Nervous? Obviously. Anxious? No doubt. Defibrillator? Yes, please. As I sat one part stunned and one part elated, I realized something. The most emotionally gut-wrenching Detroit Lions play that I’ve witnessed in person, will soon be forgotten…simply because the Detroit Lions won.
I’ll forever have Sterling Sharpe streaming down the sideline wide open in my brain. Paul Edinger’s 53 yard field goal will eternally be a kick in my nether region when I think of it. But DeAndre Levy’s facemask aided, forced fumble of Minnesota Vikings‘ quarterback Joe Webb will quickly fade from my memory, probably after the results of the Lions’ road trip to the Oakland Raiders next Sunday.
While I was more entertained by my seat neighbors at Ford Field than the actual game for the majority of Sunday afternoon, I started feeling a rising pit in my stomach after halftime. It started festering right about the time the drunk 20-something girl behind me screamed at the Lions to throw it to the wide open guy–who just happened to be John Wendling on the punt coverage team. A few plays later Joe Webb turned into Carl Lewis circa 1984 Los Angeles as he leisurely jogged, untouched, for a 65 yard touchdown. That’s Joe Webb…the third string quarterback, or is he a receiver?
I thought, “no this isn’t going to happen, is it?” It got worse. After introducing himself to me for the third time, the even drunker, 50-something man in the ridiculously faded Luther Ellis Jersey (it looked like the Chargers’ powder blue jersey) confusingly cheered for a “FIRST DOWN”…yeah, a Viking First down. Which was subsequently followed by a short touchdown catch by the Vikings Toby Gerhart. Everyone around me seemed oblivious as to what was about to go down.
Only the guy in front of me shared my nervous sentiment. Just get a win. Doesn’t matter how.
Late in the 4th quarter, after the Lions offense failed to run out the clock, they were forced to punt with a tenuous 6 point lead, bringing the defense back on the field; a defense that couldn’t have stopped a starved, sprinting Michael Moore with a couple of coney dogs. I was approaching pure panic mode now. My poor wife who was with me had an equally nervous look. Not for the Lions dwindling playoff hopes, rather for her home life for the next 48 hours. She feared for my paper-thin psyche should the Lions lose at home to a 2-10 football team without their best player. As the inevitable happened and the Vikings drove the ball to the one yard line with 9 seconds left. We all held on. And then it happened. The most important play in the last decade and a half of Detroit Lions football, a play that will soon be forgotten.
All I remember was a sea of Honolulu Blue storming the Vikings backfield and watching the ball rolling, rolling, rolling the other way. The good way. While my brain was trying to grasp what just happened, and part of me feeling like the team had still lost, I noticed the looks of everyone around me. My wife looking like perhaps the rest of her short weekend was saved, the guy in front of me looking just as tepidly elated as I must have, the drunk girl ecstatically hugging her boyfriend (who was, perhaps, holding her up also) and the even drunker man who had his hands over his eyes and looked to be crying. Or maybe he was just passed out. Either way, a wave of emotion filled over the stands. Disaster averted, playoff hopes saved for now.
It doesn’t matter how they got themselves in that situation. It doesn’t matter that the refs missed (or ignored) an obvious facemask penalty that might have given the Vikings another shot. What matters is that the Lions won a game that we all saw a hundred times go the other way. Whether a valid or invalid penalty, a turnover, dropped pass or missed assignment, the Lions always seemed to fail to make the play and never got a break. But not this time. This win can’t be taken away, facemask or not.