Toe to Toe: Hodes versus Schmidley (Hodes)
Thanksgiving is a time for family, turkey and football. Millions of Americans spend part of their holiday tossing the pigskin around, while millions more spend their day watching football on television. And every year, it's the same: Detroit and Dallas. Yes, I know there's now a third game. We'll get to that later. The real issue is that it's time for a change.
It's time to rotate the host cities. Detroit has been hosting Thanksgiving games since 1934; Dallas, since 1966 (with the exception of 1975 and '77). One might argue that there is so much tradition involved in these games it would be a shame to make a change. Perhaps, but the upside seems far greater than any loss of tradition.
I have heard two major criticisms of Dallas and Detroit hosting this game every year with which I wholeheartedly agree. The first is that they do not have to travel on a short week. Why does this matter? NFL teams have highly regimented weekly schedules. When teams are playing on short rest, these schedules become greatly condensed. Travel then becomes one of the most taxing and time-consuming parts of the week. Once in a while, this might be acceptable. But when you're given such a great advantage in one game every year, it becomes unfair.
The second notable criticism is that the 10 days until the next game give the Thanksgiving teams a disproportionate amount of rest at a critical juncture in the season. Once again, this is okay, but not when the same teams receive this preferential treatment on an annual basis.
I believe there's an additional criticism that should also be heard, this one coming from the fan's perspective. As much as we like watching football on Thanksgiving, we also want to watch good football. We were fortunate to have Dallas and Detroit both playing well this year, but often, this isn't the case. There have been countless years when Thanksgiving had come around and I dreaded watching these teams. This year, I was somewhat excited for the games. My two favorite teams were playing: the Jets and Green Bay. And therein lies the problem. Every fan should get a chance to watch his team on Thanksgiving. Perhaps four new teams should play every year. After eight years, the entire league would have played.
At the same time, Thanksgiving is a marquee day for the league. Maybe there should be a bit more method and a bit less randomness to the scheduling. The most important thing is that the Thanksgiving games be good games, meaning elite teams should be involved. First, I would award home games to the two Super Bowl teams from the past season. There's no way to ensure that any team will have a good year, but picking these two teams is your best chance, not to mention it's fair to the two conferences. Then, for some real fun, I would pair them against the teams they beat in their respective league championship games.
But what of Dallas and Detroit? Well, every year, we could play Dallas against Detroit in the nightcap. The two would rotate hosting the game, and it would take one tradition and turn it into an even better one. More importantly, some of the benefits each receives out of hosting on Thanksgiving every year would be negated by being the road team every other year.
So there you have it, for competitive and recreational reasons, we should change the current Thanksgiving schedule.