Turkey Day meant family and football

When I was young Thanksgiving was a special holiday for me. I liked Christmas just like every other kid,but Thanksgiving was my favorite. <br><br> The family all the nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles would gather at (Yia` Yia`s) that is Greek for grandmas'. <br><br>The day would start for me planted in front of Yia` Yia`s black and white RCA Victor TV. The Macy's Thanksgiving parade and the J.L. Hudson parade got you in the mood for the upcoming Christmas holiday.

My father and my uncles would gather in the living room to watch the annual Thanksgiving Day football game featuring the Detroit Lions. The aromas coming from the kitchen made our mouths water in anticipation of the Thanksgiving feast that we would devour later in the day.

The Thanksgiving game in Detroit started in 1934 and became a national tradition - when it first appeared on national television in 1956. It was usually the Lions versus the Chicago Bears or Green Bay Packers.

My memories of Thanksgiving Day football really begin when I was 10 years old in 1962. The famed "Grudge Match" in which the Lions defeated Green Bay 26-14 as the "Fearsome Foursome" of Darris McCord, Alex Karras, Roger Brown and Sam Williams thrilled the crowd of 57,598 - and 32 million television viewers - by sacking Bart Starr 11 times, snapping the Packers' 10 game winning streak.

Here is a sampling of some other memorable games.

1963 - The Lions tie Green Bay 13-13 knocking Packers out of the West title giving it to Chicago.

1970 - The Lions scored 14 fourth quarter points on the way to knocking off the high-flying Oakland Raiders, 28-14. Mel Farr rushed 21 times for 121 yards propelling Detroit from a 14-0 deficit. It was the Lions' first Thanksgiving Day win since 1962.

1974 - In the last Lions Thanksgiving Day game at Tiger Stadium, Detroit lost to Denver, 31-27.

1976 - Buffalo's' OJ Simpson sets an NFL rushing record with 273 yards but Lions win 27-14.

1980 - Vince Evans scores on the last play of regulation for Chicago, then Dave Williams returns the overtime-opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown as the Bears win 23-17.

1983 - Billy Sims scored two TD's and rushed for 106 yards as the Lions stunned the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers, 45-3. The Lions' defense also did their part by picking off five Steelers' passes. It was Detroit's first win over Pittsburgh since 1962.

1986 - A wild 44-40 Packers' win. Green Bay staged a comeback and snatched the victory when Walter Stanley returned a punt 85 yards for the winning score with 41 seconds left in the game. The 40 points are the most points ever scored by the Lions in a loss.

1989 - The 50th Thanksgiving Day game revealed an inspired Lions effort in a 13-10 upset victory over the heavily favored Cleveland Browns. Rookie Barry Sanders rushed for 145 yards and caught two passes for 44 yards in the Detroit victory.

1995 - A record-breaking offensive explosion paved the way for a 44-38 win over Minnesota. The Lions' gobbled up 534 yards of total offense and Scott Mitchell (30-45 for 410 yards and four TDs) set records for most passing yards in a game and most completions and attempts in a season. And for the first time in club history, three players eclipsed the 100-yard mark in receiving yards -- Brett Perriman with 12 receptions for 153 yards and two touchdowns, Johnnie Morton with seven catches for 102 yards and a touchdown, and Herman Moore with eight grabs for 127 yards and a score.

1998 - It marked only the second time in 59 games that the Thanksgiving Day contest went into overtime. The Lions, on a 42-yard Jason Hanson kick, defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 19-16 in front of a sold out Silverdome audience. Though running back Barry Sanders was held to only 20 yards rushing, he became only the second back in NFL history to reach 15,000 career-rushing yards during the contest. And let's not forget the coin toss controversy with Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis to start the overtime.

And I could go on and on.

I often wish I could smell those aromas from Yia` Yia`s kitchen again and be sitting in front of that black and white RCA Victor TV. Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

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