Monday Night Football
This countdown ends where the Lions season truly took flight. With so many important free agent signings, games, drives, and moments, it is difficult to decide which one truly is the “best” of the season. It is also inevitable that great moments will be omitted, such as the Harbaugh handshake, or Calvin Johnson serving up slice after slice of humble pie to Cris Carter. For this season however, and for this life-long Lions fan, nothing comes close to the excitement or the atmosphere throughout Detroit for Monday Night Football.
This moment tops the list for several reasons. Detroit entered the season surrounded by hype that was, to many, undeserved and unearned. A four game winning streak to open the season only added to the excitement, and fueled the national media fire. At the same time, many doubters argued that nothing had yet been proven, as they questioned the Lions strength of schedule. The week five matchup with the Bears brought several opportunities for Detroit. First, it offered the chance to measure themselves against a proven team, who had won NFC North the previous season, and were the favorites of many once again. Second, Monday Night Football offered the opportunity to showcase the talent of a young, up and coming team on national television; something that the Lions only experienced on Thanksgiving Day in recent years.
This moment was more meaningful than a 24-13 victory over the Bears. It was more meaningful than a national showcase for the Lions. This day was special because of what it meant to this city. The atmosphere downtown was electric from sunrise to well beyond sunset, as the masses crowded the streets, bars, and tailgate parties to celebrate a return to national relevance. As the Lions had returned to the city of Detroit from Pontiac earlier in the decade, on that Monday, the city of Detroit returned to the Lions. For many years Red Wings and Tiger jerseys had dominated the streets of Detroit, but a sea of Honolulu Blue was all that could be seen. Fans had endured an excruciating decade of football, rooting for a franchise that had long been the target of national mockery. All of the frustration, anger, and jealousy that had developed over the years were released in the form of exuberance on those streets.
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 as fans nationwide witnessed the potential of a once great franchise, as well as a once great city, on Monday Night Football.