By JARED BYRD
Once upon a time in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions were actually competitive franchises.
Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Herman Moore, Michael Irvin ... the list goes on of players in recent memory who struck fear into their opponents.
The current Lions (0-9) and Cowboys (2-7), two of the NFLís biggest laughingstocks, nowadays only strike fear into their fans, who wonder each week just how painful their games will be to watch. Preseason playoff dreams quickly vanished, replaced by a mad dash for the #1 pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.
Unfortunately, as many of us gather around the television sets with friends and relatives we havenít seen in ages on Thanksgiving Day, our television airwaves will be polluted with the appearance of these two sorry excuses for NFL franchises.
The first game features the Green Bay Packers squaring off against the Detroit Lions on FOX, with John Madden giving out his infamous six-legged turkey to the winning team. At least Madden wonít be excessively gushing about fumble-prone running back Mike Alstott on Thursday, being that he plays for Tampa Bay. And donít blame Pat Summerall if he misidentifies several Lions; weíve never heard of most of them anyway (and given the way theyíve played, many of them might not be in the league much longer).
The late game featured on CBS pits the visiting Denver Broncos against the Dallas Cowboys, who will be playing their second home game in five days. Expect this contest to be highly competitive ... until the coin flip takes place.
So why are these games on? Did the NFL and the networks actually believe the Lions and Cowboys would be competitive on Turkey Day, thus making for an afternoon of competitive football? Of course not; it's all because of a stupid tradition.
Since 1934, the Lions have always played a home game on Thanksgiving Day; this has also been the case for the Dallas Cowboys (who started their tradition in 1966). This means that no matter how awful the teams are, they're guaranteed a spot on national television every fourth Thursday in November.
Now, I don't have anything against the Lions or Cowboys ... okay, actually I do since I'm an Eagles fan, but I digress.
Would I have a problem watching these games if both teams were competitive? Not at all. But the truth is, it's teams like these that could make one yearn for the good old days of the XFL. Seriously, sports fans shouldn't be forced to watch this drivel.
If you're going to have professional sporting events on the day of a national holiday, why not put some quality teams on the tube (like the NBA does for Christmas Day)? Or, give us a wider selection of games to watch (like baseball does on the Fourth of July). Neither Detroit nor Dallas appears poised to make an instant turnaround in the near future, so they'll probably be bad for a long time.
Oh well. I guess we're stuck watching Lions head coach Marty Mornhinweg extend his winless streak or Ryan Leaf go 5-for-22 with 6 interceptions ... it's either that, or watching paint dry.
However, every cloud has a silver lining: be thankful that we won't have to hear Dennis Miller announcing on Thanksgiving Day.