Lions retain die-hard, long-suffering fans

 

SOECharlesHallmansquareThe Detroit Lions are one of four teams, and the only NFC team, not to have played in the Super Bowl. They have, however, won four NFL championships, the last in 1957.

As a result, we ask which fans have suffered the longest — Lions fans or Chicago Cubs fans, whose baseball team hasn’t played in the World Series in 107 years?

Michael Banks
Michael Banks

“We’ve done a little better than the Cubbies in the long run,” states Richard Stacy, a Lions fan since 1977.

“Definitely a Detroit Lions fan,” says Michael Banks, a Lions season-ticket holder. He offers the deciding factor in this discussion: “Matt Millen! The Cubs can’t top that,” bemoans Banks regarding the former Detroit general manager (2001-08) and his shortcomings, including bad drafts and other signings and a winless 2008 season during his tenure. At least four “Fire Millen” websites were dedicated to his ouster.

The Lions “are the number-one team” in Detroit, notes Stacy. “The strongest fan base clearly is the Lions. Football is the number-one sport in America and in this town.”

Detroit averaged 61,347 fans per game this season, says ESPN.com. “The Detroit Lions don’t struggle to fill Ford Field,” wrote Bill Shea in Crain’s Detroit Business magazine.

Asked why he and others attended the December 27 Lions-San Francisco contest, a game that meant absolutely nothing for the team, Stacy explains, “I’m a season-ticket holder, and I got a $60 ticket that I don’t want to waste. Plus, I love coming to the game and having a few cocktails with friends before the game. Whether we win, lose or draw, I have a good time,”

Clifton Mojet and his wife
Clifton Mojet and his wife

“I’m a true Lions fan,” says Banks. “My dad was a fan, and he remembers the ’57 [championship] game.”

“I’ve been [a] Lions fan forever, since I was a kid,” notes Clifton Mojet, who along with his wife proudly sported Lions replica game jerseys. “I’m 50-plus years old. I’m a diehard Lions fan.”

Blacks also “are serious Lions fans, but they don’t want to spend the 60 bucks to come down here,” continues Stacy. “Back in the day there were lots of Black folk at the game because we were working in the [auto] plant and making big money. Now a lot of folk can’t afford it.”

According to the 2014 Team Marketing Report Fan Cost Index, it costs over $400 for a family of four to attend Lions games.

The offseason this week begins for Detroit. Many believe it will be an interesting one.

Banks wants the team owner, who earlier this season fired both the team president and general manager, to keep Head Coach Jim Caldwell, the team’s first Black coach, and his staff for at least another year. “We need to address the offensive and defensive line,” he points out.

“The Lions unfortunately right now is mediocre,” observes Stacy. “Potentially we got some players who are pretty damn good, but we got a lot of players who are average or below average.”

On Caldwell’s job status, Stacy says, “I think he will be OK,”

“The Lions have not done anything,” claims longtime Lions beat writer Butch Davis. “These Lions fans are tired of the same old song and dance. They want to see something new and see some progress. They want to see some championships.” He expects major changes — “maybe coaches, [wide receiver] Calvin Johnson along with [quarterback Matthew Stafford. Will those two be back next year? Those are questions that have to be answered in the offseason,” adds Davis.

Finally, suffering or not, Lions fans remain loyal to the core. “I like the Lions,” Mojat concludes. “They are my team.”

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.