If you’re a Detroit Lions season ticket holder you likely got a call from Jim Schwartz the other day. Non-season ticket-holding fans will have to read his words:
Hello, this is Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and I want to thank you for renewing your season tickets for the 2011 season. I’m sure you’ll agree that we’ve taken some big steps over the past couple of years and we’ve improved our football team. And while coaching and players are keys to reaching our goal of a championship, so are you. Your support is critical to the success of our football team.
We want Ford Field to be the most intimidating home field in the NFL, and thanks to you, we are well on our way to making that a reality. Your impact on the four home wins last season was real. You made a difference, but we need even more from everyone this season – from the opening kickoff to the final whistle.
So thanks again for your continued support. I look forward to seeing and hearing you at Ford Field this year.
That middle section hits on something I’ve been thinking about for a while. While Ford Field will never provide the deafening environment opposing teams endured at the Silverdome (no modern stadium will), I believe it has the ability to become one of the more difficult places for opponents to play.
ESPN’s divisional bloggers have put together a different top 10 power poll each week and a recent edition featured NFL venues. Astute football fans can probably guess a number of the venues that landed on the list and although there were a few surprises, Ford Field was not one of them. Yet.
I first starting pondering this topic when my brother and I were at the Lions game against the Cardinals in 2009. It was about this time that there was a lot of talk about a future Big Ten championship game in football and a possible host. I turned to Matt at some point during the game and remarked about how great the atmosphere would be inside Ford Field for a college football championship game. A meaningful game. A packed house. Two high level college marching bands.
Despite an official attendance figure of 40,577 that likely was much lower in reality, there were times during that Cardinals game that reinforced my belief that a game at Ford Field could make for one of the more difficult road trips in the NFL. I started to wonder if the empty seats had started cheering when Louis Delmas intercepted Kurt Warner and went goal line to goal line to completely change the face of the game.
In my opinion, Ford Field strikes a balance between intimate atmosphere and modern stadium comfort. Many newer stadiums lack the noise potential of their predecessor, Invesco Field at Mile High for example. There is one advantage the Silverdome had over Ford Field that is replicable: some decent teams worthy of voracious cheering. We haven’t seen any of those since the move from Pontiac to Detroit so Ford Field contains a certain amount of untapped potential.
Some venues got recognition from ESPN for factors beyond the accoustical effects of the brick and mortar. They noted that Lucas Oil Stadium (11th on the list) is far less intimidating if Peyton Manning is removed from the equation. There isn’t a quarterback in the league that relishes facing the Silver Crush on their home turf; can you imagine the feeling on the opposing sideline if the Lions offense takes off as many predict? I can and I like it.
Like the Detroit Lions as a team, Ford Field is an up-and-coming venue to be feared. We may not have any control over the team part, but creating a hostile environment is up to each fan in attendance. Let’s go do it.