How does evolution explain rooting for the Detroit Lions?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!? I’m a Lions fan. Have been since first grade. Long before we landed a man on the moon (wink wink, nod nod).  Since BEFORE Jim Schwartz, the current Head Coach of the Detroit Lions, was born.

Suspended for gambling in 1963

Suspended for gambling in 1963

I remember riding in the back seat of my grandparents’ car Sunday afternoons from “up north” back home in Michigan, vainly trying to get the Lion’s game on my a.m. transistor radio.  I remember when Dick LeBeau was playing safety for the Lions (he’s currently the 70- something defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers). 

I confess, I DID NOT REMEMBER the Lions drafting Bill Parcells–yes, the Bill Parcells, in the 7th round of the 1964 draft.  Or Fred Biletnikoff in the 3rd round in 1965.   My earliest recollection of the Lion’s draft was Nick Eddy out of Notre Dame in 1966 (he finished third to Steve Spurrier and Bob Griese in the Heisman Trophy balloting his final year.)  You Redskin and Dolphin fans may have heard of those two quarterbacks.   As is common for the Lions, Nick Eddy got hurt on maybe the 1st time he touched the ball during pre-season, and wasn’t the same thereafter.  The Lions are jinxed, and always have been since before I was born. 

Supposedly, the jinx (or curse) was put on the Lions by Bobby Layne:  “In 1958, after leading the Lions to 3 NFL Championships and providing Detroit nearly a decade of Hall of Fame play, the Lions traded Bobby Layne. Bobby was injured during the last championship season and the Lions thought he was through and wanted to get what they could for him. According to Legend, as he was leaving for Pittsburgh Bobby said that Detroit ‘would not win for 50 years’.” 

Guess what, ladies and gentlemen? “The Curse” ended last  year, 2008 is fifty years later than 1958.  The Lions went 0-16 last year–the worst record evah in pro football history.  In the off season, they drafted number one, and they picked a quarterback, Matthew Stafford, who went to the same high school as Bobby Layne did in Dallas, Texas. Coincidence? I think not. And as you Redskin fans know, Mr. Stafford and the Lions beat the ‘Skins last Sunday for their first win in regular season since 2007.

Note the resemblance to Alex Karras? And you STILL doubt "The Curse"?

Note the resemblance to Alex Karras? And you STILL doubt "The Curse"?

But I digress.  I’ve been a Lions fan through thick and thin. And anybody who knows NFL footballl knows it has been thin for the last 50 years.  Why? I lived in Miami for five years when I was in my early 20s. I could have easily become a Dan Marino fan. 

I lived in North Carolina for three years during law school. I could have easily become a Carolina fan, and celebrated as my team went to the Super Bowl. 

I’ve lived in Richmond for the last 23 years.  Surely, I could have become a fan of the [hated] Washington Redskins. Couldn’t I?  But noooo, I had to remain a faithful Lions fan, knowing, always, that they would self-destruct. That they would fire the right coach, and hire the wrong one; that they would make the wrong draft choice, and run away the only good choice (Barry Sanders) that they ever made.  The Lions suck. Always have, except for brief interludes. 

You Skin fans may remember, in the 1991-92 season the Lions destroyed the Dallas Cowboys in Jimmy Johnson’s first run into the playoffs, 38-6, before losing the next week to the Skins in the NFC Championship game, 41-10 (the year the Skins and Ernest Byner and Mark Rypien and Gary Clark and Art Monk and “The Hogs” beat Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills, 37-24).  That was the closest the Lions have come in the last 50 years to winning the championship. 

Let’s face it, the Lions have set the bar high in terms of utter worthlessness as a professional franchise. But. I. Can’t. Stop. Rooting for them.  Why? Do I carry a defective gene? Did William Clay Ford have the government of Michigan put something in the water, causing all Michiganders to secretly root for the most losing franchise in NFL history?  Or was it just the 5 concussions that I suffered in the first 10 years of my life?  I seriously want to know. All you pointy-headed intellectuals who screw up all those scientific tests, and who are cock-sure of all your idiotic conclusions, please, help me! I must know!! Why do I seem to be eternally optimistic every pre-season, when I, despite all evidence to the contrary, inevitably conclude that  [fill in the blank–new coach, new scheme, new draft choice, new free agent, blah blah ad infinitum] will turn things around and make the Lions the best team in the NFL?

Is it too late to start “Lions Anonymous”?

Lest you think that living more than fifty years on this earth has made me wise, I must confess: I still think that the Lions future looks bright. I believe that Matthew Stafford will be a hall of fame quarterback. I believe that their new coach, Jim Schwartz, will lead the team to win the Super Bowl in two years. I believe that the Lions are headed in the right direction, making all the right moves, saying and doing all the right things. My question is, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME?!! History says I’m wrong. That I’m getting my hopes up, for no reason. But I just can’t help myself!

3 responses to “How does evolution explain rooting for the Detroit Lions?

  1. John, I have been a Buccaneers fan forever…from day one to lose number 26 in a row…I have NEVER thought of leaving them so I commend you on being consistent…

  2. Yeah, it’s the concussions.

    As lifelong Detroiter, I say set yourself free! It’s bad enough that we all carry the burden of rooting for the most pathetic team in the NFL. We wish it upon no one else.

    I love this state. It’s my home. Nothing beats jumping in the car to go up-north. But we wish no ill upon the other 49 states, and hope they don’t follow the pathetic progressive government of Michigan that’s run unemployment up to 20%.

    Unfortunately, Obama and the Dems are doing everything they can to bring Michigan’s economy to the rest of the country.

    Yes, Stafford will probably turn out pretty good, but just like after the ’91-’92 season when they got rid of Kramer … same as it ever was.

  3. We used to have a cabin “Up North” near Clare and Farwell, on Crooked Lake. I’ve never experienced anything like it since. Most of my early good memories spring from that place.

    And after this past game, with three long drives in the first half against da Bears, I’m cautiously optimistic.

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