The Detroit Lions: America’s (Thanksgiving Day) Team

detroit-lions-vs-bears-thanksgiving-1934

Detroit Lions First Thanksgiving Game, photographer unknown

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I am very thankful to have so many people who are passionate about Michigan giving me the drive to continue exploring the Great Lakes State through Michigan in Pictures.

I am also thankful that the Detroit Lions are in first place in the NFC North as they head into today’s 12:30 PM game at Ford Field vs the Minnesota Vikings. The Detroit Lions tell the story of the Origin of the Lions’ Thanksgiving Day Game:

The game was the brainchild of G.A. Richards, the first owner of the Detroit Lions. Richards had purchased the team in 1934 and moved the club from Portsmouth, Ohio to the Motor City. The Lions were the new kids in town and had taken a backseat to the baseball Tigers. Despite the fact the Lions had lost only one game prior to Thanksgiving in 1934, the season’s largest crowd had been just 15,000.

The opponent that day in 1934 was the undefeated, defending World Champion Chicago Bears of George Halas. The game would determine the champion of the Western Division. Richards had convinced the NBC Radio Network to carry the game coast-to-coast (94 stations) and, additionally, an estimated 26,000 fans jammed into the University of Detroit Stadium while thousands more disappointed fans were turned away.

Despite two Ace Gutowsky touchdowns, the Bears won the inaugural game, 19-16, but a classic was born.

Read on for more and definitely check out this MMQB article on Turkey Day in Detroit featuring Detroit sportswriter Mike O’Hara and some more great old photos.

Go Lions!!

Bears, it’s what’s for (Thanksgiving) dinner!

Thinking About the Zoo Visitors?

Thinking About the Zoo Visitors?, photo by Maia C

A very happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I remain very thankful that I have such a great group of photographers and readers for Michigan in Pictures. I love doing this blog, and your support makes it possible!

Maia suggests that this lion is perhaps thinking about zoo visitors, but my personal theory is that he’s thinking about bears, Chicago Bears to be exact! Thankfully, the NFL has given us the opponent who started it all, as the Detroit Lions share the history of the Thanksgiving Day game:

The game was the brainchild of G.A. Richards, the first owner of the Detroit Lions. Richards had purchased the team in 1934 and moved the club from Portsmouth, Ohio to the Motor City. The Lions were the new kids in town and had taken a backseat to the baseball Tigers. Despite the fact the Lions had lost only one game prior to Thanksgiving in 1934, the season’s largest crowd had been just 15,000.

The opponent that day in 1934 was the undefeated, defending World Champion Chicago Bears of George Halas. The game would determine the champion of the Western Division. Richards had convinced the NBC Radio Network to carry the game coast-to-coast (94 stations) and, additionally, an estimated 26,000 fans jammed into the University of Detroit Stadium while thousands more disappointed fans were turned away.

Despite two Ace Gutowsky touchdowns, the Bears won the inaugural game, 19-16, but a classic was born. Since 1934, 69 games have been played with the Lions holding a series record of 33-34-2 (.493). And each game, in its own way, continues to bring back memories of Thanksgiving, not only to Lions’ fans, but to football fans across the nation.

View Maia’s photo big as a lion and see more in her Detroit Zoo Spring/Summer 2008 slideshow.

More Thanksgiving features & photos and more Detroit Lions on Michigan in Pictures.