Another wonderful Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone and with it, a reminder that annual NFL Thanksgiving football is by far the worst sporting event of the winter season. Thanksgiving football pales in comparison to the NBA’s Christmas games and the NHL’s Winter Classic. Considering football is America’s favorite sport, it does not complement America’s second favorite holiday nearly as much as it should.
For starters, there are always two games featuring one of the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions, unless the two play each other on Thanksgiving. We are given these games by default, regardless of how good either team is. The Cowboys, who inexplicably have been given the title of “America’s Team,” have not reached a Super Bowl, let alone a conference championship game, since 1995. They are the most valuable franchise in sports, though the majority of people root against them each Thanksgiving.
As for the Lions, they have only made the playoffs three times this century. With no star players and a mediocre record over the last 20 years, the only reason they always get a game is because they took part in the NFL’s very first Thanksgiving contest.
Meanwhile, the NBA always pits two entertaining teams against each other. Last season, the Philadelphia 76ers played the rival Boston Celtics, and the reigning champion Golden State Warriors played LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The NHL does the same. The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks played each other in the 2019 Winter Classic in the outdoor Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Indiana. The two have a storied rivalry complete with a six-game Stanley Cup battle in 2013.
Second, the NFL limits theatricality. Sure, they do have a halftime show at each game, but halftime is a time for viewers to get up, stretch and get themselves another serving of Thanksgiving dinner. No team wears special uniforms nor are there fun commercials that celebrate the holiday and increase fan anticipation.
Each year, the NBA and NHL design special uniforms just for Christmas games or the Winter Classic, and they are usually awesome. Hockey sweaters are usually a throwback to a notable time in the teams’ histories and basketball jerseys are always something new (though, new NBA Christmas jerseys haven’t been made in two years).
Also, the NBA’s Christmas commercials are sometimes better than the games. Who could forget the 2013 commercial “Jingle Hoops,” when six former and future MVPs shot basketballs into hoops laced with Christmas bells? How about when five of the league’s best players dribbled to the tune of “Carol of the Bells” in 2012? Those commercials were fun, and the fact that we can still recall them several years removed from their airing speaks volumes to their impact on fans.
The NFL treats Thanksgiving Day as a typical game day. Aside from their less-than-stellar halftime performances, they don’t do anything special in anticipation of, or during Thanksgiving games. The Lions and Cowboys always play, even if they’re not very good, and the day lacks festivity and special circumstance. NFL Thanksgiving has nothing special to its name besides the day on which it is played, making it the worst of the winter sporting events. They should take a page from the NBA and NHL to make Thanksgiving football more exciting.