(note: The blogosphere tends to be dominated by the hardcore of the hardcore meaning it can be difficult to get a handle on what the general masses are thinking about the Lions. That being the case, I asked a friend of mine to write a guest post giving his take on the Lions from his position as a more casual fan. A special SLR thanks to Chris Zandstra for taking the time to transfers his thoughts to words. Contact me if you would like to submit a guest piece for consideration.)
I’ve been a Lions ‘fan’ since I was born. For as long as I can remember, my parents have spent their Sunday afternoons in the fall rooting for ‘The Lovable Losers’. In my Middle and High School years I observed what I referred to as ‘the cycle’ over and over again. ‘The cycle’ started with my father’s growing anticipation of football in the spring. The draft was coming, and for many Lions fans, this was our Super Bowl. “There’s so much talent in the field this year, we’re certain to pick up some key position players and things will start to turn.” After the draft there was only a hint of hesitation: “we certainly made some strides, we’ll pick up 2-3 wins over last year without a problem”.
Then pre-season came and went. Some years the Lions would look great and we would think “Wow! We’re looking great, we’ve got a real shot this year” and other years when we stumbled we would simply state “its preseason, they’re still working out the kinks”. The cycle typically completed itself within 4-5 games of the season opener. This was the point where my dad became so upset with the Lions that he would typically shut the game off by halftime.
Needless to say, my fandom didn’t get off to a great start. Once I headed off to college I had a roommate who remained devoted, but my interest waned quickly. I’d check on the scores and catch a quarter once and a while, but my skepticism and negativity were already thoroughly engrained. A Lions loss was a fact of life, and a win only came against equally abysmal teams.
2010 presented some interesting differences for me. The Lions had hit bottom at 0-16 only two seasons back, and the franchise felt like an enormous ship that was ever so slightly leaning in the right direction. It would take time to get back on course, and even more time to travel the distance once we righted things, but even so things were changing. You can call me a fair-weather fan if you must, or you could say that I finally started sipping the kool-aide my father has been drinking deeply for years, but I decided that this would be the year that I would take a chance and dare to hope for good things in Detroit again.
Now we’re halfway through the Lions 2010 season, and it’s been an intriguing 8 games. Looking down the line at the start, the schedule looked absolutely brutal. Green Bay and Minnesota were both projected to be fantastic, and we obviously play them both twice. On top of that, we add in the Jets, Cowboys, and Patriots, and we’d be lucky to win a few games this season. But somehow, the Lions have kept pace with almost every single team they’ve played. The only game where a win felt out of reach in the 4th quarter was the Minnesota game.
So instead of focusing on a heartbreaking loss to the Jets, or the overall 2-6 record, I think we need to calm down and realize that this team is outperforming most people’s expectations. It’s easy to get caught up in some potential wins and then be disgusted when they lose in the final minutes, but this is an inexperienced team that hasn’t yet learned how to put games away. They’ve got the talent and leadership to stay in games, but now they’re learning lessons that will help them put that last nail in the coffin.
Finally, let me say this. There’s a new passion at Ford Field that I haven’t seen or heard at a Lions game as long as I can remember. The players on the field are playing like they want it. They feel a change in their team and it’s spurring them on. The fans in the seats are starting to see that maybe this year is different. Maybe this year the boat is actually turning.