Monday, November 24, 2014

How the Detroit Lions Celebrate Thanksgiving

For over seven decades, the Detroit Lions have played a regular-season game on Thanksgiving Day, which has made the team as much a part of Thanksgiving as the turkey itself.  

The tradition is, in fact, older than 24 current NFL franchises.

But few are probably aware of how the Detroit Lions celebrate their Thanksgiving.

When it’s your job to play on the national stage, a properly seasoned bird, cranberry sauce, and other trimmings kind of have to take a back seat.

My husband knows about this all too well because he played his entire NFL career with the Detroit Lions.

As a former Lions offensive lineman from 1991 through 1996, he’s played six Thanksgiving Day games, so who better to put on the hot seat than him?

Sure, times have changed since then.

Most notably, the Lions now play in Ford Field instead of the Pontiac Silverdome. 

But here are a few random facts about this unique NFL tradition during the era of former Detroit Lions head coach Wayne Fontes:

·         Following a short Wednesday “dress rehearsal” practice, the team as a whole would break bread together during a luncheon that featured a traditional Thanksgiving menu.

·         During the week leading up to the Thanksgiving game, Lions legends from season’s past were invited to share their Thanksgiving game day stories and words of wisdom with the current team.

·         The day before Thanksgiving is deemed media day in which the network broadcasting the game that year would interview the players about what the game means to them. The interviews would then be broadcast throughout the game.

·         Now this one is cruel: A few days before the game, the veteran players pull the mother of all pranks on poor, unsuspecting rookies. The veteran player of each position would send the rookies to a local supermarket to fetch turkeys for every player on the team, under the guise that the store was giving the turkeys away for free. When the rookies arrive, they would realize that it was all a prank. In lieu of free turkeys, the rookies would discover a laughing store manager and members of the media with video cameras.

·         During the team meeting on the eve of the Thanksgiving, the team would meet privately and reflect on the current season, give thanks, and express gratitude.

·         The MVP of the Thanksgiving Day game would be awarded a real turkey leg – ripped straight from a cooked bird. In 1989 former NFL coach and longtime football commentator John Madden spearheaded this tradition, known as the Thanksgiving Day award.

·         Tuesday is generally deemed a day off in the NFL, but the Tuesday before Thanksgiving is a full-blown practice day for the Detroit Lions.

·         Following the game, Lions players would be off for the rest of the week and would report back to practice the following Monday. Many players would use that time to travel and be with loved ones. (This applied to my husband, whose entire family resides in New Jersey.)

As a native Michigander, I’ve had the good fortune of attending a few Lions Thanksgiving Day games, but my most memorable experience – as far as football and Thanksgiving goes – happened during my junior year in high school in 1993: Here in Michigan, the varsity football state championship game takes place the day after Thanksgiving. And that year, my John Glenn Rockets took on the Fordson High Tractors – in the same stadium, the Silverdome, where the Lions played one day prior.

We lost, yes, but making it to The Big Dance was reason enough to celebrate. And besides, the Rockets gave it their all so they had nothing to be ashamed of.

You may recall I recently blogged about attending my high school’s homecoming football game – twenty years post-graduation.

Well, on the heels of that game, I chatted with John Glenn Varsity Football Assistant Coach John Garrett about the team’s plans for this Thanksgiving. Predictably, he said everything hinges on two scenarios: Making it through playoffs…or not.

“That week is significant to almost every team around,” says Coach Garrett. “Almost every coach plans to spend Thanksgiving with their team – particularly because the state finals are the next day. That’s your ultimate goal.”

But, unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be: A few weeks after Coach Garrett rendered the statement above, the Rockets lost their Division 1 district playoff semifinal against the Saline Hornets 41-6.

Now, I’m simply waiting to watch my Lions.

And, of course, to devour one heck of a dinner afterward.


Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! And please be sure to stop by the blog (between your helpings of turkey and stuffing) for a fun and festive holiday giveaway we will be launching that day!  In the meantime, click here to check out our existing holiday giveaways!

If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- 
The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers

9 comments:

  1. I love when you post cool insights like this one! Football is such a big part of my family's Thanksgiving Day and we love watching the giant turkey leg handouts after the game! And that prank on the rookies? Hilarious!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Allie -- and thank you! I thought readers might delight in hearing such a unique perspective -- and I, for one, never seem to tire of hearing Scott's game day stories. They are the gifts that keep on giving! lol

      Thank you for commenting!

      xo

      Delete
  2. We usually watch football on Thanksgiving day. Great time with the family while crowded around the tv watching football games.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Louida! It is SUCH an identifiable Thanksgiving Day tradition -- one that, as silly as it may sound, one that brings us closer, in a sense; much like the Super Bowl does. I think there's a certain comfort in many of us enjoying the same things with our families...

      Thanks for sharing!

      xo

      Delete
  3. And, Louida and Allie: Happy Thanksgiving to you and your wonderful families!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great traditions! Sorry about your HS team - better luck next year. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww, thanks, Lexa! Yeah, that's the thing about football: You can't win 'em all all the time.

      Thanks for stopping by; I always love hearing from you...

      xo

      Delete
  5. I have watched the Lions Thanksgiving game as long as I can remember, and I fondly recall Madden ripping off that turkey leg! There was one year where there were like 3 or 4 legs on that turkey.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Ellen! That makes two of us! I actually remember my grandfather going to the game with a friend or my uncle before coming back for dinner...and little did I know he was actually watching my future Hubs on the field! Ha!

      I don't remember the turkey leg rip off, though, lol I was probably stuffing my own face with pie or something. (lol)

      Thank you for commenting!

      xo

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...