Why Do The Detroit Lions Always Play On Thanksgiving?

Of all the traditions we have for Thanksgiving, if there is a football game on the television, you can be sure that the Detroit Lions will be playing. For most of us, this is the only time we even take notice of the Lions. They are usually horrible.

So why are we forced to watch the Detroit Lions as we consume our Thanksgiving meals?

The Lions have played on Thanksgiving Day since 1934 when they lost to the Chicago Bears 19-16. The game was played before a record crowd of 26,000 at University of Detroit Stadium. The Bears clinched the NFL’s Western Division title with the win over the Lions. Detroit actually had a 16-7 lead at halftime before the Bears came back in the second half with two field goals then a fourth quarter interception by Joe Zeller returned the ball to the Lion’s four-yard line. Bronko Nagurski tossed the game-winning touchdown pass to Bill Hewitt.

In fact, they played the Bears in the first six Thanksgiving Day games.

George A. Richards, who was the Lions’ owner at the time is the one to blame. He decided to use the Thanksgiving Day game as a marketing idea to attract more fans. Richards also owned a radio station which was an affiliate of NBC. So, a little influence in the media markets developed what is today’s Thanksgiving tradition of watching the Detroit Lions. This is why most folks are enjoying a nice nap after their Thanksgiving meal.

The Lions haven’t been a dominate team on Turkey Day as they have a 37-41-2 record in the games. Their longest winning streak was six games from 1950-1955. The longest losing streak the series was from 2004-2012 losing nine straight games. The Lions did not play from 1939-1944 due to World War II.

The only team that the Lions have not yet played on Thanksgiving Day are the Jacksonville Jaguars. The most common teams the Lions have played are the Green Bay Packers (21 times) and Chicago Bears (18 times).

This year the Lions will play their 81st game on Thanksgiving Day against the Houston Texans. Both teams enter the game with losing records (4-6 and 3-7 respectively). The Texans have only played once before in 2012.

Other teams have played on Thanksgiving Day which do not involve the Detroit Lions. The Dallas Cowboys have traditionally played the game after the Lions. In overall Thanksgiving games, the New Orleans Saints (3-0), Baltimore Ravens (2-0), Carolina Panthers (1-0) and Houston Texans (1-0) are undefeated on Thanksgiving Day.

So once again the Lions will play on what will be the COVID edition of the Thanksgiving Day game. This year’s game will set the record for least number of fans attending as no fans will be allowed to attend due to Michigan’s emergency order prohibiting large gatherings due to recent spikes in COVID-19 cases.

He Was An Old School Football Coach

I never knew Robert Davis personally but I certainly knew him. He was a legend in Warner Robins, Georgia where I lived from 1984-2009. Davis was the former coach of the Warner Robins Demons football team. I spent many Friday nights watching the games he coached. He created one of the top high school football teams in Georgia.

He was old school football. He believed in running the ball and playing defense. One look at him and you KNEW he was a football coach. He always reminded me of the high school football Bobby Bowden. At Warner Robins High, Davis led the team to a 253-41-1 record with 18 regional championships, three state championships (1976, 1981, 1988), and two national championships (1976, 1981).Davis won 354 games which has him ranked as the third winningest coach in Georgia High School football history. He never had a losing season. At Warner Robins High, Davis led the team to a 253-41-1 record with 18 regional championships, three state championships (1976, 1981, 1988), and two national championships (1976, 1981).

The first time I met Coach Davis, I was working part-time as a sports writer for a local newspaper. I remember how I was scared to death and nervous that I would ask a dumb question or make a rookie mistake in my first postgame interview with him. On this night, Davis was not happy with my competition from the other newspaper. During the week, the other newspaper had published a story about his football players stealing pizza from a local pizza hangout. When we entered Davis’ office for the interview, Davis ripped the reporter from the other newspaper then turned his back to him. Davis looked at me and said “Go ahead son, I will answer your questions”. I made sure I asked good questions.

After losing a state semifinal playoff game in the Georgia Dome, I once again interviewed him after the game wondering how he would be after a disappointing loss. He was kind and honest about losing the game. He was frustrated that his team couldn’t seem to get past the semifinal round.

In 1997, I was stunned when I heard the news that Davis was leaving Warner Robins to become the head coach of a new school in Macon. I couldn’t believe it. Macon had done the unthinkable in snagging the coach who had owned the other Macon schools rarely losing a game. That was the end of an era at Warner Robins. Davis also built Westside Macon into another strong contender. Davis retired in 2008.

I have read many tributes today from former players, coaches and fans whose lives have been impacted by Davis. It is certain that his legacy will carry on.

Shock & Awe of Electric Football

Long before Madden NFL and other sophisticated video games of today, an earlier generation enjoyed a unique football game called Electric Football. This was the first football game I experienced as a young football fan in the early 1970s. At the time it was the high tech game of its day.

Electric football was a game which featured a tabletop football game played on a metal vibrating field which sounds a little strange today but it was a popular game back in the day. Norman Sas invented the game when he was president of Tudor Electric.

Sas based the game on a vibrating car race game that Tudor already made. The game featured actual moving players as they reacted to the vibrations created by the electro-magnet motor under the metal field.

Electric Football was an immediate hit and became one of the hottest items at Christmas time through the 1960s and 1970s and to date has sold 70 million games.

So how did this game work? Gamers didn’t have individual controllers but strategically positioned miniature football players on the metal filed. The players had plastic bases with brushes or prongs underneath the bases which caused the players to react to the vibration of the field when a switch was activated to cause the metal to vibrate and the players to move around the field.

Special players were used to pass, punt or kick the ball. The ball was a small ball made of felt. It took some practice to master the pass. If the ball made contact with the receiver player or its base, it was considered a completed pass.

As you can imagine, it took a while to play a game. It could also be quite frustrating as players would often respond in unintended ways with players going in opposite directions or running into the sides of the field.

The game still has a loyal following with electric football leagues in Charlotte, Los Angeles, New York, Nashville and other regions throughout the United States. A group called the Electric Football Nation has contact information for leagues and tournaments. There is also the Miniature Football Coaches Association which has everything you want to know about Electric Football but unfortunately the site has not been updated since 2018 but you can still find some interesting information about the game.

Dr. Bob Owens is currently the top-ranked coach in the country according to the Tournament of Champions website. They have upcoming tournaments in Irvine, California and College Park, Maryland. The top 12 coaches advances to participate in the Tournament of Champions to play for the National Championship.

If you are interested in owning your own electric football game, check some of these out:

He Was THE Voice of Georgia HS Football

There are some things that enhance a fan’s experience with sports. Perhaps the lasting impression for most of us are the voices of the people who report about the game. They are the voices of the game.

For me, I will never forget the voice of Brent Musburger in the 1976 NBA finals when the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns battled through three overtimes in Game 5 where the Celtics prevailed 128-126.

The voice of Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football. Who could forget him?

And without a doubt, the voice of Al Michaels in the 1980 Team USA win over the USSR on the miracle on ice in the Winter Olympics with his “do you believe in miracles?”

I also have the memories of UGA football games with the legendary Larry Munson. His voice was the identity of Georgia Bulldogs football.

Last week we lost the man I called THE voice of Georgia High School football.

Tommy Palmer was that voice. Anyone who knows anything about Georgia High School football knows his name. His voice was a constant part of my experience every Friday night in the fall. Whether I was driving home after a game or listening at home, I would tune into his scoreboard show. His slow Southern drawl and moments of humor made it more than just reading the scores from the games. He also recorded podcasts each week for the Top Ten Teams and Top Games. Tommy also provided commentary for the state championship games.

I don’t remember when I actually started listening to Tommy but he was a part of my Friday night routine and a voice I will never forget.

Palmer revealed in May that he had been battling cancer since Aug. 17 and would enter hospice care after being given the diagnosis the his cancer was terminal. I had heard he was ill but I did not know it was that serious.

Palmer grew up in Claxton and worked in radio for 60 years, starting at age 16. He began work in TV in 1981. He began producing and hosting the Scoreboard Show in 2005. It reached a network of more than 50 stations in the state and took callers after the games who shared details of games they attended. Palmer also would interview coaches.

I never met Tommy Palmer but I have shared some emails and Facebook posts with him. I also shared a copy of my book “Passing Toward The Prize” with him. I also read his own book “The Daisy Boys Club” which is a great read about his life growing up in Daisy, Georgia.

The 2020 season won’t be the same for me without Tommy Palmer.

Friday Flashback: My First High School Football Game (November 21, 1975)

Every year at this time I look forward to the new Georgia High School Football season while looking back to the past of games I have attended. Since moving away from Georgia in 2012, I have not attended any high school football games in other places I have lived. Georgia was my home for over 40 years of my life. With all the teams, players, games and stats being stored in my head from all of those seasons, I can’t really see myself getting involved in another state. Today I reside in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and live within ear shot of a high school football stadium but I don’t have the same feel for high school football here as I did with my time in Georgia.

I attended my first high school football game on November 21, 1975. I was 11 years old. It was a game between the Clinch County Panthers and Charlton County Panthers. The teams were playing in a region playoff game at Memorial Stadium in Waycross, Georgia as a neutral site.

At the time we were living in Homeland, Georgia where my dad was the pastor of a small Pentecostal church. I attended Bethune Middle School in Folkston which was part of the Charlton County school system. My dad had attended high school and played football at Clinch County so he was quite interested in attending this game which was the first time his alma mater had played in a playoff game.

During the regular season, the teams had split their games with Clinch County losing at Charlton County 15-10 and the Panthers winning at home 14-7 during week eight. This created a need for the teams to have a playoff since they both had 5-1 records in Region 2-B.

The neutral site of Waycross Memorial Stadium might as well had been Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium for me. If you have ever been to this stadium, you know how that stadium is configured having once been the home to a few minor league baseball teams. It was an old stadium with some of the seats under the roof which had been behind home plate during its baseball days. My parents let me sit on the Charlton County side which was only a section over. I even went to the concession stand and got me a hot chocolate which was needed on a cold November night in South Georgia. I enjoyed my warm beverage while watching the game. The game was a defensive battle between the two rivals which bookended the Okefenokee Swamp. The Panthers actually dominated the game but not the scoreboard as they came up short 6-0 to end their season. My dad was disappointed in the outcome as he talked about it on the drive home how his Panthers had dominated the game but weren’t able to win the game. I didn’t share his disappointment as I was happy on the inside since I had been rooting for the Indians to win the game.

Waycross Memorial Stadium, Waycross, Georgia

The win for Charlton County was short-lived as they lost to Lincoln County the following week 13-0 in the state playoffs. The Indians eventually won the first of their four state championships in 1999. Clinch County won their first state title in 1988. They have won eight state titles.

I still fondly remember that first game and that was a start of a long history of following Georgia high school football over the years. I would attend three more different schools after we moved from Charlton County in the summer of 1976 with stops at Waresboro, Villa Rica and finally finishing at Tompkins High School in Savannah.

That first game began my interest in Georgia High School football. I have attended many games over the years but you always remember your first experience. Incidentally, the last Georgia High School football game I attended was in December 2010 at the Georgia Dome with my dad to watch his Clinch County Panthers defeat Savannah Christian 24-14 in the state championship game.

When It’s More Than A Game

This week players from the National Basketball Association (NBA) walked out of their postseason Disney tournament in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Honestly, my first reaction was: “Oh, is the NBA still playing?”

Yes, the NBA is still trying to finish their season which was delayed by the shutdown from the pandemic (which, incidentally, is still going on).

So these millionaire professional athletes decide they aren’t going to show up for “work” in protest of the shooting. While I fully support protests, I honestly don’t know what good it does for professional athletes to refuse to go to work. To bring attention to the issue? Well, I kinda think it has already gotten lots of attention.

So what happens to the normal people like you and I if we called our places of employment and tell them we aren’t going to show up for work to protest the shooting of Jacob Black in Wisconsin? Do I really need to answer that? We would be lucky that we had a job to go back to. And in the end, would our walk out really do any good? Does it really do any good that the NBA walked out?

Nope.

I can tell you that politicians aren’t going to give a darn if any of us walks out on our jobs to protest anything.

The NBA or any other leagues not playing isn’t going to hurt anybody. Sorry, but that’s just the reality. Nobody cares that a millionaire athlete refuses to play a game or practice with their team. Sure, it’s a good emotional gesture at the moment but it’s soon forgotten as the media moves on to the next sound byte.

So, go ahead and walk out. Kneel or lay down during the playing of the national anthem. It’s going to take more than that.

Hey, I love sports and I write a lot about it but in the end it is still a game. It’s hard to take someone serious who walks out on playing a game.

The 13 teams still playing in the NBA Disney tournament resumed practice on Friday and will start playing their games again on Saturday.

So what was accomplished?

Bacon Serves Up Title For Macon

In this weirdly bandaged baseball season, the Macon Bacon made the most of it by giving Macon their first baseball title in 58 years.

Just in their third season, the Bacon used a double-play to defeat their coastal rival Savannah Bananas 6-5 to win the Coastal Plain South Championship on Sunday.

It was the first professional baseball title for Macon since the Peaches won the 1962 South Atlantic League (SALLY) championship with a team which included then-minor league player, Pete Rose. The Peaches defeated the Knoxville Smokies three games to one for the title.

The Coastal Plain League is a collegiate wood bat league, which is an outlet for college players to get extra work and be seen by pro scouts during their schools’ offseason, was originally supposed to have 15 teams scattered from northern Virginia to south Georgia.

Because of the pandemic, many of those teams opted out.

Seven of the 15 teams in the Coastal Plain League have been playing this summer. Two teams in North Carolina and two teams in Virginia make up the northern pod, while the two Georgia teams and one South Carolina team make up the southern pod. Each team was scheduled to play roughly 20 against the other teams in their pod, and roughly 20 exhibition games against assorted lower-level summer-collegiate teams.

The Bacon took a 6-0 lead early with a three-run homer run Josh Hood home blast in the third inning. The Bananas made things interesting with scoring 4 runs in the bottom of the 6th to make it 6-4. For the rest of the game, it was a pitchers duel. The top of the 9th came around, and the Bananas were able to put another on the board to make it 6-5. Runners were on the corner when the Bacon were able to turn a classic 6-4-3 double play to win the game.

Although the league season is done, the Bacon-Banana rivalry will continue with the Breakfast Bowl which features a nine-game exhibition between the two teams set to begin Thursday in Savannah. The teams will play single games Thursday through Saturday for the next three weeks. Five games will be in Savannah and four in Macon.

Don’t Laugh But…Is Bubble Ball The Safest Pandemic Sport?

When I first saw this game on a Disney Channel show several years ago I laughed at how silly it looked. Today my reaction is more of an “I wonder….” since months of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected us and the sports world.

Is this Bubble Ball sport the safest pandemic sport?

Probably but don’t expect to see a pro league anytime soon. It’s mostly a recreational, team-building sport that most really don’t take serious although there are some serious leagues scattered around the world.

Bubble football was first created in Norway by Henrik Elvestad and Johan Golden in 2011,[8] when it made an appearance on their TV show, Golden Goal.[9] The game was spread in the UK by Lee Moseley who self-financed.[10] By 2014, the sport had reached New Zealand[11]. Now in the US it is overseen by its governing body, the BBA.

Players play in half-encased inside an inflated bubble which covers the player’s upper body and head. Just having a sport which covers the face gives it an advantage in safety precaution against COVID-19. This game is typically played in teams in large indoor spaces or outdoor fields and follows the same objectives and overall rules as regular soccer.

Watch a video of the sport here.

The Bubble Football World Cup was scheduled to take place in London in May 2018; however, I have not been able to find any reports on the results or if the event was ever held.

In the U.S., the only organized competition that pops up is the Bubbleball Business Association (BBA). It was established 2014, Bubbleball Inc. is a distributor of highest quality bubbleball equipment. The organization claims over 100,000 participants spanning dozens of communities, and the Bubbleball Business Association (BBA) made up dozens of businesses, distributors and educational partners, we support development of community bubbleball programs, businesses, events and tournaments domestically in the United States and internationally.

You can read more about the BBA here.

I’m not sure any forms of bubble ball is quite ready for the big leagues yet and will have a hard enough time to be taken seriously as a real sport but, as a thought, it does look like a sport that is pandemic safe.

Pandemic Is Sacking Football Season

When the pandemic halted sports in March, it seemed at the time that football season would be safe. Now as we approach kickoff, several leagues, conferences and teams have surrendered to concerns over safety and uncertainty of the effects of COVID-19. COVID-19 concerns contributed to four of the 10 FBS conferences canceling their season in 2020. The Big Ten, Mid-American Conference, Mountain West Conference and Pac-12 are out. A total of 54 schools have postponed their fall football season.  That leaves 76 of the 130 schools still in. The ACC, American Athletic Conference, Big 12, Conference-USA, SEC and Sun Belt, along with a few independents, still planning on playing.  

Honestly, I have thought that the entire year of sports should have been shutdown. I am a sports fan and hate to admit it but I think that would have been the smartest thing to do. Instead, we are getting a patched up version of our favorite sports. Major League Baseball is playing in front of cardboard fans, the National Hockey League is finishing their season playing without fans in Toronto and Edmonton and the National Basketball Association is playing in Disney World.

Now college football conferences have been dropping the fall season. I have also seen several high school football teams either postponing or cancelling their seasons. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is still pressing ahead with playing this fall and, honestly, rather stubborn about it. What will be the quality of the season if they play? What will it mean is yet another SEC team wins the “national championship”? Will there even be a national champion this season?

The National Football League (NFL) is also pressing ahead with their season. They cancelled the preseason schedule but appear to moving forward with the regular season without any delays. Most teams will play with limited fans in the stands. Some teams may need to pipe in some fan noise.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Dude Talks About The Florence Y’alls

Anyone who lives in the South knows that y’all is a term we use when people from other parts of the country would say “you all”. You wouldn’t think this would be the nickname of a sports team – until now.

The Florence Y’alls.

Yep, you read that right.

This is a legit name for a minor league baseball team in Florence, Kentucky. If you have ever driven past Florence on the I-71/I-75 Interstate Highway into Cincinnati, Ohio, there is a water tower that reads “Florence Y’all”. It is said that once you cross the Ohio River into Cincinnati that you are no longer in the South. The Florence water tower originally was painted in the 1970s with the words “Florence Mall.” The use of the word “Mall” was deemed illegal because corporate sponsorships were not allowed on a city water tower. The city’s mayor ordered the “M” repainted into a “Y.” The new nickname resulted from a contest seeking ideas from fans after new ownership took over the club last fall.

The team was formerly known as the Florence Freedom from 2003-2019. When new owners took over the team after the 2019 season, they rebranded the team and named the team the Florence Y’alls.

The Florence Y’alls are members of the 14-team professional Independent Frontier League, playing out of UC Health Stadium off of Interstate 71/75. They were supposed to take the field as the new team this summer but with the COVID-19 pandemic, the team is not playing a regular schedule in the Frontier League.

For more information about the Y’alls, you can visit their website here.