SBD/Issue 52/Franchises

NFL Officials Not Discussing Ending Lions' Thanksgiving Game

NFL Officials Say There Is No Talk Of
Moving Lions From Thanksgiving Game
The 0-11 Lions will host the 10-1 Titans during the first game of the Thanksgiving Day NFL triple-header, and the idea of the Lions getting "manhandled" by the Titans "has some influential voices saying enough is enough and it is time to end" the tradition of the Lions hosting a Thanksgiving Day game, according to Ted Kulfan of the DETROIT NEWS. However, NFL officials said that there has been "no discussion to pull the game," which was first held in '34. The addition of a third Thanksgiving game in '06 that airs on NFL Network "gives other NFL teams an opportunity to host the holiday game" outside of the Cowboys and Lions. Also, both CBS and Fox said that the Lions' presence "really doesn't have a major negative, or positive, affect." One TV exec: "People are going to watch the game. We really don't have a strong opinion one way or another on this." Kulfan noted there were reports CBS was "struggling to sell commercial time for Thursday's game," but the net has "reportedly sold all its spots" (DETROIT NEWS, 11/25). ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported there is "no talk ... from those who truly are in authority" within the NFL about removing the game from the Lions. Mortensen: “They added the third Thanksgiving game to appease those who wanted in on the show, so to speak" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 11/26). Meanwhile, USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes the Lions' Thanksgiving games since '00 have averaged an 11.9 rating, while the Cowboys, "despite being America's Soap Opera and getting a later (and thus better) time slot, aren't doing much better," with a 12.1 average rating. Hiestand: "That suggests fans are hungry for any Thanksgiving Day NFL action -- imagine if the NFL rotated game sites to schedule something tasty" (USA TODAY, 11/26).

Ditka Feels NFL Should Put Two Top
Teams Together For Thanksgiving Day Game
ENOUGH ALREADY: In Michigan, Bill Broderick wrote he thinks "most Americans would rather the Lions not be the traditional game on Thanksgiving." Broderick: "Is it time for Detroit to step away from its longstanding spot as America's Turkey?" Meanwhile, Jeff Karzen wrote the Lions "should be taken off Turkey Day," as "NOBODY outside of Michigan cares" (BATTLE CREEK ENQUIRER, 11/25). ESPN's Mike Ditka: "I believe in tradition a lot. But I think the league is missing the point. The viewers deserve better right now. We need to put two teams on every Thanksgiving that are competitive, that mean something to the league" ("Sunday NFL Countdown," ESPN, 11/23). In Albany, Mark McGuire: "Traditions, in short, come and go. The Detroit Lions in my family room every Thanksgiving? That is one relative who has to be kicked out" (TIMESUNION.com, 11/25). In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley writes the NFL would be "better served to hide the embarrassing Lions, with the tradition of their Thanksgiving appearances, on the NFL Network" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 11/26). In Michigan, Brian VanOchten wrote under the header, "Warning: Lions, Thanksgiving Dinner Won't Mix" (GRAND RAPIDS PRESS, 11/24). In Birmingham, John Reimer: "No team is less deserving of an automatic invitation to one of the league's choice viewing slots than the Lions." The NFL's "'if you play it they will view it' philosophy of trotting the Lions out each Thanksgiving prizes tradition over punch in matchups with as much appeal as cable access replays of city council meetings" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 11/25).

MAINTAIN THE TRADITION: In Detroit, Drew Sharp writes under the header, "It's Tradition: Thanksgiving Day Game Belongs In Detroit." Traditions "should stand for something in sports, regardless of the outcomes." Sharp: "You cannot attach a price tag -- or even a win-loss record -- on that bond between past and present" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 11/26). ESPN's Tony Korneheiser: "They play on Thanksgiving Day. This goes back to 1934. If you don't like it, turn off the TV and say hello to your family." ESPN's Michael Wilbon: "Don't take Detroit off" ("PTI," ESPN, 11/24). Fox Sports’ Andrew Siciliano: “It might be a boring tradition, but it still is tradition. Just let them play it out. It’s their national stage” (“The Jim Rome Show,” 11/25). Detroit News columnist Terry Foster: “People want to take it away to punish the Fords, because they’ve been bad owners. … But really who are you punishing? You’re punishing the people who watch the Lions, you’re punishing Lions’ fans, and these people did nothing to deserve that” (DETNEWS.com, 11/24).

GAME ON: In Detroit, Carlos Monarrez reported the Lions "avoided their first non-sellout of a Thanksgiving Day game" since '92, meaning Thursday's game will be broadcast locally on Detroit's WWJ-CBS. However, a Lions spokesperson said that tickets "are still available after the Titans returned some of their allotment" (FREEP.com, 11/25).

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