George Puscas and Canada’s Lions
As I detailed last week, the year 1957, the last time the Lions won an NFL championship, still looms large over the franchise. Lesser known, but perhaps of more importance than people realize, 1957 was also the year that a young sportswriter named George Puscas began handling the Lions beat for the Detroit Free Press.
Over the next five decades, there is probably no single person who did more to ingrain “Same Old Lions” into the Detroit sporting lexicon than Puscas. In the late 1950s and early 60s, the term started to gain some traction in the Detroit media, and believe it or not, it wasn’t always meant as an insult or a rueful resignation to fate. Well…not at first, anyway.
While the Detroit Lions were the kings of the NFL jungle throughout the 1950s, another Lions team to the north was having a rough go of their first decade in existence. The BC Lions, a CFL team based out of Vancouver, started up in 1954 and had a rough go of it at first. In their first nine seasons, the British Columbia version of the Lions had only one winning season, including campaigns of 1-15, 3-13, and 1-13-2. Naturally, the Vancouver newspapers around this time had something to say as the losing seasons piled up. It was “same old lions”, and it wasn’t particularly kind.
At the same time that the Canadian ‘Same Old Lions’ were doing most of their losing, Puscas began reporting on a perennial winner in Detroit. Around the early 1960s, ‘Same Old Lions’ was generally used as a compliment if it was referring to Detroit.
For instance, it signaled respect and impending doom when the Baltimore Sun reported that the Colts had to face the ‘Same Old Lions’ in a 1961 game.
"“There is nothing new about the Lions…the outfit is called the greatest defensive bunch in the National Football League.” –Cameron Snyder, September 21, 1961"
The ‘Same Old Lions’ dominated the L.A. Rams 23-2 in the 1963 season opener, just as the ‘Same Old Lions’ had dispatched the Browns in attendance record-setting exhibition game a few weeks earlier. For a club that wasn’t too far removed from championship contention year after year, ‘Same Old Lions’ was about the highest distinction to be had.
As the fortune of the franchise began to shift in the following decades, so did the meaning of the moniker, and George Puscas was there for all of it.