I grew up in Michigan which means I grew up with the Detroit Lions. I never remember actually being excited about being a Lions fan. Aside from the flashes of enthusiasm generated watching Barry Sanders dodge through linebackers as though they were standing still, there was little to cheer for.
While living in upstate New York, it was easy to forget about the Lions. They seemed to be irrelevant except to the odd NFL fan who would raise the topic with me. I admit, that late in the 2000s, I really stopped paying attention to the team.
With a few exceptions, the last decade of Lions football has been extremely unrewarding for fans. Coaches came and went through what seemed like a revolving door: Mornhinweg, Mariucci, Jaron, and Marinelli all occupied the top spot before general manager Matt Millen was fired during the dreadful and winless 2008 season. My return to Michigan coincided with the end of the Millen era and the begining of Jim Schwartz’s tenure as head coach and the addition of Mattthew Stafford, Ndamuknong Suh, and Megatron (aka Calvin Johnson).
Tonight, the Lions are playing in their first playoff game since 1999 against the New Orleans Saints. The Saints are favored to win by ten points according to Las Vegas oddsmakers. A road win against a team who already beat us on December 4 and competed in the playoffs four of the past six seasons is unlikely.
Listening to sports talk radio would not give you the same impression. It feels like every caller into 97.1 says the Lions have a chance to defeat Drew Brees and the Saints. It’s not all unbridled optimisim out there, these people are Lions fans afterall and know that losing is a virtual certainty.
There aren’t often a lot of rewards for being a Lions fan. Today is one of them: win, lose, or blow out, I plan to enjoy it.