Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed (90) forces Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) to fumble in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct.. . 28, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo / Duane Burleson) AP
COVID is spoiling many holidays this year, including Thanksgiving. But let’s talk about the original and perennial destroyer of the day meant out of gratitude: The Detroit Lions.
I’m a lifelong fan and this year, like every other year, I’m stuck to the TV with a drink in my hand and hope in my heart. Hope, but not a lot of optimism.
Sure, the Lions are entering game 4-6, which is a typical season for a team that hasn’t won an NFL championship since 1957. But over the past two seasons they set an NFL record by losing six straight games, which they topped by double digits. They lost eleven games in a row at home before finally taking a win two weeks ago. You haven’t won an NFC North game in two years.
And last Sunday they were beaten 20-0 by a team in last place that started a quarterback who saw his first NFL action.
Kyle Meinke has been MLive’s lead Lions beatwriter since 2013. He’s seen a lot of bad things under head coach Jim Caldwell as the Lions won records three out of four seasons. (That was alien to the team tradition and culture, of course, so Caldwell got fired and here we are. )
« It’s interesting to me how everyone except the Patriot fans broke their hearts at some point, » said Meinke. “But what sets Lions apart is – it never stops. ”
It seems to hurt more on Thanksgiving. I’m sure you all have personal stories about Lions vacation. Here’s mine:
It’s 1980 and I’m home from college. Mom’s Feast is ready to be served at the end of the Lions game. They lead the Chicago Bears 17-3, but of course the Lions do, and the Bears tie the game to the final regulation game. I leave my father in the living room to tell my mother in the kitchen that dinner will be interrupted by overtime. Moments later there is a stream of mundane screams and I come back into the living room just in time to see the bears score a touchdown at the start of overtime – the shortest overtime in NFL history at the time.
I’ve had people say to me, « Why suffer? Just root for another team! » Real fans know this is not an option. Fandom is a birthright, it’s an emotional bond, and it’s a burden we all bear. We burned the D into our souls.
The Red Wings have won four championships since I was born. the pistons three; the tigers two. The Lions should be due, right?
Meinke even notes that the NFL has the highest parity of all professional sports leagues because of the salary caps and talented choices for poor teams. So far it didn’t matter: Billy Sims, Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson, Matt Stafford – no rings.
“It is a problem that defies all math and logic. I mean, it’s professional sport and it’s a division with four teams, ”said Meinke. « And yet the Lions are a little mediocre every year and haven’t won a division title since 1993. « . It’s the longest drought in the NFL. ”
Maybe that will change this year; Maybe coach Matt Patricia and the Ford family will be confirmed and the pumpkin pie will taste particularly sweet.
Maybe Lucy Charlie Brown will finally kick the soccer ball. But if it won the game for the Lions, it would likely be far to the right missing.
Check out the Behind The Headlines podcast for my conversation with Kyle Meinke about what went wrong under the Patricia regime, the future of the Lions’ Thanksgiving game, and the life of a traveling sports writer to hear the COVID era.
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