For many Americans, watching football on Thanksgiving is a time-honored tradition.
The first team to play on Thanksgiving Day were the Detroit Lions, who hosted their inaugural game in 1934 as a way to drum up increased interest in the franchise. Although the Lions lost, more than 26,000 fans packed the stadium and tickets to the game sold out.
Nowadays, fans can count on seeing the Dallas Cowboys take the field on Turkey Day. Thanks to the Lions' success, in the 1960's the National Football League decided it wanted to put on another Thanksgiving game — but the league had trouble getting a team to agree to play.
That's because playing an evening slot on Thanksgiving Day would interrupt dinner for a lot of families, so viewership wasn't guaranteed. Plus, in the age before Monday Night Football, weeknight games were a rarity. For most teams, the risk just didn't make sense.
However, Tex Shramm, the general manager for the Dallas Cowboys, saw the open slot as a tremendous opportunity to boost enthusiasm for his team.
The Cowboys were still relatively new, just in their seventh season in the NFL, and they were struggling under head coach Tom Landry. Schramm believed a Thanksgiving Day game would provide much-needed publicity.