“ARE YOU F***ING KIDDING ME!” If I could put a title on the sad, sad novel that is my loyalty to the Detroit Lions thus far, this would be it. For 22 long years I have been tortured, teased, and tormented by this organization. Why can’t I feel all the happiness that Packer fans have? Why can’t we ever win a playoff game? Why the hell did we draft Gosder Cherilus? It’s not fair I tell you! Every year, the Lions are empathized with by the anchors and analysts of the football world, and are the butt of shitty Jay Leno jokes (Hey Jay, it isn’t hard to make 65 ear olds laugh on a nightly basis. so shut up you old bastard).
At the beginning of every new season I have the same level of optimism; “We could honestly win 8 games this year”, or “we could potentially make the playoffs”. I watch with devoted attention, hoping they will fulfill my expectations, only to watch them fail miserably and curb stomp my little heart. All this anger and frustration has made me take a look a back and see just why I have decided to pledge my loyalty to such an abhorrent franchise.
.The Golden Era
The Late 90’s was what I consider, “The Golden Era” for the Lions. It had, till this day, my favorite grouping of players ever to be on a team. Barry Sanders at running back, Herman Moore and Johnny Morton at Wide Receiver, Scott Mitchell at QB, Cory Schlesinger at full back, and one of the best defensive ends in history Robert Porcher (well, in my mind at least). Those players will always have a special place on my Lions fan Mantel
Let’s start in 1997, the first real, good memory that I have had about the Lions. The season was, in my mind, a success. Barry Sanders won the MVP (but had to share it with that ASS HOLE Brett Favre. Fuck you Brett, I will always hate you) that year while rushing for 2053 yards and had 11 touch downs.
At the end of the regular season, the greatest moment for me as a sports fan happened. It was week 17 and the Lions were playing the Jets. Barry needed 131 yards to get to 2000 in a season, and he exploded for 184 yards averaging 8 yards per carry. After the game, his teammates hoisted Barry on their shoulders and chauffeured him around the Silver Dome like he was a king. Till this day, just thinking about it gives me chills. I will never forget that game.
That year, the Lions won a Wild Card spot finishing 3rd in the NFC Central (glad we got rid of that garbage). They faced the then division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and lost 20-10. The following season was a disappointment. The Lions only won 5 games, and finished 4th in the Central.
Then, during the offseason, in July of 1999, the worst day of my life happened. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting at the edge of my bed, watching the terrible news on ESPN. After signing an extension two years earlier, Barry Sanders had decided right then, to retire. I cried harder than if my dog got hit by a car, I got a new one, and then that got hit by a car followed by my house burring down. (yeah I cried, so what, you wanna fight about it?).
After years of speculation on why he retired, he finally admitted that he was sick and tired of the losing culture that surrounded Detroit. Imagine this; your favorite player retires because your favorite team is shit. That’s a hard pill to swallow. All that flowed through my mind that day was “is this really happening?” I thought this was the worst thing that could ever happen to the Lions…boy was I wrong.
The Millen Era
Welcome to the worst 8 years in sports history, everybody. From 2001-2008, Detroit was infected with a gruesome, vile, cancerous, disgusting virus named Matt Millen. Oh Matt Millen. Where do I ever start? Prior to being terminated in September of 08’ Millen’s Lions had a record of 31-81, one of the worst in NFL History. How depressing is that. I almost jumped ship during this, but I stood by my squad.
Matt Millen wasn’t exactly a draft guru either. My god did he make some poor choices in the draft room. Of the nine first round picks he made, only three remain on the team (Calvin Johnson, Jeff Backus, and the shittiest of them all, Gosder Cherilus). He drafted the following flops; Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, Roy Williams (who in Millens defense, we got a first and third round pick for in a trade with the Cowboys, so he’s got that going for him), Kevin Jones (who had over 1000 yards his rookie year. I had the “oh shit this is our man” moment, only to get that shot down), Mike Williams (who has resurrected his career in Seattle now, and seems to be doing well), and Ernie Sims. That is a lot of potential talent thrown away through the years and will really set a franchise back.
During his stint, the Lions went through three head coaches in eight years. This list included; now Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Coordinator Marty Morningweg, Super Bowl winning head coach Steve Mariucci, and now Bears Assistant head coach Rod Marinelli. All throughout this circus, the team kept changing offensive and defensive coordinators every year it seemed and the game plan and team mentality was changing with them. There was no stability in the locker room and the team crumbled as a result.
Three games into the 2008 season, Millen was terminated as GM and President. Even though he was no longer with the organization, his disease still infected the team.
That season, I watched my beloved Lions go winless as they fell to an 0-16 record. I thought to myself “THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING! WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS? IM LOYAL, I STUCK BY YOU THROUGH ALL THE BULL SHIT, CAN’T YOU JUST WIN ONE GAME, PLEASE?” It was the worst season of my life. How can a team full of professional football players not squeak out one measly win? I mean..Jesus Christ.
As the year ended, I thought about how the hell the Lions would be able to turn this team around. Well, the pieces are starting to fall in to place.
Restoring the Roar
After the Lions horrendous effort in 08-09 season, they received the first pick in the draft that year. With the first pick they selected Matt Stafford, a strong armed quarterback with all the “intangibles” from the University of Georgia. In that same draft, the Lions traded back into the first round to grab Brandon Pettigrew, a big tight end target from Oklahoma.
Stafford was crowned as the Lions savior and new franchise quarterback. The kid is good. When he plays he can wing the ball all over the field with the best of them. And with a giant in Calvin Johnson at wide receiver, he has one of the best targets to through too. There is just one problem; Stafford has only started played 13 games in his first two seasons because of shoulder injuries each year. Boy, if this isn’t just the Lions bad luck all over again, I don’t know what is. But Stafford is entering 2011 (if there ever is a 2011 in the NFL) feeling better than he ever. He has; now, two surgically repaired shoulders and added some muscle in the off season. I have all the faith in the world in Stafford. If he can play a full 16 game season, I feel that the lions will be a genuine contender.
Pettigrew is starting to become a pretty reliable option at tight end. During his rookie season, he could not catch a ball to save his life. He worked on that and has gotten a lot better (granted, he still dropped a shit ton of balls in 2010). Last year Pettigrew snatched up 71 catches for 722 yards and 4 tuddies. He was very reliable in third down situations and second and long situations. He will definitely be looked at more, causing things to open up for Stafford.
In the 2010 draft the Lions selected one of the best defensive tackle prospects to ever play the game, Ndamukong Suh. Suh is an absolute beast! He received defensive rookie of the year honors his first year and recorded ten sacks. For his stellar performance last season, he received a Pro-Bowl invite along with fellow Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Suh will be a staple for the Lions franchise for years to come. He fits so well in Detroit. His play and work ethic mimic the cities grit (not it’s lack of money or jobs or happy people). He took the role as the face of the franchise and will be there for years to come.
In that same draft, the Lions once again traded back into the first round, and grabbed a lightning quick running back out of Cal, Jahvid Best. Best started his rookie campaign with a couple of explosive games. He seemed to be the next coming of Barry Sanders to some Lions fans. And, just like any good thing in Detroit, it came to a halt that year and Best was slowed with Turf Toe in both feet. Once again…Jesus Christ.
This year’s draft seemed to be an interesting one for the Lions. Ever since the beginning of time and space, the Lions have had a desperate need for a corner back. We have had a slew of no names in our secondary, and needless to say, we couldn’t stop a nose bleed (thanks Bart Scott). They were getting burned worse than a Chicago fire. They were torched worse than a bowl at a Wiz Khalifa concert (you get the idea). A promising prospect was still available at the Lions spot in the draft, Prince Amukamara. I was screaming to the heavens “for god sakes we cannot mess this up. PLEASE DRAFT PRINCE!”
But the Lions didn't. Instead we got what Todd Mcshay called a “wow pick”. The Lions decided to go with Nick Fairley, a highly touted defensive tackle out of Auburn University. I love the pick now. Against Fairley and Suh, who the hell is going to pass, we will pack up sacks in bunches. Quarterbacks will have to change draws (that’s underwear for you white folk) when they see those two coming at them.
The Lions also got an explosive young receiver in Titus Young, and a power pack in Mikel Leshure. They are setting up to be a young, feisty team in the future. And with looming rumors of a certain Nnamdi Asomugha joining the squad has me amped for next season.
Closing Thoughts: The Lions are my favorite sports team ever. If you were to cut me open I would bleed Honolulu Blue and Silver. I’ll buy a Ford for the sole reason that I would be putting money into William’s pocket.
People always ask me “how the hell can you be a Lions fan?” My simple answer is, because it’s awesome. For how bad they are, they are a really fun team to watch. They will surprise you, as well as disappoint, but there is always excitement surrounding them. It is easy to be a Packers fan, or a Vikings fan. Those teams at least are competitive and make the playoffs over the years (and win Super bowls over their time, sorry Vikings). My Viking fan friends tell me that it’s harder to be a Vikings fan because they always choke to get to the Super Bowl or in the playoffs. Hey clowns, try not winning a game in an entire season. Try not winning a playoff game in 52 years. Try not winning a road game in 28 consecutive games on the road. That is called tough my friends.
I could never change my loyalty to another team either. I have a feeling that after all this dedication, and heart break, and head aches, and bitching; will come a super bowl, and when that happens, ALL YOU CAN KISS MY ASS!
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