This past Sunday I attended the Lions/Buccaneers game in Tampa and it was memorable on many levels. This was also the matchup when I went to my first NFL game ever. I was six months old at the time so I don’t remember a thing but looking back at the archives, the Lions won 38-7 and Barry Sanders even broke a big run.
While I have grown up in Jacksonville, my dad growing up in Michigan has been a lifelong fan of the Lions. Through thick and thin (mostly thin) he has stuck with the team. The biggest surprise at the game was how many others have stuck with them as well. There were tons of Lions fans and it was a bizarre version of the Steelers crowds at road games. If the Steelers have so many fans due to winning heavily in an era with a limited number of teams, what do the Lions offer? It could be due to the high amount of Michigan transplants in the state but it also shows that there are so many others out there like my dad that stuck with the team.
No Buccaneers fans that I saw even bothered to heckle anyone in Lions gear: The fifty plus years of torture was already enough. When Dave Rayner kicked a 34 yard field goal in overtime to end the Lions record long losing streak of 26 on the road, Lions fans, coaches and players were all ecstatic. With players charging the field like they won a playoff game and fans staying around to get pictures. My dad also made sure to have somebody take our picture with the scoreboard in the background.
When we got to the car to work our way back home, I mentioned to my dad I had never seen him so into a game before. Considering we have attended multiple playoff games together I thought it was very interesting. “I have been rooting for this team for 50 years and I just wanted to see them win” he said. Other than players such as Lem Barney, Billy Sims and Sanders, there hasn’t been much to cheer for in the Motor City. “Things might be starting to look up” my dad also mentioned. With elite players in Ndamukong Suh and Calvin Johnson already on the roster and the potential of a franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford, he could be right. Those who have stuck with the team through everything might finally see their loyalty rewarded.