Year after year, families and friends gather in the United States at the end of November to celebrate Thanksgiving. Due to the global pandemic and the increasing number of cases, the whole thing should be a little lower this time too. But one thing is by no means omitted: food and football in front of the boob tube.

Ever popular and established in the USA for many decades: Thanksgiving in the National Football League.
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Every year on the fourth Thursday in November the time has come: The USA celebrates the national holiday Thanksgiving – even though the citizens shouldn’t make the festival so excessive for the second year in a row due to Corona, even if the number of cases is currently not that high rise like in Germany, which is why the US State Department is urging its citizens to warn its citizens not to travel to Germany. Back to football Thursday this week: As every year, there is a huge feast on the table in many places – and the American’s favorite sport runs from morning to night.

Thanksgiving has been a special holiday in North America since 1863 – and a very special day in American football. The first two games have always been played in Detroit and Dallas for many, many years, the third match, which has only been practiced annually since 2006, takes place between two constantly changing teams.

This year the NFL is again serving a full three-course meal to its fans after a game postponement last year due to corona cases at the Baltimore Ravens (would have been to the Pittsburgh Steelers last Thanksgiving).

So now again three games in a row: It starts at 6.30 p.m. (CET) with the NFC North division duel between the Detroit Lions (0: 9: 1) and Chicago Bears (3: 7), which are still completely winless after the last five defeats in a row, the play-offs are tight and the fans have already given head coach Matt Nagy whistles in a loop. This is followed by the mandatory home game of the Dallas Cowboys (7: 3) from 10.30 p.m. (CET). 5) get busy. In the night from Thursday to Friday (2.20 a.m.), New Orleans Saints (5: 5) vs. Buffalo Bills (6: 4) follows. Both teams have recently allowed themselves defeats and now need another success to put pressure on the top in their respective division and to get the play-off chance.

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Tradition – in favor of two teams

But why are Detroit and Dallas always allowed to perform in front of their home crowd, so they don’t have to travel long distances and can look forward to a special image?

A smart businessman

Story Detroit: In this country it should not be so well known that the Lions have been allowed to play a home game on the Thanksgiving holiday for many decades (!). In the USA, on the other hand, this topic is omnipresent – and sometimes gets angry with other teams. After all, every franchise would like to benefit from higher ratings and an exclusive TV slot, as well as the associated increased interest. But an old German proverb fits in with this: First come, first served! And the Lions were the first team, long ago, to rush ahead and get the ball rolling on Thanksgiving.

Detroit Lions

Anchored in Thanksgiving: the Detroit Lions.
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The Lions were formed as Spartans in Portsmouth in 1929. George Richards, former director of the radio station World Junior Records (WJR), finally shipped the team to the city of Detroit.

In order to attract more and more fans in the following years, the owner ordered football to go up on Thanksgiving Day in 1934. This is where potential supporters finally have free time and money to spend on their football team. The plan worked: Since the clever manager Richards was part of “NBC Blue Network” with his radio station, he got the superiors to broadcast the first game (16:19 defeat against Chicago) over 94 stations nationwide.

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And although the success for the Lions cannot be determined from a purely sporting point of view (manageable balance of 37: 41: 2, most recently in 2020 a 20:24 against NFC North rival Chicago), it is clear: Detroit has noticeably contributed to that Thanksgiving has become a family football holiday for countless Americans.

For the NFL itself, the move, including the measures, also turned out to be very successful in retrospect, as it was finally able to establish a team in the “Motor City” in the fifth attempt. In addition, the Detroit Lions secured the NFL title for the first time in 1935, the same year the Detroit Tigers won the World Series for the first time and just before the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup twice in a row (1936, 1937).

Cowboys secure second place

Tom Landry

Made the Dallas Cowboys as big as they are today thanks to Thanksgiving: legend Tom Landry.
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Story Dallas: The proud cowboys were allowed to run on Thanksgiving for the first time in 1966, before the procedure became regular from 1978 and until today. And just like the Lions, the Texans’ creators were also hoping to polish their image with this special holiday appearance. No sooner said than done – and again clever planners were at work here. Because the franchise established itself during this time under legend coach Tom Landry, who trained between 1960 and 1988 and the Cowboys in 1971/72 (24: 3 against Miami) and 1977/78 (27:10 against Denver) for the Super Bowl Victory led. “America’s Team” was born. The then General Manager Tex Schramm contributed enormously to the marketing-technical success during this time – among other things he established the “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders”.

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The Thanksgiving balance of Dallas, which is commonly referred to as “America’s Team” because of the many, many fans these days – as mentioned – and lost to the Buffalo Bills at 15:26 last year, looks like this: 31 wins , 20 losses, one draw.

Game number 3

In short: The Lions have been playing their first Thanksgiving home game since 1934, before Dallas has always followed Detroit with a game in front of a home crowd since 1978. However, in order to allow other of the 32 NFL teams to enjoy the benefits, the league has had a third, always flexible duel since 2006 (this time Steelers vs. Ravens). The additional benefit from this: More than six hours of football entertainment become well over nine – and the US holiday Thanksgiving is in the hands of Football in the media, which of course generates plenty of revenue for the NFL. Especially because a number of commercial companies can advertise the upcoming Black Friday plus the subsequent Cyber ​​Monday.

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