No, I’m not crying in my cups this morning. I ceased doing that many a decade ago. I am here only to make some statement on behalf of all those who are crying still, tossing and turning all through the night, tissues still clinging to tear-stained cheeks, bits of nachos stuck still in beards and in cleavages, bodies too wracked with mental misery to bathe before seeking the comfort of blankies and darkness.
I speak for them, the great masses of sad fans who must suffer the slings and arrows, er, oh that’s a different story entirely.
Actually I come to suggest that there are in fact no great masses at all, but rather a small group of lost souls who still cling to the thought that these hapless boys in Hawaiian blue, might bring forth a victory one day. In a word, forgetaboutit.
I know of what I speak, for a look with not exactly fondness at the prospect of turning sixty-five this very year, and confess that yes, I lived all too many of those sixty-five in the state of Michigan. For many a reason I consider myself well rid of that mittened image, but that’s another story entirely too.
I grew up, as many working class kids did, with a male parental who was known as a “football fan”. Lucky indeed were we, for we had a team of our own, unlike the orphans living in Connecticut or New Mexico, who must survey the surrounding environs and then choose a team to champion. At least we can explain that we have no choice in the disaster that was foisted upon us.
I recall those years of my youth, watching AFC games on Saturday and NFC games on Sunday. I remember those hated nemeses Chicago and Green Bay and Minnesota. They were the teams that seemed always to come out on top. We were trampled by the likes of Butkus, while Starr passed us by, and Horning laughed as he tripped down the field.
I remember the curses hurled upon the feckless Lions by my father who growled, about how they were surely to fall again, as the litany of three and out reverberated in my ears again and again. We had a hapless quarterback called Milton Plum, and it was run, run, pass, kick all the game long. Truly great players like Alex Karras and Dick LeBeau served out long careers among the hapless kittens of blue.
For years we blamed the coaches, and then the general manager. But most of all I blamed Edsel Ford who owned the team, sure that if only he would sell the team to someone who cared, all would be better. A family toy was not how a professional football team should be treated, I intoned. The cheap skate! If only he would spend a few bucks.
Well he did, on Billy Sims and Barry Sanders. But if only he would spend some money on ALL the positions.
Well I guess, somewhere along the line they did, and nothing changed.
Oh there were moments of near glory, moments when our hopes were raised.
And that’s when we began to suspect that this would never change. Like most games, there were moments of brilliance, and then the roof fell in as usual. Occasionally a win was eked out, but it was almost always a nail biter. A couple of promising runs, a pass or two, and then it ended, and a feeble field goal was all that was salvaged. Another and then another, and whew, we had a nine-point lead. Five minutes later, after two great and rapid drives, our opponent had scored two touchdowns and we were behind once again.
We seldom recovered.
It became like that all too often. Enticing us, tempting us, letting us dream of victory, but they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory again and again.
Some of us got smart. In fact most of us did. We became like orphans and we found other teams to admire, teams that didn’t always let us down, who didn’t flirt and then wrap up the goodie bar tight and go home, leaving us, well, off to take another cold shower as the metaphor would go.
I became a Broncos fan, though I rue that now that my old standard John Elway became a flaming douche of a right-wing nut. I searched for a team to be mine, one I could proudly display on cap on jacket and bumper.
And I wondered. What makes this team so god-awful bad?
A myriad of coaches, a myriad of quarterbacks and receivers didn’t change a thing. New general managers, new stadiums. Nothing made a difference.
I was forced to examine the fans, and there truly seems to be the answer.
For the Lions don’t command a fan base like the rest of the sporting world. And that can’t be blamed on just poor performance. The Boston Red Sox went through the “curse of the bambino” for 86 years and yet their fans remained loyal. Mets fans remain loyal though most years that team remains in the basement.
I have gone to many a Pistons game, and baseball and hockey game in Detroit. And I knew lots of other people who did as well. I can categorically say I never ever heard a single person who said, “we went to the Lion’s game yesterday”, while standing at the water cooler on Monday. Not once. Never.
Lions fans, such as they were, suffered for years when ticket sales were so dismal that you couldn’t even watch the team on the TV because the games weren’t televised locally when the stadium wasn’t sold out. The threat of “no TV” was not enough to induce lackluster Lions fans into spending a few bucks to sit in the stands.
Of course the team, like all others, talks about how wonderful the fans are, and how they are energized by their cheers. One wonders if the Lions haven’t developed a strong aversion to sound, such that boos sound like rahs to them. Because if the rahs are forthcoming, they soon succumb to the reality of Lions football–the praises turn into curses as the team falters yet again.
The facts are what they are.
The Lions remain the only national conference team that has NEVER played in a super bowl.
So I come to the only viable conclusion that can be reached, the fans are responsible for the failure of this sorry excuse of a team to win. And worse, it is fans like me, fair-weather types, who have long since stopped the masochistic pursuit of sticking by their team, and moved on.
As the game with Dallas went on and the Lions looked again as if they just might win, my husband, football analyst and all-round Green Bay fan, stated, “babe, the little brothers are gonna win this game I think”.
To which I replied. “wait for it. Don’t be sucked in. They will fade and die. They always do.”
“Away with that negativity,” he ordered.
“Just experience, my dear, just experience.”
And then the passes started going awry. And the runners stopped finding the holes. And Romo started to connect, and Dallas got a touchdown, and then it was only by six, and well, to us old-time knowers of all things Lion-y, the hand of doom was about to strike.
And it did, and they walked off again losers, not meant to be.
And I must admit, I’m to blame. I just didn’t love them enough.
Now, how ’bout them Packers? Oh yeah, and damn Spartans were something weren’t they against Baylor? Now that’s football!