Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Detroit Lions and Thanksgiving

First off, I have to say congratulations to the Ohio State Buckeyes and all their fans. They outplayed my beloved Wolverines in just about every aspect of the game on Saturday and pulled out an impressive 14-3 victory. Also, while part of me feels like it was time for Lloyd Carr to step down as Michigan's football coach, I'm sad to see him go. I feel like it is appropriate for Carr to retire because, though he's experienced a lot of success (including five Big Ten titles and a national championship), he's been on the "hot seat" for well over two years now and it was unfair for such a class act to continue to be subjected to the ridicule he's received. You're a true Michigan man and did a great job, Coach Carr.

Now...onto the Detroit Lions. I was just talking with my family about the origins of the Lions playing on Thanksgiving day and none of us knew the reasons why the Lions play, whereas other teams don't. I did some research on the 'net and found out the history behind the game. Read on from the Lions official website...
"Four generations of Detroiters have been a proud part of the American celebration of Thanksgiving. The relationship between Detroit and Thanksgiving dates back to 1934 when owner G.A. Richards scheduled a holiday contest between his first-year Lions and the Chicago Bears. Some 71 years later, fans throughout the State of Michigan have transformed an annual holiday event into the single greatest tradition in the history of American professional team sports. Indeed, if football is America’s Passion, Thanksgiving football is Detroit’s Passion.
No other team in professional sports can claim to be as much a part of an American holiday as can the Detroit Lions with Thanksgiving. When you think of Thanksgiving, you think of football and the Lions.
The Thanksgiving tradition is older than 24 current NFL franchises, and Detroit’s passionate affair with the annual Thanksgiving Day game is evidenced by its growing popularity. Year-after-year, Detroiters look forward to not only spending Thanksgiving with their families, but they also enjoy sharing that time with the Lions.
The most recent illustration of this love affair was introduced on September 9, 1998 when the Lions announced that all individual reserved tickets for the Lions-Steelers contest were sold out, assuring the earliest sellout in the 65-year history of the holiday series. The only remaining tickets were the 3,500 bleacher seats that went on sale 11 days before the game -- fans who had stood in line hours waiting for those seats gobbled up the remaining tickets in approximately eight minutes.
November 22, 2007 will mark the 67th addition of Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day tradition, and the passion continues to burn brighter than ever before.
The Origin of the Lions' Thanksgiving Day GameThe game was the brainchild of G.A. Richards, the first owner of the Detroit Lions. Richards had purchased the team in 1934 and moved the club from Portsmouth, Ohio to the Motor City. The Lions were the new kids in town and had taken a backseat to the baseball Tigers. Despite the fact the Lions had lost only one game prior to Thanksgiving in 1934, the season’s largest crowd had been just 15,000.
The opponent that day in 1934 was the undefeated, defending World Champion Chicago Bears of George Halas. The game would determine the champion of the Western Division. Richards had convinced the NBC Radio Network to carry the game coast-to-coast (94 stations) and, additionally, an estimated 26,000 fans jammed into the University of Detroit Stadium while thousands more disappointed fans were turned away.
Despite two Ace Gutowsky touchdowns, the Bears won the inaugural game, 19-16, but a classic was born. Since 1934, 67 games have been played with the Lions holding a series record of 33-32-2 (.507). And each game, in its own way, continues to bring back memories of Thanksgiving, not only to Lions' fans, but to football fans across the nation."
Here's to hoping that now that the Lions are respectable again, Jon Kitna can lead them to a victory over the formidable Packers in front of a national television audience.

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