(WTAJ) — Every November, Americans travel far and wide to spend time with their families while enjoying turkey on Thanksgiving. And while (overeating) turkey on the annual holiday is a recurring theme, so is football: The NFL schedules three games each season on Turkey Day.
Whether you’re into sports or not, you might notice that each year, the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions are taking the field. So why do these two teams always play on Thanksgiving?
The tradition is entering its 89th year for the Lions, who started playing on Thanksgiving in 1934. The initial scheduling was no accident, either. George A. Richards, the then-owner of the team, aimed to attract some publicity (and fans) with a Turkey Day game, according to CBS Sports.
Richards also owned an NBC-affiliated radio station and had worked out a contract to get the game broadcast on 94 different stations.
The Lions have played on Thanksgiving every year since 1934 except between 1939 and 1944 during World War II.
Detroit didn’t invent football on Thanksgiving, though. According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the first Thanksgiving NFL football games were held on Nov. 25, 1920.
How ’bout them Cowboys, though? Their tradition began more recently but still has a lot of history.
In 1966, then-general manager Tex Schramm scheduled a Thanksgiving game for much the same reason as Richards — to attract crowds. The Cowboys have missed out on only two Thanksgiving games since, when the St. Louis Cardinals played instead in 1975 and 1977.
Both the Cowboys and the Lions have kept the tradition going, and it doesn’t seem as though plans will change anytime soon. One notable exception, however, was the NFL adding a third Thanksgiving game to the slate in 2006.
Detroit is 37-44-2 all-time on Thanksgiving, while Dallas is 32-22-1 all-time, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The best records belong to the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans, both of whom are 2-0 on the holiday.
The Cleveland Browns hold the worst win percentage, losing in all three of their Turkey Day appearances.
Oddly enough, every team has played on Thanksgiving except one — the Jacksonville Jaguars.
This season’s game will feature the Green Bay Packers visiting the Detroit Lions at 12:30 p.m. ET on FOX followed by the Washington Commanders taking on the Dallas Cowboys at 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS. The night will end with the San Francisco 49ers taking on the Seattle Seahawks at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC.