By Ethan Hoffman -- Eagle Editor
Pumpkin pie, turkey, and football. Christmas lights, Santa, and football. New Year’s resolutions, the ball dropping, and you guessed it, football.
We are officially in the thick of the holiday season, with Thanksgiving passed, Christmas in a few weeks, and the New Year just around the corner. While these three major holidays have their unique traditions and ideologies, one thing remains the same for all of them. Football will be on the TV.
Football being baked into the American holiday tradition is not a new idea by any means. The game being a trope of the holiday trifecta has been a thing since the 1870s, when an annual college football matchup between bitter rivals Yale and Princeton was set up to be played on Thanksgiving Day.
The first-ever Thanksgiving Day football game ended in a 2-0 final score with the Princeton Tigers one-upping the Yale Bulldogs. The rivalry would go on to be played on Thanksgiving day just 2 more times before deciding that it was not beneficial for fans of either team to attend a game on a holiday.
Thanksgiving would be football-less for the next decade. Not until the Michigan Wolverines, led by player-coach Horace Greely Prettyman, would add an annual Thanksgiving Day matchup to their schedule.
When this move didn’t pick up the necessary steam to keep a Thanksgiving day game alive, Michigan decided to put a gimmick on the game. It was determined that the Thanksgiving Day matchup would always be Michigan vs. Chicago University. This move paid off immensely, with the continued tradition of Thanksgiving football being born on that very day.
With the success of the Michigan/Chicago rivalry, a little-known league named the American Professional Football Association would schedule games on Thanksgiving Day to piggyback off the success that the Wolverines made. That league would later become the modern National Football League (NFL).
In modern times, the NFL puts on three games Thanksgiving Day, a holiday tradition that captivates an average of 33.1 million viewers per game.
This year’s games saw a 29-22 Packers win over the Lions, a 45-10 Cowboys win over the Commanders, and a 35-13 49ers win over the Seahawks.
With the continued success that the NFL saw with scheduling games on Thanksgiving Day, it saw an even better opportunity to rake in the cash from hungry football fans. The proposition was pretty simple: bring the NFL holiday tradition to Christmas Day.
Since 1993, the NFL has held 24 Christmas Day events, with 3 more coming up in just a few short weeks. An on-and-off tradition that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell claims to be on for good now, the NFL has gone from sporadically scheduling Christmas Day games whenever it fit, to a 3 game block for the holiday similar to the Thanksgiving tradition.
This season, the 3 games will show the Raiders vs. Chiefs, the Giants vs. Eagles, and the Ravens vs. 49ers.
Up to this point, the NFL has completely hogged the holiday weekends when it comes to airing their games. This is not the case for New Year’s Day.
Alongside the ball dropping and a fresh slate for the year, the holiday is crowded by six major college football bowl games, coined the “New Year’s Six.”
Starting in 2014 with the birth of the College Football Playoff system, the CFP committee would create six bowl games that occupied the top 12 teams in college football.
The emphasis was made to put the biggest, most important games for College Football around a holiday weekend to maximize the amount of viewers for each game.
The 2023-24 New Year’s Six games are as follows:
Cotton Bowl: No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Missouri, Dec. 29th
Peach Bowl: No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 11 Ole Miss, Dec. 30th
Orange Bowl: No. 5 Florida State vs. No. 6 Georgia, Dec. 30th
Fiesta Bowl: No. 8 Oregon vs. No. 23 Liberty, Jan. 1st
Rose Bowl: No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Alabama, Jan. 1st
Sugar Bowl: No. 2 Washington vs. No. 3 Texas, Jan. 1st
No matter what holidays Americans celebrate in the waning months of each year or how one thing is certain: there will be plenty of football to watch.