Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism.
The Dartmouth
May 28, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Toe to Toe: Hodes versus Schmidley (Schmidley)

Thanksgiving Day football. It has included the same two teams, Detroit and Dallas, for the past 41 years now. Hodes and I decided it was appropriate in the wake of this year's Thursday games to debate whether a change should be made, and whether Turkey Day football should take on a rotating schedule, with fans from all teams getting to periodically enjoy some pigskin with their turkey and stuffing.

On the surface, the change seems to make a good deal of sense -- why deny 30 teams and their faithful followings the chance to be included?

Well, change is rampant in today's NFL. Whether it's the NFL Network monopolizing the rights to certain games, or the ever-expanding global nature of the league that has more and more games being played overseas, the league we know and love has been rapidly transforming. In light of this, an effort to maintain certain elements of the status quo needs to be made.

The Detroit Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving since 1934. Folks, that means their tradition of playing on Turkey Day is older than 24 NFL franchises. If that fact doesn't speak to the importance of maintaining tradition, particularly in the case of Thanksgiving Day football, I have a hard time figuring out what does.

Additionally, the Lions and Cowboys have sported some of the league's most entertaining playmakers over the course of their time as Thanksgiving Day participants. The foremost Lions playmaker, my favorite "Sports Hero" (see the term's first "Toe to Toe"), needs no introduction. He's inarguably the greatest running back of all time, and he didn't disappoint on Thanksgiving Day. Barry Sanders is the current record holder for most rushing yards gained in a Thanksgiving Day game.

The Cowboys certainly haven't been short on entertaining playmakers to give Thanksgiving Day football a little extra flavor either. Names like Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders -- the list goes on.

The current Lion and Cowboy squads are certainly not wanting for first-rate playmakers either. The Lions are one of the league's best young teams, featuring one of the league's top receivers in Roy Williams, and the ultra-talented, soon to be Pro Bowler, Calvin Johnson.

Tradition is critical in any setting, and particularly in the National Football League, where we've seen a potentially alarming erosion of it over the past few years. In this writer's opinion, the most pressing issue is that of overseas games, but Thanksgiving Day football assumes a degree of near-equal importance. While employing a rotating schedule to determine who plays on Thanksgiving Day would, from a technical standpoint, be more equitable, it would also put a detracting check on a storied NFL tradition. What could we possibly tell Lions and Cowboys fans next Thanksgiving if their teams aren't playing?

The bottom line is, the rest of the league can be content to play on Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, and if they're lucky enough, get to square off against the Lions or Cowboys. If the NFL allowed itself to cease the hallowed tradition of Detroit and Dallas Thanksgiving action, there's no telling what could happen next. The league should not have carte blanche to do as it pleases, particularly in the case of a 41-year-long tradition.