As a lifelong Detroit Lions fan, every football season comes with strange circumstances. My affiliation is merely by default, being born in the Detroit area, and as a result I inherited a hapless team that not only fails to deliver, but often fails to even show up. When the football season does start, there's never passionate discussions about going all the way this year, itâ€™s asking how bad will they embarrass us this year? How hard will this yearâ€™s top draft pick fall on his face? How many games will be blacked out on TV because the game didnâ€™t sell out? Iâ€™ve seen more Lions games on TV living in Columbus than I ever saw growing up in Detroit.
Out of necessity, thereâ€™s an unwritten rule for Lions fans that we don't speak of openly. Root for the team, wear the colors, but go ahead and pick another franchise that youâ€™ll follow all the way to the Super Bowl. For me and my brother growing up, that team was the Pittsburgh Steelers. I remember the thrill every Sunday watching Terry Bradshaw hand the ball to the unstoppable Franco Harris or going long to Lynn Swann for the score, and Mean Joe Greene leading the â€śSteel Curtainâ€ť by terrorizing anyone who came within proximity. Together in a show of perfection they lead black and gold to victory each week, and we were pumped. After we came off that high, we turned on the Lions and crossed our fingers, hoping they would at least score a touchdown this time. Often we left disappointed.
I remember the years of Barry Sanders. From the word "go" he was the best running back we ever laid eyes on, wowing fans over the fact that yes, he did actually play for this bad team. He was the only hint of pure excellence that wore a uniform for the Lions within memory, and they actually got to go to the playoffs in the '90s a few times thanks to him. Oh, but it was too good to be true, for he retired early because after years and years of performing for mediocrity, he left with his spirit broken and love of the game destroyed. Any good feelings of that era was erased by one sad announcement in 1998. We fans were forced to turn away with heads hung in shame, wondering how much ridicule weâ€™d have to endure from this point forward.