On November 29, 1934, the Detroit Lions started their tradition of playing every Thanksgiving Day in a game against the Chicago Bears.
The game ended with the Bears claiming a 19-16 victory at University of Detroit Titan Stadium in front of 26,000 fans. It was sold out two weeks before kickoff. The win allowed the world champion Bears to clinch the Western Division title. The two teams played again the following week to end the season at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Bears won 10-3. The Bears finished their season with a perfect 13-0 while the Lions fell to second in the division at 10-3. The Bears season ended when they were beat by the New York Giants in the championship game. The Lions came back the next season to be the 1935 champions.
Football is about as American as the pumpkin pie, turkey and cranberry sauce on the Thanksgiving table, but do people ever stop to wonder why specific teams play every year?
Football was originally a tradition for many high schools and colleges throughout the country. There are still many schools who play on Thanksgiving, but it is not as common as it used to be.
The game in 1934 was a well thought out plan to bring the Lions to the public. It was the team’s first year in Detroit and they were looking for all the publicity they could get. The team was not getting front page coverage like the baseball team, the Tigers were. Team owner George A. Richards knew he was taking a risk, but it was their best chance to be in the public eye. The game was a hit and aside from a short hiatus during World War Two, the Lions have played on Thanksgiving every year.