For the Record
The Lions have hit tough times, but tradition is tradition.

It's an argument the Detroit Lions have been hearing for the past decade as they've endured nine losing seasons while being the laughing stock of the NFL.

Why does the NFL continue to allow the Lions to play on Thanksgiving Day?

Sure it's a tradition that dates back to 1934. But doesn't America deserve to watch a better team than the Lions take the football field after the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?

It's a complaint as frivolous as telling your mom that her turkey is overcooked or that the mashed potatoes are too lumpy. On a day that we're supposed to give thanks, why should anyone be complaining about the woes of watching a bad NFL team?

The city of Detroit, which has suffered through 17 straight seasons without a playoff win, certainly isn't complaining about spending the holidays with its winless Lions. In fact, it's probably the only aspect of the team they have to be thankful for these days. After three straight blackouts, Thursday's Lions-Titans game is sold out and will be shown in the Motor City, continuing a television tradition that has spanned over 50 years.

While people might want to watch another team besides the Lions play while they prepare their candied yams and cranberry sauce, how many were complaining about the Lions and Cowboys playing on Thanksgiving from 1990-1998 when they were getting Barry Sanders as an appetizer and Emmitt Smith as the main course?

The fact is the Lions started playing on Thanksgiving back when no one else wanted to. The Lions, more than any other team, are responsible for the NFL having a presence on this day. Now that they've fallen on hard times and playing on Turkey Day is now seen as an honor, we're supposed to stop a 74-year tradition and take it away from them? That's like a family opening the first restaurant in a city no else wants to go to and after they make their mark and the city gains some prestige they're forced out to make room for some trendy club.

Where were those club owners back in 1934? Oh, that's right, they weren't even born. When the Lions started playing on Thanksgiving Day 74 years ago, only four other current NFL teams were in their current cities and had their current names. The Lions on Thanksgiving has been one of the few constants in an ever-changing league that would be well served to keep a few of the traditions that has made them the most popular league in America.

There is no denying the Lions' ineptitude on the football field in recent years. But when was Thanksgiving supposed to be this bastion for great football games played between the NFL's best teams? Have we become so gluttonous that we not only want a great Turkey dinner with all the trimmings, we want a great football game, too? Thanksgiving isn't about watching the best teams in the NFL. It's about disorganized football games in your backyard, Pop Warner games at your park and high school games played by student-athletes being cheered on by their friends and family. That's how football became a Thanksgiving tradition back in the Northeast, about 100 years before the Lions ever played their first Thanksgiving Day game and that's what it should be about now.

Sure it would be nice to watch the Titans play the Giants instead of the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. But let's not confuse Turkey Day with Super Bowl Sunday. Thanksgiving is about enjoying family, food and football, even if only two out of the three live up to your expectations.  



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