It was the year of 1999 I was a young boy, 10 years old, dreaming of seeing my Lions win a Super Bowl. A dream it was as we soon found out. On the eve of training camp my favorite player and arguably the greatest running back to play the game up and retired on us. No blame here, the franchise and we drove him away, coming off another disappointing 5-11 season and really adding no improvements. So the season began on a rather daunting note. We started well though; Bobby Ross had the troops going heading into week 10 at 6-2. Now these years are becoming more and more fuzzy for a young one like me but what’s not fuzzy is that’s the last time I have seen my Lions qualify for the playoffs.
As we know the Lions soon fell off that season, finished 8-8 and lost in the Wild Card round to the Washington Redskins. But what we didn’t know at that time was this would be the last time we would see our team in the playoffs. That our beloved Lions would soon go on a decade of losing that infamously has become one of the worst in sports history. We became the first team in NFL history to go 0-16 and we hired in 2001 one of the most inexperienced and unworthy GM’s in sports history. Matt Millen was a good player and a nice guy but had no business running a franchise in the NFL. We soon were driven into the ground helplessly standing by begging for mercy as fans. As we saw draft pick after draft pick fail, QB’s come and go like patients in a doctor’s office during flu season. We had running back after running back come in, get talked up, compared to #20 and either fall to injury or just plain fall off the talent wagon. It was as if Barry suddenly leaving had set this franchise into some kind of disgusting curse that Cubs fans can attest to, nobody wishes on anyone.
A young man like me now has grown up since dreaming of Super Bowls in Motown at age 10. I had like my father and his father had grown accustomed to failure out of this franchise time and time again. But suddenly the evil Millen Man was gone; we hired a coach that came from a winning staff that brought a new swag this franchise has longed for. It seemed the fans had more of a voice that draft picks were essential to winning in this league and the new guys had it figured out. Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh, Javid Best and key free agent pickups had arrived to compliment Calvin Johnson before like Barry we drove him away too. Suh himself brought something new to this franchise as well, a sense of urgency, that winning now was important in this league and we as a fan base and franchise will not accept anything less. So here we are, the ten year old boy in all of us is screaming out loud. We are on the verge of a playoff berth but Lions fans know all too well of the sudden let down this team can bring us. That as soon as we all believe they pull some horrible late April fool’s joke on us all. But as we all look at each other and look at this team, it seems different this time. The Lions have battled back from 13 point deficits or more 4 times this season, an NFL record. That’s Right! The Lions have an NFL record that doesn’t involve losing. The fight in this team is really one of the great stories of the 2011 season. I pre-season rated them an 8-8 team. I thought like many that this team was young, still needed to add a couple pieces and we were maybe a year or two away still. Now by no means am I calling Super Bowl now but they have already exceeded many of our expectations. All I want is that young boy to see his team in the playoffs again; I want him to see his team in the spotlight after Christmas. A dream this boy grew up on that looked like fantasies. Seems to be maybe not this year, but soon a reality.