Thanksgiving football, a Detroit tradition


Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Collin Kilpatrick, Sports Editor

Why should a terrible team like the Lions get to play on Thanksgiving Day every year, when fans would much rather watch a better team play while enjoying their turkey. This is a question brought up every year around the Thanksgiving holiday, and the answer: Tradition. 

Football has always been a part of the Thanksgiving tradition, especially in Detroit, which has seen their football teams play on Thanksgiving since as early as 1917. Many date the true start of Thanksgiving football in Detroit to 1934, when the Detroit Lions hosted the Chicago Bears. The Lions fell to the Bears by a score of 19-16, however the tradition of Detroit Lions football on Thanksgiving Day was born. 

In the 1930s, the Lions were a good team, even winning the NFL championship in 1935, however the team has not continued their success. While the Lions have not been a good team, it would be hard to imagine a Thanksgiving without them playing. People have long called for the removal of the Lions from the Thanksgiving Day schedule, especially after their winless season in 2008. Despite the Lions poor performances, the Detroit Thanksgiving game is still consistently one of the most viewed games of the NFL season. Along with this, the Lions highest attendance record was set on a Thanksgiving day football game. 

Anyone who has been to Detroit on Thanksgiving can see how important the tradition is to the city. As hundreds of thousands of people line the streets of Detroit to watch the annual parade, you can see that most of them are wearing Honolulu blue to support the Lions. 

The Thanksgiving football tradition is certainly alive and well in Detroit, which is why the game should remain a staple for the holiday. Thanksgiving is a holiday that is built on tradition, which is why it would make no sense to do away with one of its most cherished ones. While it is true that the Lions have won only 37 of the 80 games they have played on Thanksgiving, the game means more than just winning or losing. The game represents what Thanksgiving is known for, which is bringing people together. Thanksgiving football has consistently brought Lions fans together since 1934, and it will continue to be a Detroit tradition. 

The tradition will carry on, even amidst a pandemic, though much like everything else this year, it is going to look different. Unlike every other year, fans will not be able to line the streets of Detroit, or pack Ford Field to cheer on the Lions. Many fans will not even travel to see their families, which means families will not be watching the game together; however, the game will go on. 

Watching the Lions game will bring a welcomed sense of normalcy to a year which has been anything but normal. Tradition is important, especially this year, which is why Thanksgiving football, a uniquely Detroit tradition, is here to stay.