Right now the Lions are seemingly in a good place. The winners of three straight and the sudden media darlings. That's right, I said media darlings. Well at least that's what Matthew Stafford has been over the course of the last couple weeks. It really is a strange feeling to turn on NFL Network or ESPN and see them talking about the Lions in any other way but in passing. It's like finding out a girl thinks you're cute.
We know the media's sudden perception of the Lions. But what's the perception of football fans around the country? I tried to find that out over the course of the weekend. Here's what I found.
So here's the story on this piece. If you noticed there was no "What Just Happened?" piece this weekend, it's because I was out in sunny Gulf Shores, Alabama for my friend's wedding. While there, I accomplished many things I never thought I'd do. Like watching the Alabama game with Alabama fans while an Auburn fan sat quietly in the corner, drink an entire bottle of champagne by myself or have an American Pie-esque moment with all my best friends on the beach with Jameson and cigars.
One thing I wanted to make sure I did was talk about the Detroit Lions. And despite annoying several people all weekend long, I got some feedback.
The Bears fan
Of course they sit me next to the Bears fan pic.twitter.com/LEFXHrLHYR— Mike Payton (@POD_Payton) October 21, 2016
You seriously couldn't have wrote this up in a movie or television show. At the Charlotte airport in North Carolina, I see this guy walking around in a Brian Urlacher jersey. Naturally I do the same thing I always do when I see a Bears fan. I scoffed at him and then told TSA he was a bad person.
Of course an hour later I get a tap on my shoulder and hear "I have the window seat here." In American Airlines' attempt to bring the NFC North closer together, they sat me next to a Bears fan. Now I must say, this guy was pretty cool. I was expecting two hours of "Kyle Fuller is the best corner in the league" or "Vic Fangio knows how to stop Aaron Rodgers" followed, of course, by the ever so popular "have you ever seen the Super bowl Shuffle? Here I have it on my phone." But that stuff never came.
While he did mention that the Lions were the Bears only win this season, he also mentioned that he felt that was a different Lions team than the one that's showed up the last few weeks. He went on to compliment Matthew Stafford by saying he believes Stafford may be the best in the division right now and that he sees the Lions as the Vikings' true threat over the Packers, who we agreed deserved the bulk of our hated.
Our conversation was short as he ate a polish sausage and fell asleep. But it was nice to hear the compliments. I told him nice stuff about the Bears too.
The feeling in Alabama was a bit different. Not so nice, to be honest. When you're in Alabama with a bunch of people from Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi, there are a lot of different fans walking around. A lot of them happen to be Cowboys fans. As we know, Cowboys fans don't want to talk football unless they're talking about themselves. But I managed to get some thoughts out of them.
The thoughts ranged from the classic "the Lions always suck" to "yeah, the Lions are playing okay." It's pretty clear that the Lions have not reached the south and therefore, still have more winning to do in order to get some respect out there. The general thought was that these football fans' knowledge of the Lions was limited to knowing about the 0-16 season and insulting the Lions because they've had two legendary players walk away from the game before their time was truly up.
On Sunday that feeling changed a bit when they saw what Stafford could do with his arm and what he did on the final drive. There was definitely some impressed fans in the room. But sadly, the thoughts jumped right back to negative thoughts on the Lions. There was one saving grace though.
The other Lions fan
When you're in Alabama, the last thing you think you're going to see is another Detroit Lions fan, especially at the wedding you're at. But that's just what happened. On Saturday night while I was watching the Cubs head back to the World Series for the first time since 1946, I caught a familiar color scheme out of the corner of my eye. Black and Orange to be exact.
I looked into the kitchen to see a man wearing a Tigers hat. I thought to myself "lots of people have that hat, it's a popular look just about anywhere you go." Then I noticed the man also had a Detroit Lions shirt on. We locked eyes and everyone began to laugh because it took us so long to realize we were in the same building.
I'm not gonna lie, people. I walked up and hugged this man in front of everyone. It was like finding another American in a foreign country. You don't know that guy, but you know you'll be talking to him until it's time to go to the airport. It was cool to have somebody who cares as much as I do to experience Sunday's awesome win with. I may never see that dude again. But Jake, if you're reading this, I say One Pride, brother.
So that was my trip. The theme of it is that the Lions are finally getting some of the love they deserve. But it's new love and nobody really knows how to feel about it yet. We here in Michigan don't even know how to feel about it yet. But if things continue to go this way, there won't be a football fan in the country that doesn't know what these Lions can do.