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The History of Thanksgiving Day Football and the Kansas City Chiefs




Thanksgiving Day football is part of the American tradition.

It began on November 30, 1876 in Hoboken, New Jersey; it was cold and wet.

The temperature was around 30 degrees and rain was falling from the sky, but the turf was frozen so hard that it pounded the bodies of the players as they were driven to the ground. This was the scene for the first-ever Thanksgiving Day football game, when Yale facing Princeton in front of a lively crowd wearing a mixture of Princeton orange and black and Yale white and blue.

The friends of both colleges gathered in good hands. There were several carriages with ladies on the floor and a large number of alumni were present to cheer the participants.

Football match

Photo by Stock Montage/Getty Images

Yale beat Princeton 2-0 in a literal brawl that resembled Greco-Roman wrestling and rugby rather than modern football. If you’re wondering how this game ended with just two runs scored, it’s because, until 1883, a touchdown was only worth two points, but the run after attempt was worth four. Field goals at the time were worth five points, and safety precautions were one.

The First NFL Thanksgiving Day Games

The first series of Thanksgiving Day matchups took place during the NFL’s inaugural season and consisted of six games.

Thanksgiving 25 November 1920

TeamFinal score
TeamFinal score
Decatur Staleys6
Chicago Tigers0
Hammond Pros0
Chicago Boosters27
Canton Bulldogs0
Akron Benefits7
All Tonawanda14
Rochester Jeffersons3
Columbus Panhandles0
Elyria Athletics0
Detroit Heralds0
Dayton Triangles28

The first-ever NFL champion, the Akron Pros, won their Thanksgiving game 7-0 against the Canton Bulldogs, who were led by head coach Jim Thorpe. But the highlight of the day must have been the Decatur Staleys against the Chicago Tigers.

As the legend goes, this game served as a duel between the two teams, with the loser having to pack their things and never play again. The Decatur Staleys beat the Chicago Tigers. A week later, after beating the Thorn Tornadoes, 27-0, the Tigers retired from the NFL and never played again. The following year, the Decatur Staleys moved from Decatur to Chicago. They changed their name to the in 1922 Chicago Bears.

This would be an incredible story if it were true. The truth is that the Tigers were in financial trouble and unable to compete with their urban rivals, the Chicago Cardinals. One theory is that this urban legend arose as an easy way for Tigers owner, coach and rookie fullback Guil Falcon to bow out of the competition without losing face.

Another version of the story is the bet between the two Chicago teams, but the Cardinals and Tigers never played each other on Thanksgiving. They actually played three weeks earlier, on November 7.

Thanksgiving Day football as we know it

The modern iteration of Thanksgiving Day football began in 1934, when radio director George A. Richards bought the Portsmouth Spartans for $8,000 and the team moved to Detroit, where they were renamed Lions. Richards loved the name because he said his team would be the “king of the NFL” just as the lion is the king of the jungle.

Richards loved the idea of ​​playing Thanksgiving as a way to boost ticket sales and increase fan engagement. The move was an immediate success. The Lions sold out the game and had to turn people away at the gates.

Richard’s property WJR, a radio station that was an affiliate of NBCs “Blue network.” In the same year he bought the team, he negotiated an agreement with NBC to broadcast the Lions’ Thanksgiving Day game live to all 94 radio stations across the country.

Since then, the Lions have played on Thanksgiving Day.

Detroit Lions from left Gus Frerotte (L), Greg Hil

Photo credit must read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images

In 1966 the Dallas Cowboys decided to host a Thanksgiving Day game as well.

In 1975, however, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle asked the… St. Louis Cardinals to host the game instead of the Cowboys. The Cardinals didn’t have the same national recognition as the Cowboys at the time, so in 1978 the game was reassigned to the Cowboys with the promise of having an annual spot on Thanksgiving Day.

NFL: November 22 Redskins at Cowboys

Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Primetime Thanksgiving Day Football Comes to Kansas City

In 2006, the NFL added a primetime football game to its Thanksgiving Day lineup. It was a matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium.

I was at this game.

How I got there is a story in itself. It was two hours before kick-off, and I wasn’t planning on going to the game, when a friend of mine named Steve called me and said, “Hey, let’s go to the game.”

“We have no tickets.”

“We buy them from someone who scalps them.”

Fifteen minutes later I was in his truck on my way to Arrowhead.

As we pulled into the parking lot, Steve turned to me, “We’ll get tickets, whatever they cost.”


Once we parked up, we basically went from person to person and awkwardly asked them if they were illegally scalping tickets and if we could buy them. In hindsight, we must have looked like idiots. About half an hour before kick-off, we finally found a man who told us he would sell us a pair of nosebleeds for $250. That was at the time a lot for Chiefs tickets. I was also pretty broke at this point in my life, but it was the chiefs, and it was Thanksgiving!

We started giving the scalper our money, that’s when we realized we were standing right in front of a police officer.

The agent looked at us in disbelief. We are blatantly breaking the law right in front of him. He lowered his voice and said, “Hey!”

Speechless, all three of us jumped up and turned to face him, suddenly realizing his presence.

“Don’t do that right in front of me, have some respect. Go there and do it,” he said, pointing to an area that was out of sight.

The three of us quickly apologized and crept behind a few cars to finalize the transaction.

We were in!

Denver Broncos - Kansas City Chiefs

Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

It was Trent Green’s final year at Kansas City and only his second game back from a severe concussion that left him hospitalized and missing eight of the first nine games of the season. When Green returned to the lineup in November, it was clear he was suffering from the lingering effects of the injury. No longer the marksman he once was under Dick Vermeil, he was still a tried and true warrior who fought through the game, passing 161 yards on 22 tries and throwing an interception.

This match was won in the trenches.

With an ineffective passing attack, head coach Herm Edwards turned to his ground game and passed the ball to Larry Johnson 34 times in the game. Johnson rattled 157 yards and a touchdown. The defense was strong in the run game, holding Mike Bell back to just 28 yards on 10 carries.

Denver Broncos - Kansas City Chiefs

Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

The Fighting Scotsman, Lawrence Tynes, was the true hero of the game, scoring all four of his field goals and giving the Chiefs 12 points. The Chiefs won 19-10 against the Broncos.

This is one of the best games I’ve ever been to; it was worth every penny. Not only because of the game itself, but also because of the little adventure we went through to get there.

Looking back, I don’t miss the $250 at all, and I don’t remember any actual individual plays of the game. What I do remember is what it felt like standing in Arrowhead and watching the fireworks go off with a beer in my hand.

I wasn’t happy to be there; I was grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Thank you for the privilege of writing about our team and our city.

Enjoy your family, eat coma and most importantly rooting against the Raiders.




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