Teams with the Best Traditions in the NFL

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistNovember 24, 2015

Teams with the Best Traditions in the NFL

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Traditions in sports often provide the background for some of the greatest memories fans can have.

    The singing of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and the pregame meeting between the managers and the umpires are traditional in baseball. The tradition of two teams shaking hands after a playoff series is one of hockey's signatures, and the bands playing at halftime are traditional in college football.

    But in the NFL, many teams have their own traditions. Some of those traditions come from the fans, while others emanate from the teams or the players themselves.

    In this piece, we look at the teams with the best and most iconic traditions in the NFL.

8. Thanksgiving Day Football in Detroit and Dallas

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    The Detroit Lions have played a Thanksgiving Day game every year since 1945. The NFL and the Lions had played games on Thanksgiving before then, but once World War II ended, the league decided that Detroit would host a Thanksgiving Day game on a regular basis.

    The Dallas Cowboys entered the fray in 1966, playing a Thanksgiving Day game at the Cotton Bowl, which was their home stadium at the time. The Cowboys have played regularly since then, but the games were awarded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1975 and 1977. Those games were not as popular as the games in Dallas, and the Thanksgiving Day game was returned to the Cowboys after those seasons.

    The NFL started playing a third Thanksgiving game in 2006. Those are night games that do not have a permanent site.

    Thanksgiving football in Detroit and Dallas now seems as traditional as a turkey roasting in the oven and family members arguing over who gets the drumsticks.

    The only issue is figuring out what time to eat so that the games can be watched without missing much of the action.

7. The Black Hole in Oakland

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    Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

    There was a time when the Oakland Raiders were one of the dominant franchises in all of sports.

    When Al Davis took over the team as its managing general partner, the Raiders almost immediately became consistent winners.

    Starting with the 1965 season, the Raiders had winning seasons in 19 of 20 years. They won three Super Bowls, and from 1963 (the year Davis took over) through 1992, the Raiders went 285-146-11.

    That sustained excellence in Oakland and Los Angeles allowed them to build a devoted fanbase that is active to this day even though the Raiders have not been an NFL power for years.

    Fans try to make the O.co Coliseum one of the most intimidating arenas in all of sports by dressing in outrageous costumes that often feature a skull and cross bones motif.

    Davis had built an intimidating team with his "Commitment to Excellence," and the fans try to do their part to this day.

6. American Football League Still Lives in Kansas City

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    The Original AFL Foolish Club
    The Original AFL Foolish ClubAssociated Press

    There would be no giant NFL monolith as we know it today if it were not for the American Football League.

    The AFL came into existence in 1960, when Lamar Hunt started the league because he had been unable to purchase an NFL franchise. At the time, the league was opposed to expanding because the owners didn't want to have to divide their revenues with new owners.

    That thought process was short-sighted, because professional football was quickly becoming the most popular sport in the United States. 

    Hunt saw this, and he decided that he would start his own league that included eight teams. Hunt basically bankrolled the operation and kept several teams afloat during the early years. When the NFL saw that the AFL was not going away, the two leagues merged and became a powerful force.

    The AFL competed from 1960 through 1969, and it had a record of 2-2 against the NFL in the first four Super Bowls. The league featured wide-open play, talented African American athletes and loyal fans. 

    Hunt, who moved his Dallas Texans to Kansas City, where they became the Chiefs, may be the most unappreciated man in the history of American sports. If he had not founded the AFL, professional football may not occupy the spot it does in American society.

    His memory and that of the AFL is alive and well in Kansas City.

5. Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    The nickname of America's Team has been associated with the Dallas Cowboys since the 1970s.

    While they were an NFL expansion team in 1960, the Cowboys have always done things in a way that was stamped with originality and creativity.

    Much of that creativity came from the team's original general manager, Tex Schramm. While Schramm left the game plan in the capable hands of head coach Tom Landry, he made the practice of scouting players a science, and he hired the legendary Gil Brandt to help Dallas procure the best players possible.

    Schramm was concerned with everything about the Cowboys, and he originated the idea of having cheerleaders support his team.

    With the help of Dallas-area dance instructors Dee Brock and Texie Waterman, a competitive and creative group of dancers/cheerleaders was hired to represent the Dallas Cowboys.

    These women are nearly as much a part of the brand and image of the Cowboys as players like Bob Hayes, Bob Lilly, Roger Staubach, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman.

    While Jerry Jones has changed the Cowboys dramatically in the more than two-and-a-half decades that he has owned the team, he has kept the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders front and center as representatives of one of the most popular sports franchises in the world.

4. New York Giants: Originators of the Gatorade Shower

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    SUSAN RAGAN/Associated Press

    The Gatorade shower.

    It is one of the most traditional celebrations in all of sports, but it started with the New York Giants during the 1985 season.

    Nose tackle Jim Burt is credited with being the first player to dump Gatorade on his coach, and his victim was Bill Parcells following a victory over the Washington Redskins, according to the New York Times.

    Parcells had gotten on Burt's case in the days leading up to the game, and after he played well, he decided to get his coach with a bucket of the sticky and sweet refreshment.

    “He just dumped the bucket on me and of course it surprised me, but I had to really laugh because it was funny and it was his way of telling me that I was a little bit of a jerk, but the joke was on me now,” Parcells told Times reporter Sam Borden in an email.

    The Giants regularly pulled the trick the following season, when they went on to win the Super Bowl. It has been a tradition in football and other sports since then, but it started with the Giants.

     

3. Terrible Towel

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Pittsburgh Steelers fans have been waving their Terrible Towel for nearly 40 years to show their support of their beloved team.

    It doesn't seem like much, but when fans at old Three Rivers Stadium used to wave those towels in the air to show their support of the black-and-gold-clad Steelers, it made for a memorable sight.

    The towel started as a radio gimmick led by Steelers color analyst Myron Cope. In 1975, Cope started waving his terrible towel from the WTAE radio booth, and fans quickly caught on. 

    They have never stopped waving those towels, and it's a symbol of the great Steelers teams that won four Super Bowls during the 1970s and have since added two more championships.

    The Steelers remain the only franchise to have won as many as six Super Bowls.

    Cope died in 2008.

2. Lambeau Leap

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    Mike McGinnis/Associated Press

    The Green Bay Packers and their fans share one of the most intimate traditions in the NFL.

    They celebrate home touchdowns at Lambeau Field in a rather unique way.

    It's not a matter of spiking the ball or even hurling it into the stands. Green Bay Packers who score touchdowns at the venerable football stadium hurl themselves into the stands so they can receive congratulations and celebrate with the ticket-buying public.

    The Lambeau Leap started in 1993 when defensive back LeRoy Butler jumped over the low wall and into a group of fans following a touchdown return against the Los Angeles Raiders in 1993.

    A statue commemorating the first leap featuring a likeness of Butler and four fans has been erected outside of Lambeau Field.

    Butler told ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky how he came up with the idea. "I wanted the people to experience being me and being one of the fans," Butler said. "You can actually take a picture on top of it and you can come around back, your family can get in it as if they're the paying fans."

1. The 12s

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    The Seattle 12s.

    It is not the oldest tradition in the NFL, nor is it the most original. But there is something about the noise volume at CenturyLink Field in Seattle that is more impactful than at any other tradition in the NFL.

    Fans at Seahawks games appear to be spilling out of their seats (above) as they watch their team compete at its home games. The sound they make is unlike any other heard at venues around the NFL. Fans are loud at many stadiums throughout the league, and there are some that can turn it up to near-Seattle-like level on occasion.

    But Seahawks fans never have to be prompted to do so. They get loud and stay that way from kickoff until the final gun.

    The sound and support that Seahawks fans bring give a different type of meaning to home-field advantage.

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