I look forward to every year and I hope it never goes away.
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