Detroit. If you look on any TV channel, any magazine, any radio station….you hear the usual narrative that has been thrown at this proud city on a regular basis. Too much crime. City in bankruptcy. Corrupt politicians. People leaving the city in droves for other states & the suburban areas.
Since September though, the city has been on the TV & in the rest of the media for something far more positive……….the success of Detroit Lions football. The team is 11-4 right now & has the chance to defeat a long-time rival in the Green Bay Packers this Sunday at Lambeau Field to clinch the NFC North championship & a first-round bye in the playoffs, which would be a home game in the divisional round.
Yep, let me repeat this…..the Detroit Lions are among the most elite teams in the NFL to the point where not only are they getting a playoff spot but also a chance at a bye round into the divisional round & a home playoff game.
Those words have not been uttered much since 1991 & 1993, the last years that the Lions were truly a team that looked like they even had a remote chance to make any noise in the NFL playoffs when players such as Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, Brett Perriman, Robert Porcher, Lomas Brown & others roamed the field.
This Sunday, the Lions franchise can make a major step towards not only getting a great seed in the playoffs, but, just for a little while, shut up the people who talk simply about the faults of a blue-collar city but instead, talk about a team that the fans have so much pride in – unwavering pride I might add.
Detroit Lions fans are a bit of a different breed. I write this as a Lions fan myself & I have been able to watch just about every Lions game since I have been a teenager. This fan base loves this team in ways that no other fan base in any sport loves a squad. Fall & winter are tough in Michigan. It can be cold, bitter & in many ways, there is very little to be excited about on a regular basis here. It isn’t all smiles & glitz & glamour like you may find in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York or Dallas, but its a city of passion, & the fans are the embodiment of that deep passion to succeed & to see their team succeed.
In 2008, the Lions had the worst season in the history of the NFL, going 0-16 & being the butt of so many jokes on a regular basis by national media & talk show hosts such as Jay Leno. Each day, we were reminded about the bad ownership, bad GM, bad coach, players who didn’t give a damn, blah, blah, blah. After a while, you started to wonder if there really was a Lions curse that was placed on this franchise that the fans so dearly loved.
Whether the fans thought there was a curse or not, they still showed up at the games every week & many weeks, sold out the building. If that isn’t dedication, I don’t know what is.
The Lions are a strong representative of the city of Detroit. They have gone through bad times, much scrutiny & controversy, but they still dusted themselves off, made adjustments, & got right back into the fight & now they are finally getting ahead.
To have the opportunity to have a home playoff game in Detroit would be one of the biggest joys that the city has seen in many years. The Lions lift up the community. Fans get amped up for Sundays all over the state of Michigan for Lions football, but for those in Southeast Michigan, you can say that Lions football is a bit of a way of life. The Red Wings are doing fine but the overall interest in hockey has disappeared in many sectors. The Detroit Pistons are going through a massive rebuilding project & the Tigers are only small steps away from getting back to the World Series.
At the core, however, Detroit is a football town. Its a city that loves to see their college teams such as Michigan & Michigan State do well. The smaller towns care about high school football greatly. This is a town where the football team & the players really do show what happens when you get knocked down & beat up for a long time – you get smarter, stronger & more prepared to be successful. If the Lions are to defeat the Green Bay Packers & gain that home playoff game & have a chance to advance to an NFC Championship Game or even a SuperBowl, the fans watching around the country will have the chance to believe & see what Ford Field is truly like when you have 65,000 crazed Lions fans who are absolutely desperate for even just the crack at trying to win a SuperBowl game.
Yes, we know the team hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991. Yes, we know the team hasn’t won in Green Bay since 1991, & yes, we know that we have one playoff victory in 50 years, but here is something else that we know……..we know that we believe in Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford, Ndamakong Suh, coach Jim Caldwell & the rest of the Lions organization. We believe that this team is giving the whole area some hope & we believe that this team will go far in possibly helping people see the area for something different other than just murders, robberies & corruption.
On Sunday afternoons, NFL fans in all cities are excited, proud & ready for their team to do some great things on the field. Lions fans, I do believe, want that x10. When we see our players such as Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson & others be great citizens & do things around the Detroit area, it brings a bit of extra pride due to the negative talk that you hear pretty much from the time you are born about the Detroit & how it is considered the redheaded stepchild of the United States of America.
On the flip side, when we hear players like Suh not always wanting to make a long-term commitment to the city, no matter how good the player is, the fans will fall out of favor because Detroit fans want someone who is in the fight just like they are. It may not always work in that way in the era of social media & extra greed, but its a thought that sports fans still want to have.
Lions vs Packers is already a great rivalry, but when pride & a whole city gets behind this game at 4:25 p.m., an entire Detroit Metro area will be kicking off as well.