In the iconic first scene of the holiday film, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”, Lucy presents an undeniable argument regarding the culture around Thanksgiving. She reminds Charlie Brown of a custom few Americans could forget; “one of the greatest traditions we have is the Thanksgiving Day football game”, a tradition almost as old as the holiday itself. Every year, those of us fortunate enough to gather with family and friends will likely fellowship in faith, feast on free food, watch football, or some combination of the three. While football and giving thanks may seem at best loosely related, by bringing together die-hard football fans, members of opposing fan-clubs, and those with little understanding of the sport, the NFL Thanksgiving Day games foster the spirit and sense of community that prompted the first Thanksgiving.
In 1934, the Detroit Lions needed to boost interest in and attendance of football games in a city in which baseball was paramount. While Thanksgiving had long been a popular day for high school and college football contests, the Lions were the first to take advantage of this historic relationship. The Dallas Cowboys joined the Lions shortly afterward as a permanent fixture in the tradition of the NFL Thanksgiving Day games. Thus, the American Thanksgiving feast doubles as a watch party on the biggest night of football other than the Super Bowl. Today, about 30 million Americans will tune in to each of the three games throughout the evening. Although the pilgrims may not have envisioned football as part of Thanksgiving festivities, they surely would have approved of the over 45 million turkeys that Americans will eat during the games, including the turkey leg presented to the winning team.
Recently, Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin expressed his disdain for Thursday Night Football, saying it “should be illegal” to play such a “dangerous” and physically demanding sport twice a week with little rest in between. Today, each team given the honor of playing will have already done so a mere four days prior. Baldwin is not alone in his belief that midweek football is hazardous and NFL schedules must be reconsidered. Injury reports support his argument; Thursday Night Football takes its toll on players subjected to multiple game-weeks. Does this mean the NFL must shut down the longstanding holiday tradition of football on Thanksgiving in order to maximize player safety? Not quite. In fact, the Thanksgiving Day games would be even more special if they were the only Thursday Night Games on the schedule, and the teams participating prepared for over a week. However, the NFL is far from predictable, so let’s give thanks for Thanksgiving Day games while we still have them.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Onyeka Arah of Paint Branch High School