Dear Detroit Lions,
I wanted to drop you a note. Since being squeezed out into St. John’s Labor and Delivery on a sweltering Detroit spring day in 1962, I have been loyal to this franchise.
Growing up in Detroit, there aren’t any choices in team alliance. My blue-collar grandfather, the hardest working Irishman at the River Rouge Plant, demanded my loyalty to the Lions. His NFL tutelage created a zealous devotion in my heart, making most martyrs’ devotion pales in comparison.
After two corrupt Mayors robbed a once proud city and brought it down to the level of your franchise, my parents and I left the city. They headed to West Michigan, immersing themselves in the collegiate football scene. I rarely heard the Lions mentioned after we moved.
With my head down and carrying the ripe smell of the NFL’s worst franchise, I set up Detroit’s colors on the north side of Chicago in 1985. Those were tough football years. Any allegiance to another team could result in a brutal beating by one of Mike Ditka’s cloned mustached disciples.
I was living a dying NFL dream in Walter Payton’s backyard. I eventually escaped the city of Ditka’s shoulders and disappeared into Los Angeles, hiding from disappointed Oakland Raiders fans packing heat.
The Kool-Aid you’re serving us each preseason is as unsatisfying as the final results. Each week, more hard-core fans are becoming disenfranchised and dreaming of the “roar” from Alex Karas’ past. On the field, you used to be our tools of revenge when the pride in our blue-collar jobs and righteous prayer in schools became unfashionable.
Where is the magnetic reckless intensity and joy that thrives in high school football? Why are discipline, mistake-free fundamentals, and integrity the stepchildren of this organization? Those missing tools could save this once great team and wake up this comatose city that becomes dumber each hour they worship their smartphones.
For the imprisoned fan in Honolulu blue, we need a break from the heavy tiredness of last week’s struggle and the anxiety for the upcoming one. We bought in early and now must carry your fourth-quarter mistakes into eternity. When you reveal your devotion to the Lions, everyday bystanders treat you with an empathy reserved for those in the last stages of terminal cancer.
Life as Lion’s fans has been filled with hope for each preseason and then, after the fourth game, the stats of next year’s draft prospects. Even the brief glimpses of light during Sander’s era did little to allow me to swagger regularly. Quit trying not to lose. Instead, play to win. You know that each team in the NFL checks their schedules to see if they play the Lions. Relish and relief fill their locker rooms if they do because the Lions always kill themselves. But, you have another chance to do something more significant than yourselves, maybe even making it past the first round of the playoffs.
This responsibility is like none other, and we hope and pray you can deliver it to us someday. It’s not about the outcome but doubled-down playing with nothing to lose. This toughness is the substance of all outstanding accomplishments. If you can’t find it, give Tom Brady a call, I’m sure he knows where to find it.