It’s Thanksgiving morning in Detroit, Michigan. Amid all the excitement of the day, from parades to food, you know you’ll get to go to your grandmother’s house to enjoy some family excitement. It’s one of the highlights of your year.
As part of all of this, you’ll also get to watch the Detroit Lions play football. For one day, records and standings do not matter. Wins and losses do not matter. It’s all about tradition, doing something your family has done for generations every single year. Gathering to be together to celebrate the holiday with the Lions in the background.
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Perhaps your childhood was something like this if you grew up in Michigan. Perhaps you went to the game annually, or attended the Detroit parade and watched the game. Perhaps you just delighted in your city being in the spotlight one day a year for a good reason and not as part of some usual national punchline.
Yet, as always, there are people who strive to break down this tradition from the outside or desire to see it taken away simply because of the way a football team plays. This time of year the old bits come out quick from every corner of the internet, just as they are in 2021 from Bill Maher and others on Fox News.
“Can’t we just get the Lions off Thanksgiving?”
“Why should we be forced to watch the Lions and not see another team?”
What these folks fail to understand is nobody forces anyone to watch the Lions and football in general. Want to have a Lions-free Thanksgiving? Just turn off the television and pay more attention to your family. The power is truthfully in America’s hands. Besides, the league has given angry fans a third option at night. Problem solved.
The simpleist answer, though, is it’s always about more than just football for all those who are paying attention.
Lions’ Thanksgiving Tradition Is Also NFL History
Not much in the NFL dates back as far as Detroit football on Thanksgiving. The tradition began in 1934 when team owner George Richards was seeking a way to get folks to attend games. Richards then also helped the game onto national television given his ties with WJR radio in Detroit. Little did he know the type of celebration that the game would become through the years and what it would mean to so many folks. While the Lions are only 37-42-2 on the holiday, they’ve created so many special moments in football history by playing the game that render the stats all but meaningless.
Who could forget O.J. Simpson running wild in 1976, or Dave Williams making history with a kickoff touchdown in 1980. Barry Sanders came along and dazzled through the better part of a decade, using the holiday as his own special way to touch millions of fans.
Or maybe you just remember the coin toss heard around the world, but apparently misheard by Phil Luckett in 1998.
When these moments played out, no doubt you can recall where you were, or a funny reaction from a family member no matter what team they cheer for. This game has always had a special way of interweaving family with sports, and that becomes special for generations of people. Few things can bring folks together anymore like sport still does. To that end, Richards deserves credit and not shame for bringing Lions football to the masses.
Let Detroit Have Their Thanksgiving Super Bowl
As most people know, the Lions haven’t been a banner franchise through the years. They’ve struggled with consistency, and don’t make playoff appearances, victories or titles a habit whatsoever. Fans have only had disappointment and heartbreak to look forward to for the better part of 60 years. As a result, the most exciting time for many fans is the offseason and the NFL draft, where the promise of building a better team comes to the forefront. Few games live up to the hype, so Thanksgiving is truthfully Detroit’s Super Bowl. It’s the only day the team gets that level of attention and appreciation, which their fans deserve for sticking with such a team through all the bad times. If the Lions don’t win any other games and manage to pull out a Thanksgiving win, fans would feel a special level of delight knowing the team got it done on that day and that day alone.
Few people understand being from Detroit nationally. Those who constantly feel the need to comment negatively about the tradition are the ones who are missing out, for they never had the opportunity to be blessed with anything that meant so much in their life. Their jealousy only shows through the ignorance of their words.
Let the Lions have Thanksgiving. It’s their Super Bowl and it’s their tradition. For the fans, it’s getting close to all they have.
Don’t like it? Don’t watch the game, and keep quiet about it next time.