Monday night marked the return of the Detroit Lions to national relevance, as the Lions held on for a 24-13 win over the division rival Bears. What was even more impressive than the play on the field was the atmosphere surrounding the stadium, and throughout the entire city of Detroit. Fans came out in masses, some as early as 7 a.m., to bask in the once elusive glory that accompanies a winning football team.
From Downtown to Midtown, Greek town to Cork town, Honolulu blue could be seen bleeding from every part of the city. Throughout the day the streets of Detroit filled with fans from all walks of life. New fans, happy to share in the success of the local NFL team, children going to their first football game, donning Stafford, Johnson, or Suh jerseys. Fans who had long abandoned the Lions for the better part of the last decade, clad in Barry Sanders jerseys, or whatever memento they had held onto from a better time. And then there were the Lion loyalists, who stuck with their team through the Matt Millen era. Who had continued to support a franchise in the midst of the worst season in NFL history, never once giving up on the hope that this franchise could be something to be proud of once again.
As the Sun slowly set in the evening sky, the city of Detroit became simply electric. Every street, every intersection was filled with Lions fans young and old, chanting, cheering, high-fiving, and relishing the opportunity to be proud of their Lions once again. It was reminiscent of a playoff type atmosphere, of which few Detroit fans have firsthand knowledge, but all equally long for.
The masses slowly converged on the stadium as kickoff approached, and from the first step taken into Ford Field, there was no mistaking the type of night it would be. From the opening introductions, to Ndamukong Suh’s final tackle on the one yard line, the Ford Field crowd was loud enough to rival the Silverdome, or any other NFL stadium for that matter. The raucous fans aided in nine Chicago false start penalties throughout the game, and the Lion defense fed off of the electricity all night long.
On paper, it was a victory for the players on the field, but in the hearts of the fans, it was a victory for the entire city of Detroit. It was an amazing day and night downtown on Monday as fans nationwide witnessed the potential of a once great franchise, as well as a once great city.