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The NFL played its first Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit, beginning a tradition that continues today.
On November 29, 1934, the Lions played their first traditional Thanksgiving Day home game, losing to the Bears by a score of 19-16. This game was also the first NFL game to be broadcast nationally as NBC Radio aired the game on 94 stations across the country.
In 1934, George A. Richards bought the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans, moved the team to Detroit and renamed it the Lions.
Richards selected George "Potsy" Clark, known as one of the best all-around quarterbacks, as the Lions' first coach and the team featured players such as versatile running back Earl "Dutch" Clark, offensive lineman Frank Christiansen and quarterback Ace Gutowsky.
The Lions began their inaugural season with a 10-1 record. However, despite their success, they could never get more than 15,000 fans to come to the stadium. So Richards arranged the first Thanksgiving classic in hopes of increasing attendance at games. To help his cause, he planned the game to start following Detroit's annual Thanksgiving Day parade.
Richards also chose a compelling opponent, pitting his Lions against the defending champion Chicago Bears, whose president was the legendary George Halas. The Bears featured rookie running back Beattie Feathers, who during the 1934 season became the NFL's first 1,000-yard rusher. As an added draw, the Lions and Bears were competing to become the champion of the Western Division of the NFL.
Richards' trial balloon paid off and 26,000 fans were in attendance at University of Detroit Stadium on November 26. In addition, many more fans were able to follow the action as this game was the first NFL game to be broadcast nationally, airing on NBC Radio across the country with GRAHAM MC NAMEE and DON WILSON calling the action.
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NFL Football History: "1934: NFL's First Nationally Broadcast Game"