Thursday, September 4, 2008

To That Lone Lions Fan, And You Know Who You Are

This article appeared in the Free Press today and I thought some of your would find it interesting.



ESPN recently ranked the fan bases for each NFL team. Don't ask me why. It is not for us to question the wisdom of the almighty ESPN. What ESPN giveth, ESPN taketh away, and let's face it: you don't want your screen going black during "Monday Night Football."

Anyway, I wanted to see where Lions fans ranked in that list. First? This is a team that has won only one playoff game in the last half century, yet the fans have never abandoned ship. It's almost like the organization is trying to lose fans. How else do you explain Matt Millen?

So Lions fans must be ... hmm, not first. That honor went to Steelers fans. OK, fine: We all know Pittsburgh has great fans. We don't need numbers to tell us. It is impossible to imagine Pittsburgh without the Steelers. If the team left, the fans would just lift all the downtown buildings and carry them to the Steelers' new city.

So Lions fans must be second ... hmm. Nope. Not second. Second was Packers fans. I understand that. Tiny market + rabid fan base = high ranking.

Third was Cleveland. Good. I love Cleveland. So the Lions must be fourth ... um, Philadelphia? I love Philadelphia. What a great city. But fans there boo volunteers at homeless shelters.

Of course, Detroit can still be proud that it has the fifth-best NFL fans in America ... Kansas City? NFL tailgate capital of America. Sure.

Washington ... Denver ... New England? Come on. You could put that team in Roswell, New Mexico, and it would sell out every game.

Finally, I just scrolled down to find Lions fans.

31st.

THIRTY-FIRST. Out of 32 teams.

Thir.

Ty.

Fir.

St.

Wow. I am convinced that people around the country have no idea how hard it is to be a Lions fan. They don't know what it's like to have the most exciting running back in NFL history win just one playoff game, then retire. Mostly, they don't realize that the team grossly underachieved in the Barry Sanders era and that was still the best stretch of football most Lions fans have ever known.

Do you realize that if you remove the Sanders years from Lions history, the Lions have had exactly three winning records in their last 25 seasons? Treat that little fact like a wine tasting for a moment: swirl it around your mouth, then spit it out.
Since 1971, the Lions have reached double digits in victories three times. They have lost at least 10 games 15 times.

Since Millen arrived before the 2001 season, the Lions have been the worst franchise in the NFL by a significant margin. It is quite possible that they have been the worst franchise in the modern history of the NFL. Yet interest has actually increased.

That's not always audible at Ford Field, because it's hard to be loud when your team is losing, and a lot of fans stay away on principle. But the interest is definitely there.

The funny part of this is that most people around the nation would agree that the Red Wings have great fans and the Pistons have great fans. Yet people from those organizations know that the Lions are an obsession on their own level around here.
If the Lions ever make the Super Bowl, it would be the biggest thing ever to happen in Detroit sports. It would be the NFL equivalent of the Cubs making the World Series.

Of course, whenever you start a sentence with "If the Lions ever make the Super Bowl ..." Detroiters laugh. They doubt it will ever happen. Yet they pull for the Lions anyway.

I'll say this: Those first 30 teams must have some really great fans.



Contact MICHAEL ROSENBERG at 313-222-6052 or mrosenberg@freepress.com.

1 comments....porters always have something to say!:

Jock said...

I saw a article recently that listed Detroit as the number one sports value in the country. It was based on winning percentage of the professional teams and ticket prices. Imagine if the Lions ever started winning how good of a value Detroit franchises would be.

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