Let’s get this straight, I didn’t choose to be a Detroit Lions fan.
I was born in the wonderful state of Michigan, just miles from Detroit. My dad was a Lions fan–I’m assuming he had fuzzy images of 1950s World Championships still dancing in his head. But the glory years didn’t last long. The Lions faded into mediocrity in the 1960s and 1970s before the forgettable 1980s.
That’s when I started to pay attention. The ’80s were so forgettable that the players were too faceless to even care to recall. James Jones, Gary James, Jeff Chadwick, Rusty Hilger, and so on and so on. Cold Sunday afternoons during that era usually started normal enough. Probably with me playing quietly with a toy in the house just to be scared “you-know-what-less” by the screams coming from the family room.
I was astonished at how someone could get that angry over a football game and swore I’d never be that guy. I guess I lied to myself. Being a Lions fan has been a chore. My personal low point being the final game of the 2008, 0-16 season. With a date at Green Bay looming in Game 16, the Lions had to beat the Saints for any shot to avoid infamy.
It was negative 100 that day (well, maybe not really but it seemed like it) and the snowdrifted Eastern Market was barren. It looked like a scene from the 1980′s sci-fi flick “The Thing”. Gone were the pretty girls that were so numerous during the early September games. Nope, just a bunch of guys like me–cloaked in that shade of blue that is so reminiscient of failure.
After the 3/4 mile trek to Ford Field through the unplowed streets of Detroit, the Lions put up an effortless showing to repay our loyalty. While leaving that stadium, I cursed the franchise and swore I was done with them. It lasted MAYBE until the draft. Now here I am, back in full Honolulu blue lather.
I find myself defending the Lions at every chance. We got Suh and Calvin. Stafford is gonna stay healthy this year. We’re going to get Asomugha. Right? But really, my need for this team stems not from anything they’ve done recently, but back to those dreary Sundays almost three decades ago. Every once in awhile Eric Hipple would find Leonard Thompson open down the sideline and those screams of pain in the living room, would turn to screams of joy. My dad would smile at me…beaming…”next year is our year, son”.
Flash forward 30 years and here I am. Screaming at the TV as Deandre Levy picks off Chad Henne, sealing a meaningless victory in late December. My six year old son staring at me with equal parts amazed and bewildered eyes, saying “What happened dad?”
The poor boy doesn’t stand a chance, either.