Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl

Turkey and football, a hundred and twenty year tradition


Photo by Georgia Tech Library

Georgia Tech Auburn football game, Thanksgiving 1921

Kylee Rasmussen, Sports Editor

Let’s be honest, Thanksgiving on the exterior may be about being humble and grateful, it may commercially be sold as a day to eat a bunch of food, but we all know what Thanksgiving is really about: football. Turkey bowls in the morning followed by the Cowboys and Lions games while the food is settling in our stomachs. Throughout the years, football has become an intricate part of Thanksgiving Day traditions.

According to an article by Evan Andrews, football on Thanksgiving began just a few years after Abraham Lincoln declared it an official holiday in 1876. Andrew said, “By the late 1890s, thousands of football games were taking place each Thanksgiving. Some of these traditional matchups still continue to this day. For example, the Massachusetts high schools Boston Latin and the English High School of Boston have faced off on Turkey Day every year since 1887.”

According to the New York Tribune, the first college football game played on Turkey Day was on Nov. 29, 1876, between Princeton and Yale. Continuing this tradition many NFL teams and colleges save their rivalry games for Turkey day. BYU and Utah have played each other on Thanksgiving several times, and both the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys play home games on Turkey day every year.  

But Turkey Day isn’t just for watching. Many families make it a tradition to have a turkey bowl of their own before they eat their mashed potatoes. Some families (like mine) gather together late Thursday morning to play what can only be called a rowdy game of catch, with little concern for the outcome, but others take the tradition much more seriously. Some families or friends create annual tournaments of tackle football, where young cousins can show off athletic ability and fathers and grandfathers can relive their glory days before almost breaking their back diving for the ball.

There is also a special event in Utah’s own Rose Park. Each year a Turkey Bowl is held between Rose Park and Glendale residents to promote a peace in a part of the community that has a history of violence. According to the Deseret News in an article by Koster Kennar  “A handful of current and former NFL and college players usually participate, including Detroit Lions defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who grew up in Rose Park.” The game is played to advocate togetherness in their own neighborhood.

Several other community Turkey Bowls take place throughout the state including one in Woods Cross at Mills park that has been played since before 1998. Anyone can play at Mills Park, from 10-60. Everyone is invited to participate in an event that brings the community together.

Football has become a big part of the Thanksgiving holiday and is something that many families look forward to. So play safe, and enjoy your Turkey Day, especially with football.