Sunday, November 8, 2015

IF THE LIONS LEFT DETROIT

If you are a Detroit Lions football fan, you are probably tired.

And frustrated, too.

And some of you may be downright angry.

I understand.

Born and raised here in the Great Lakes state, I’ve lived in Michigan – and more specifically, Metro Detroit – most of my life. And I’ve been a die-hard Lions fan since I was knee-high to a grasshopper.

Trust me; I’m aware of the proverbial sense of discontent.

And I’ve heard the (unthinkable) proposal that some have made in their fit of rage after yet another game the Lions shouldn’t have lost, but did:

“The Lions should just go. Get outta town. Leave.”

I have to ask, you don’t really mean that…do you?

I mean, do you really want the Lions to go?

I don’t.

Not now, not ever.

“They should just clean house,” people say.

Have you stopped to literally picture what that would look like?

The result would actually be quite dirty, daunting, and messy if cobwebs began growing inside Ford Field and tumbleweeds started rolling down Brush Street.

(Because another abandoned building is exactly what the city of Detroit needs.)

And then there are the people who work inside that house.

After all, when fans start calling for the heads of Lions staff, rarely do they think about the men and women who help keep the stadium – the team’s home – afloat:

The concession worker who serves hot dogs. The custodian who stocks paper towels in the restroom. The usher who ensures that your elderly neighborhood gets to his seat comfortably.

They are part of the Detroit Lions, too, you know.

They don't wear jerseys with their names on the back, and they darn sure don't make millions, but they feed their families, pay taxes, and make rent, mortgage, and car note payments because they have a job.

And let us not forget about the team owners, the Ford family, who bring much more to this city than entertainment.

“But we want to win!” is another rallying cry fans shout from their couches while waving their hands dismissively at their TVs.

But, don’t you see, we have won.

I'm not going to lie, a series of consecutive seasons with more wins than losses would undoubtedly be nice.  

And a super bowl ring would be lovely.

But, folks, here's the cold, hard fact: There are 30 states that would trade with us in a heartbeat.

Because they don't have an NFL franchise to call their own.

The pedestrian act of donning your Sunday best (read: your team’s colors) and heading to a stadium or a nearby tailgate at the start of the week is unavailable to them.

They won't find memorabilia or merchandise from their home-grown NFL team in Walmart, Meijer, or in so much as a gas station convenience store.

They won’t find a community of drinking and eating establishments that come alive when patrons – wearing Honolulu blue face paint and hats that resemble a stuffed animal – cheerfully stroll the streets of downtown on game day.

You won’t find moms of youth football players attending free football clinics at their local NFL stadium, clinics that educate both them and their children on the importance of safety and concussion awareness.

And, sadly, you won’t find invaluable programs like Meet Up & Eat Up, which is a collaborative movement for which the Detroit Lions and United Way partner to ensure that every child has access to nutritious meals 365 days a year, three times a day.

“That’s all fine, but I want to be associated with being the best!” another Lions fan might lament.

And we already are.

Two words: Barry Sanders.

When my husband, who had the privilege of blocking for Barry for nearly seven seasons, regales me and fans alike on what those moments were like, his stories still elicit goosebumps.

And, yes, much of the glory pertained to what happened on the gridiron. But you – the fans – are also an indelible part of the fabric of that time.

They don’t call you the twelfth man for nothing.

And I know, I know, Barry’s era – and that of another number 20, former Lions running back Lem Barney – seem like a long time ago.

But make no mistake, there’s no expiration date on pride.

It is a part of our history – regardless of what happens from here on out – just as the Denver Bronco’s John Elway, the Pittsburgh Steeler’s Terry Bradshaw, and the Cleveland Browns’ Jim Brown are a part of theirs.

There’s no denying that winning is awesome.

But it isn’t everything.

Not when our team’s presence alone gives us so much to cheer about.



This blog post is also featured on USAFootball.com.


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