The tradition of Thanksgiving football games has been around as long as most of the people reading this article. The games are a staple part of the holiday and seem to grow in popularity yearly. But why are they so crucial to the holiday and popular among Americans?
First and foremost, Thanksgiving is a purely American holiday, and it just so happens that football is also purely American. To the rest of the world, their football is our soccer, and our football is American football, which is not played very widely. American football is so American that the word is in the name of the sport for most of the world.
Thanksgiving is an American holiday based on traditions dating back to the first colonies (even though it may have been a lot worse than initially pitched to us as children). So when you look at the pairing from this angle, it makes sense why football and Thanksgiving are so deeply intertwined, just like they are within America.
Now that we’ve established how entwined America and by proxy, Thanksgiving is with football, it’s time to look at the growing popularity of those games. Thanksgiving games are some of the year's most widely watched NFL games. In fact, this year’s New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys game set the NFL regular season viewership record at 42 million viewers.
Despite being a staple of Thanksgiving celebrations for many years, the games continue to grow in popularity and enrapture viewers. Personally, I know that every game is played on the television throughout Thanksgiving day, partially because my dad is a huge Cowboys fan, but also because it’s just a Thanksgiving tradition.
There have been many exhilarating and high-energy Thanksgiving games played over the years. The 1993 Miami Dolphins-Dallas Cowboys game is one that most definitely went down in history. That wasn’t exactly due to the game itself, but actually due to the fact that the field was covered in snow by the end of the game, despite the fact that it was played in Texas. There was also the 1986 Green Bay Packers-Detroit Lions game. This game was the highest-scoring game ever played on Thanksgiving, with the final score being Packers 44 - Lions 40.
Having those games on, even if it’s just in the background of conversation and cooking, is so normal and really embodies the Thanksgiving spirit of family. Football and family are deeply intertwined in American culture so it makes sense for us all to gather, and maybe just happen to have football on in the background.
So if you just so happened to miss this year’s Thanksgiving football games, there are plenty more on family holidays this year. On Christmas Eve the Las Vegas Raiders play the Pittsburgh Steelers. On Christmas Day the Green Bay Packers play the Miami Dolphins, the Denver Broncos play the Los Angeles Rams, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Arizona Cardinals. The NFL will also be putting on a few games on New Year’s Day: the San Francisco 49ers play the Las Vegas Raiders, the New York Jets play the Seattle Seahawks, the Minnesota Vikings play the Green Bay Packers, and the Los Angeles Rams play the Los Angeles Chargers.
Happy holidays enjoy the time with your family and the NFL!