Thanksgiving Day Football Curse In St. Louis

Thanksgiving is an annual holiday that celebrates the harvest and other blessings of the past year when family and friends get together on their traditional Turkey meal. The tradition on this special occasion is top off with hard hitting nonstop NFL games played early afternoon with the Detroit Lions hosting the earlier game while the Dallas Cowboys hosting the late afternoon game with a third game hosted by another team.  The Lions have played on Thanksgiving Day since 1945, and other than the Lions no team wanted to play on that day, so the early afternoon game became tradition for them on that time slot. One of the reason’s was the fear that no one would show up for the game. The AFL tried this experiment in 1960’s but the attendance for the games were very poor. When the Dallas Cowboys had their first Thanksgiving Day game in 1966 the attendance was over 80,000 which the team beat the Browns in that game.

During the 27 years in St. Louis The Football Cardinals played in Six Thanksgiving Games. In those games the Cardinals played in, they were 0-6 with five of those games that they lost were by double digits.  The Detroit Lions and The Dallas Cowboys have traditionally hosted the NFL Thanksgiving Games with the Lions playing the earlier game while the Cowboys played the late afternoon game. But in the mid 1970’s The St. Louis Football Cardinals took the late afternoon spot in 1975, 76, and 1977. Unfortunately, this experiment failed, and it backfired for both the NFL and the Cardinals.

 Owner Bill Bidwill complained that the Cowboys had the advantage in playing on Thanksgiving, because they were doing well with attendance and getting National TV exposer so after hearing Bidwill’s complaints, Commissioner Pete Rozelle allow the Cardinals to play the late afternoon games the next 3 years from 1975 to 1977. The First time the Cardinals played on Thanksgiving was in 1967 they lost to the Cowboys 46-21 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. But in the Mid-70’s the Cardinals were one of the most exciting teams to watch and were contenders in playing in the Super Bowl. In 1974 the Cardinals won the NFC Eastern Division title and made the post season for the first time since the late 1940’s. So, when the Cardinals hosted their first Thanksgiving Game against the Buffalo Bills in 1975 it was a complete failure on and off the field. The Cardinals lost that game 32-14 in which they turned the ball over 7 times while O.J. Simpson and Fullback Jim Braxton rushed for a combined 288 yards on the ground and scored 4 touchdowns but biggest failure in that game was the Cardinals drew only 41,000 at Busch Stadium which was the lowest attended game of the season. In 1976 Cardinals lost on a controversy no pass interference call against the Dallas Cowboys by a final score of 19-14.

Going into their 1977 Thanksgiving Match up against the Miami Dolphins the Cardinals were 7-3 and were considered favors as a Super Bowl contending team. In perhaps the most humiliating defeat in the History of St. Louis Football the Dolphins beat the Cardinals 55-14 at Busch Stadium. Bob Griese threw 6 touchdown passes against an injury riddled secondary filled with players who were on the practice squad and playing for the first time all season. But the big story was Offensive Lineman Conrad Dobler who late in the 4th quarter got in a fight that nearly got him banned for the season when he took the helmet off of Dolphins lineman A.J. Duhe and swung and barely hit him on the side of his head, then pushed the referee down on the ground and threw his helmet that hit a Dolphin player. Amazingly Dobler was not suspended but received the biggest fine at that time from the NFL. It also didn’t help that the Cardinals received significant backlash from the city of St. Louis for playing their games on Thanksgiving because of the traditional High School Thanksgiving game between Kirkwood and Webster Grove that’s been played since 1898. The game draws thousands of fans throughout the area of St. Louis which there were lots of resistance in having the Cardinals play on Thanksgiving in St. Louis. After the brief experiment the NFL decided to put the Cowboys back on hosting the Thanksgiving game every year. The Cardinals return to play on Thanksgiving Day against the Cowboys in 1983 and 1985 and lost by the same score of 35-17.  When the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995 the team agreed not to host a Thanksgiving Game which was a probably a good thing because of all of games that the then St. Louis Football Cardinals played in it was a massacre and were forever cursed for playing on this special day.

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