Thanksgiving & Football: Some Things Never Change

Eleanor Rose

Member of the Month
Nov 26, 2016
central NC

1888 Yale (American) football team
Football and Thanksgiving. For many of us this pairing is inseparable. It’s a time-honored tradition. As a devoted fan who looks forward to the afternoon game, I was surprised to learn that professional football took root as a Thanksgiving staple during the sport’s origin in the 19th​ century.

On Thanksgiving Day 1887, Yale and Harvard met before 24,000 at the Polo Grounds. The Yale Bulldogs won, 17-8, with the help of its center, "Pa" Corbin, who twice kicked the ball forward, then picked it up and ran with it. The center scored a touchdown and set up a field goal with his forward kicks.


William Herbert "Pa" Corbin (July 20, 1864 – April 14, 1945)​

A football historian reports that New York women, following Victorian tastes, stayed away from sporting events until college football on Thanksgiving became, around the turn of the century, as fashionable as the annual fall horse show. Benjamin Rader reported in “American Sports” that a psychologist of the time believed football held "a strange fascination" for women, "perhaps . . . because it demonstrates the power to protect and defend."

Whatever the reason, for many of us – men and women alike, Thanksgiving and football are meant for each other. However, I think it’s fair to say the meal is slightly better if your team doesn't lose.


Brigadier General
Silver Patron
Jul 4, 2016
Rockbridge County, Virginia
I have watched football on Thanksgiving, every year of my life except one, 1989. As a Cowboys fan, it's become difficult the last couple decades... :frown: This year will be anti-climatic as the Redskins are terrible too. My Mother, who will be dining at my house this year, is a die hard Redskins fan. We've had some interesting Thanksgiving get togethers over the years :laugh:

Grant's Tomb

Apr 4, 2020
There's a chapter about football and Thanksgiving in the book Thanksgiving: The holiday at the heart of the American Experience by Melanie Kirkpatrick

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