In honor of Thanksgiving, I thought a little history of the relationship between the holiday and the game of football was in order, especially since my Chicago Bears will play the Detroit Lions this year.
Thanksgiving is all about family, friends, and food… and for people across the country, going to or playing in a football game is a big part of the holiday tradition. Indeed, football was first played on Thanksgiving in 1869, just six years after Abraham Lincoln declared a national Thanksgiving holiday and merely weeks after the first ever intercollegiate football game was played.
In the NFL, the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys have hosted Thanksgiving home games for decades, with the Lions playing annually since 1934 (Dallas since 1966). Who did the Lions play in front of a sold-out stadium on that Thanksgiving Day in 1934, you ask?? The Lions played the undefeated, defending world champion Chicago Bears. The game was broadcast over local radio and carried on NBC across 94 stations from coast-to-coast. That sort of exposure for the game was a huge feat during that time and Chicago won the game 19-16. It’s fitting that the Bears meet the Lions again this year- and I hope the end result follows that first Turkey Day matchup between these two long-time gridiron foes!
As an aside- the Bears are still owned by the same family who founded the team. Current principal owner Virginia McCaskey is the eldest child of George Halas, who founded and coached the Bears. He also helped form what developed to be the National Football League. Virginia is 98 years old and still participates in the Bears organization, serving as secretary of the board of directors; she has eleven children and more than forty grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The Bears are one of only two (Arizona Cardinals, née Chicago Cardinals) charter members of the NFL still in existence.
Thanksgiving and football are wrapped in a shared national history. Here’s wishing a very Happy Thanksgiving with family, friends, good food… and great football!
Enjoy this interview of Bears owner Virginia McCaskey at 96 years old from 2019, as the Chicago Bears turned 100.
~ Brian Kasal- The Leadership Matrix
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