Ever wonder why the Lions play on Thanksgiving?

It all started for George A. Richards as a gimmick to get Detroiters in the seats to watch the relocated Detroit Lions play their games. It turned into a holiday tradition.

This week's Throwback Thursday is a look at the first Thanksgiving game for the Detroit Lions. The year was 1934 and Detroit radio entrepreneur George A. Richards just plunked down $7,952.08 for the Portsmouth, Ohio Spartans.

That may have been a lot of money then but converted for inflation, it wouldn't pay the cost of any current player's salary. It equals about $141,457.86.

But we digress. After he bought the Spartans, Richards moved them to Detroit and renamed them the Lions. That first year, attendance was anemic with never more than 15,000 showing up to watch them play. So he cooked up an idea to get the fans in seats: play on Thanksgiving. Richards owned WJR and arranged a national radio broadcast of the game.

As for the plan? It worked! 26,000 fans put their butts in the bleachers to watch the game at the University of Detroit and almost as many were turned away - 20,000 fans left without seeing a snap - for the inaugural Thanksgiving game.

The Lions were 10-1 heading into the game but fell to the Chicago Bears 19-16. But the tradition took hold and the Lions have hosted a Thanksgiving Day game, ever since.

FOX 2 thanks the Detroit Historical Society for this and all of our Throwback Thursday posts.
 

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