The Detroit Lions haven't been considered a winning franchise in nearly 60 years. In fact, next season will mark the 60th anniversary of the last championship Detroit Lions team. When the Lions are losing, we often find ourselves frustrated when the team would do something we viewed as celebrating mediocrity. Posting pressers for bottom tier free agents who couldn't find work elsewhere is probably a highlight for me, but many fans are pointing to the team's decision to celebrate the 1991 team during a game this year as further proof that the Detroit Lions just don't get it.
Lions are planning to honor the 25 year anniversary of their last playoff win. Reaction? #ToyotaOfGrandRapidsPoll— ESPN961.com (@espn961) July 14, 2016
Reactions like that tend to get me a bit rankled. On the one hand, I understand why people say it's the (most recent) "Most Lions Thing Ever" to celebrate a team that won the only playoff game the Lions have won since the merger. On the other hand, should the team instead celebrate nothing? Just wallow in their struggles? Maybe post some highlights of other teams' best plays against the Detroit Lions? The idea that celebrating one of the best Detroit Lions teams in the modern era is somehow an insult to fans or out of touch is ridiculous to me.
Sure, the Detroit Lions haven't won a Super Bowl, nor have they won a playoff game since 1991, but part of becoming a winning franchise is to celebrate winning. Make winning part of the culture for the team and its players, make it commonplace, make it something to aspire to, and with no easy examples of that forthcoming in the Detroit Lions recent history they should, by all means, be pointing to the notably few times they've found success.
One of the most common gripes about this practice points back to when the previous regime posted playoff banners. It was good for a laugh then, but the remarks were the same as they are now for celebrating some of the best Detroit Lions to don a uniform.
"Who does that?"
"What team puts up playoff banners?"
"Same Old Lions, Celebrating Losing"
The problem with these questions and the logic behind them is that frankly, everybody does that. The New England Patriots hung a banner for their 16-0 regular season record. The Tampa Bay Bucs and Indianapolis Colts, both teams with SB victories, have hung playoff banners. The New Orleans Saints, prior to their first super bowl victory in team history, hung an attendance banner to mark their first sellout season. Teams celebrate success whenever they get it, because celebrating success keeps success at the fore.
You want another example of a team that hangs banners for their regular season successes? A championship team that doesn't have to celebrate "mediocre" successes like that? There's this hockey team you might know about that plays in Detroit. Has won a few times. Makes it a point to keep the team successful and proud by pointing out where and when they've been successful. Even when they use a term like "Regular Season Champion", it doesn't bear a negative connotation because they've built good faith with their fans. The Detroit Lions haven't yet, but you can't start doing that by ignoring previous successes.
The 1991 Detroit Lions is one of the best squads in this team's history. They deserve to be celebrated, and should not be punished because the team they played for hasn't been as successful since. We don't punish and ignore the '85 Bears because they've kinda sucked as a franchise since then, even if they can't seem to beat the Detroit Lions. Success is to be celebrated, but more importantly, it is to be emulated. That's something Bob Quinn has brought over from the championship winning but also regular season celebrating New England Patriots. It's something to accept as pointing in the right direction, not deride because the past has been bleak. Lastly, the 1991 Detroit Lions, with Barry Sanders and his compatriots, are players who deserve celebration. Let this generation see the players the last generation got to enjoy.