Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?

Elsa, Getty Images
Elsa, Getty Images

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team was founded in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions will host the Chicago Bears.

How 'bout them Cowboys?

The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Buffalo Bills on Thursday.

WHat's with the night game?

In 2006, because six-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Atlanta Falcons will welcome the New Orleans Saints.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.

Save Up to 93 Percent on 8 Gaming Accessories and Enter to Win a Free Nintendo Switch Bundle

Stackcommerce
Stackcommerce

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Why Do Politicians Need to Say 'I Approve This Message' in Their Ads?

What does it mean when a politician approves of a message in a campaign commercial?
What does it mean when a politician approves of a message in a campaign commercial?
bee32/iStock via Getty Images

As election season ramps up, voters will be seeing a lot of campaign advertisements on television. Without exception, these ads will conclude with a disclaimer that the politician being endorsed has sanctioned the spot. Usually, the person will say or be quoted as saying “I approve this message.” It’s clearly a requirement, but why? And how did it get started?

The practice is a relatively new one. In 2002, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act was passed, along with the Stand By Your Ad provision. The Act, which was backed by then-senators John McCain and Russell D. Feingold, was intended to further legitimize campaign contributions by banning large corporate donations. Stand By Your Ad mandates that anyone running for federal office stamp “I approve this message” as part of their campaign commercials. The goal was to curb muckraking, where candidates would lob ceaseless insults and accusations at one another. With Stand By Your Ad, lawmakers were hoping political candidates would think twice before engaging in dirty tactics and then attempting to deny any involvement. Call it a self-imposed campaign shaming.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is very specific about how that disclaimer should appear. According to the FEC, the written statement must come at the end of the ad, appear for at least four seconds, be readable against a contrasting background, and occupy at least 4 percent of the vertical picture height. The candidate will typically identify themselves and say the message aloud.

If the message was not approved by a candidate, then the spot will typically name the entity that is responsible—a political committee, group, or person. There’s also usually language about who financed the commercial.

So does this “play nice” edict actually work? According to research from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley and published in the Journal of Marketing Research in 2018, the answer is: Not really.

Negative campaign ads made up 29 percent of political persuasion spots in 2000, and that number rose to 64 percent in 2012. In the week before the 2016 presidential election, 92 percent of ads were characterized as negative.

One possible reason: By stamping a negative message with “I approve,” candidates might actually be perceived as more credible by voters, as they're showing that they are willing to stand behind what viewers infer to be truthful statements. In a study of 2000 people using both real and fictional ads, researchers found that “I approve this message” didn’t change their perception of positive ads or personal attack ads, but did increase their confidence in politicians using policy-based attack ads.

The appearance of federal regulation, even if there’s no actual regulatory approval over a statement, seems to give messages credibility. So long as a candidate “approves” a message, positive or negative, voters may perceive their subjective statements as the truth.

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