A Thanksgiving tradition rooted in elite college football
The Thanksgiving tradition began back in 1876, when the Intercollegiate Football Association began hosting their championship game on the holiday.
It’s this game, Andrews said, that took football from a sporting event to a social one.
And that’s when it really takes off, in the 1880s and the 1890s.”And so, by the mid-1890s, college football and Thanksgiving day were synonymous.
The rise of Thanksgiving, then, is almost congruent with the rise of football: the holiday helped fuel the popularity of the sport, Andrews said, and in turn football made Thanksgiving a little more secular and more widely appealing.
School colors are often linked to football teams, and landmark events like homecoming are typically tied to a football game.
In 1893, the New York Herald condemned the rise of football on Thanksgiving, arguing that the sport was ruining the holiday.
That year, the Lions began their annual Thanksgiving game tradition, which has continued to this day.
Sports Studio Photos/Getty Images“Of course they played on Thanksgiving, because by 1920 Thanksgiving meant football and football meant Thanksgiving,” Andrews said.
By the 1970s, Thanksgiving and NFL football were inseparableStill, professional football hadn’t really exploded in popularity just yet.
So in 1966, they began to host a Thanksgiving game, Andrews said, bringing instant exposure to the team.
By the 1970s, the Cowboys were the most famous football team in the US, and Thanksgiving and professional football were intrinsically linked.
As a result, in 2006, the NFL added a third Thanksgiving game to the lineup, featuring rotating teams.