Hating the Cowboys on Thanksgiving: A Philadelphia tradition like no other

ARLINGTON, TX – JANUARY 16: Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence (90) runs during the NFC Wild Card game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys on January 16, 2022 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

The Dallas Cowboys will host their annual Thanksgiving game this Thursday. The most overexposed franchise in professional sports has played every Thanksgiving since 1966 with the only exceptions in 1975 and 1977.

Fans of the Philadelphia Eagles will forever vocalize their passionate underdog complex and point to bias  around the NFL against their team (whether it’s justified or not). The constant spotlight on the Cowboys, their most bitter rival, only encourages the narrative.

The Cowboys don’t look at the Eagles as their chief rival historically. However, Philadelphia sports fans direct more hostility towards them than any other franchise.

It’s created a Thanksgiving tradition in Philadelphia as classic as a turkey dinner: rooting against the Dallas Cowboys.    

Eagles vs. Cowboys

The Eagles have only played in Dallas twice on Thanksgiving Day.

The first came during the tenure of head coach Buddy Ryan in 1989. The Eagles executed flawlessly in a 27-0 blowout against a Dallas team that finished the season 1-15. Rookie quarterback Troy Aikman finished 7/21 for 54 yards with three interceptions.

The most recent matchup came in 2014 at the height of the Chip Kelly hysteria in Philadelphia. Mark Sanchez played his best game in midnight green in a 33-10 laugher that put the Eagles in the driver’s seat in the NFC East at 9-3.

However, the Cowboys got the last laugh with a victory in Philadelphia just two weeks later. Sanchez faltered down the stretch during a losing streak that left the Eagles as the odd man out of the NFC playoff picture.

The Eagles have played four other Thanksgiving games in their history. They split a pair of matchups with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1939 and 1940. The Birds also started their unlikely season turnaround in 2008 with a victory over the Arizona Cardinals at Lincoln Financial Field that kept them in the NFC Wild Card picture.

Their most recent Thanksgiving game came in 2015 against the Detroit Lions, who for some reason still get the 12:30 time slot every year. The Eagles made their lack of trust in Chip Kelly evident on the wrong side of a 45-14 embarrassment.

Thanksgiving Football in Philadelphia

During the COVID-19 sports pause in the spring of 2020, Philadelphia fans needed to keep their minds occupied. I surveyed the landscape of the most passionate sports fans in my life with 50 questions that every local fan should have an opinion about, touching on all realms of fandom. Some novelty questions came up beyond the barroom debates that dominated the responses.

The first organized Thanksgiving football game in the history of the sport took place in Germantown in 1869, giving birth to the Philadelphia “Turkey Bowl” tradition.

Today, pockets of the city wake up bright and early on Thanksgiving day for classic rivalries like Father Judge vs. Lincoln High and Central vs. Northeast. Even CYO grade school teams get involved.

The 21st of 50 questions: What football rivalry game do you look forward to most on Thanksgiving weekend?

The group of has-been CYO legends and dads constantly thinking about their glory days didn’t take the bait and list their 8th-grade Delco Turkey Bowls or reference high school ball. Classic college rivalries didn’t even get much attention.

Nearly every answer pointed out one game that doesn’t even feature the same two teams every Thanksgiving.

Responses ranged from “Whoever vs. Dallas” to “Literally anyone against the Cowboys” to expletive-filled remarks that shouldn’t be printed here.

Philadelphia loves local tradition, and fans of the other local sports teams have incredibly passionate fan bases. However, it’s an Eagles town first, and the passion for the Eagles is easily seen through the lens of relentless hatred for the Cowboys on a national holiday.

Cowboys vs. Giants

The Cowboys will face the New York Giants, another NFC East rival, on Thursday. The two teams sit tied for second place, two games behind the Eagles for the division lead.

Leading into the early years of the Andy Reid era, the Giants asserted their dominance as top dogs of the NFC East against the Eagles with nine straight victories including a playoff win and a Super Bowl appearance after the 2000 season. The Eagles dethroned them on the way to four consecutive division crowns from 2001-2004.

Regardless of who you’ve considered Philadelphia’s chief rival at points in the past, it has undoubtedly been the Cowboys since 2016. The Eagles and the Cowboys have won five of the past six division titles, with the only exception coming in 2020 by a fraudulent 7-9 Washington team.

The Cowboys at 7-3 are a considerably bigger threat to the Eagles than the Giants with an identical record. Dallas throttled the red-hot Minnesota Vikings 40-3 on Sunday with a healthy Dak Prescott under center. The Giants are starting to feel the letdown after a strong first half. They’ve lost two of three.

Eagles fans will get a chance to see both division rivals before squaring off with them for three of their final seven regular-season games.

Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire