Detroit Lions fans are a special breed. It takes a special kind of commitment to go through the ups and downs of a Lions season and then continue to go through it all again year after year. It’s because of that commitment that it’s safe to say the Lions have the best and most loyal fans in the world. For the next month, we’re going to celebrate some of them here at Pride of Detroit.
You ever wonder if there are Lions fans far away from Michigan? I don’t mean far away like California. I mean far away like thousands and thousands of miles away. Today we answer that question. (The answer is yes, by the way). Today’s fan is Daniel Zax from Kiryat Shmona, Israel. Let’s get to know Daniel.
How did you become a Lions fan?
“I became a Lions fan from an early age. I couldn’t help but admire my father watching the team on many Sundays, and something within me fell in love with that Honolulu blue and silver (and at a later stage, with the underdog mentality). One memory that sticks out to me from when I was growing up, was driving around on a Sunday afternoon in the metro Detroit area. We had Dan Miller’s voice on in the background, and while we were stopped at a red light, the Lions scored a touchdown. I got excited and fist-pumped, and so did my dad, but the thing that stuck out to me was that all the drivers in the cars stopped at the light did the exact same thing. It gave me a sense of unity, that every person in our city, no matter what race, gender, or religion could be a part of this and root together.
In 2006, when I was 10 years old, my family moved from Detroit to Israel. It was a tough move at the time, but looking back, it worked out very well. We moved to Modi’in, a city with many American immigrants. The only problem was, most of them were Giants/Jets or Cowboy fans.
It became kind of an honor to be basically the only one in the country walking around with Lions logos on hats and shirts. In our high school flag football league, I named out team Ndamukong, which somehow no one had a problem with. At some point, we were able to get NFL Game Pass, and ensure we’d never miss out on a game.”
Who is your favorite Lion ever?
“My favorite Lion is Calvin Johnson. I always play receiver, and I loved watching his routes and trying to imitate them on the field. I win a lot of one-on-one battles as well. It was very cool to meet him in London (read below). My second favorite is Ndamukong Suh. (Yep, there were some rough offseasons in 2014,15). I loved the ferociousness that he played with on our D-Line. He transformed the defense at the time I was starting to understand football strategy, and it was great to watch. Even now, I watch the Lions in my (4XL) Suh Jersey.”
What’s your favorite Lions moment ever?
“My favorite Lions moments ever are in these two stories, which included meeting my favorite players, getting on the field and in the tunnel at Ford Field, and the most exciting game I’ve ever seen in any sport (2014 Lions-Falcons at Wembley).
As I was entering 12th grade, I suggested to my father that we take a father-son bonding trip to celebrate graduation. It happened to be that the Lions were coming almost all the way to us, hopping over the pond to play the Falcons in London in Week 8 of 2014. We ordered the tickets, and finally I would get to go to my first Lions game.
On the Friday before the game, I saw on Twitter that Tom Leyden was setting up a show in Trafalgar Square. After much waiting in the rain, and begging strangers for passes, we were able to get two entry passes to the show.
I got in a picture with Ndamukong Suh and had a short conversation with him about how big of a fan I am, and that we flew in from Israel for the game. He said it was pretty cool that we flew in from there. Then I went to Calvin. He’s more of a quiet guy, so I just gave him a high-five and asked him how his ankle was feeling. He said it was doing much better, and that he hoped to play that week. I just said “feel better”, and then we took a selfie. I got to meet Coach Caldwell as well, and then we were able to take pictures with them. The interview itself was interesting, and it was cool meeting Tori Petry as well. My dad also met one of his childhood heroes, Bubba Baker (he’ll come up again).
On Gameday, we arrived at Wembley about five hours before the game. My dad recognized Bubba Baker sitting in a building lobby and said we should go talk to him. He was just sitting there with his wife and one more person. We walked in, and spoke with the three-time All-Star and 1978 Defensive Rookie of the Year for about 25 minutes. (Side Note: Bubba Baker is one of the nicest, down-to-earth people I have ever met). We talked about football, and then he asked us where we were from. We found out he loves Israel and had just visited there a few years before. We took a picture together, but he made me take off my Barry Sanders jersey and put on his Baker #60.
As many of you probably remember, the game itself was crazy. The Lions were down 21-0 at halftime, only to somehow make a comeback and get the ball back down 21-19 with 1:38 to go.
Here is an excerpt from my Lions in London Journal: “At this point we were going crazy. We were so excited, but knew that it could all be lost in one second. One bad pass, one big drop and it would all go for naught. The entire crown had gotten to its feet. The wild comeback storybook ending was all set up. Atlanta made another dumb defensive holding penalty, which again stopped the clock and got them 5 yards closer. Stafford let the clock run down to four seconds, and then spiked the ball to stop the clock. I could not believe this was happening. We were so close to victory, and we were going to rely on a Lions field goal to soar through the goalposts. I could hear my heart pounding. I was so nervous, yet excited. The noise in the stadium was deafening. We saw as Prater lined up, brought his foot back, and swung it forward. We saw the ball going towards the posts, rising ever so slowly in our minds. We saw it start to spin towards the right. It continued to veer off towards the right until… it went wide right. Shock. Disbelief. Devastation. We couldn’t believe that they had come so close, inches away, only to have the kick go right. The Falcons started celebrating on the field, as our shock mingled with anger and disappointment. We heard whistles, and the refs got together. “Delay of game-Offense. 5 yard penalty.” We had another chance! Our own incompetence gave us another chance at the game-winning kick. One part of me was thrilled at the chance for another kick, and another part of me felt that it was cruel to make it seem like we still had a chance when he would inevitably miss this one too. “Oh my God,” was all I was able to say and repeat many times. We saw Prater line up again, swing his foot back again, and watched his foot touch the ball. We saw the ball rise up, to the left this time. We watched in awe as it sailed through the goal posts. 22-21. They had done it. I was beyond ecstatic, yelling and jumping up and down while hugging my dad. I just could not believe what I had witnessed. The Lions literally snatched victory from the hands of defeat, in absolute stunning fashion. The Lions rushed the field and started celebrating. We started hugging and high-fiving all the Lions fans that we saw. It was incredible.”
My second Lions game I ever went to was in 2018. My wife and I got married in January and decided that Detroit should be part of our honeymoon trip. We bought tickets for Week 5 Lions-Packers before we had even booked our flight tickets. This game was also great, watching the Lions hand it to One Pride Enemy #1, but it was the pregame festivities that I will remember forever.
When Bubba Baker gave me his number in London four years ago, I don’t know if he ever expected to hear from me again. Sure enough, I reached out to him and tried to see if he still had any connections that could help us make our experience special. After a few emails back and forth with the team, Lions President Rod Wood called me in my home in Kiryat Shmona, Israel. He said that he’d heard I was a big fan, and he wanted to make our honeymoon extra special.
There were two special surprises we received. One, was to go on the sidelines for pregame warmups. This was really cool, having small talk, and high-fiving the guys I watch on TV every week from my home in northern Israel. It was very cool to see them warm up and get ready from very close. Next, we were brought into the tunnel, where we got to watch the players return to the locker room for the few minutes before the game. I was like a little boy, and to my wife’s credit, she was enjoying herself as well. Finally, they brought us onto the field, where we got to stand when the players ran out for the game. We even stayed there for the National Anthem. The best part was, the Lions were able to dominate most of the game. Being in the stands for all five Mason Crosby misses that day was unforgettable.
I love the Lions, can’t get enough news and podcasts (especially here on Pride of Detroit), and am always watching them play. Night games are 3 a.m. here due to time difference, and I already have my alarms set for this year. The only time I can’t watch live is during Jewish holidays, after which we watch as-if-live without knowing the score.
I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I have gotten in London and in Detroit last year at the games. It was beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of. I am especially grateful to my Dad and my wife Shifra for going with me to the games.
As I grow up, I continue taking many responsibilities upon myself. Marriage, learning, and work highlight many things I have going on. It’s nice to have the Lions as a reminder that I’m still that little boy inside, and that no matter what is going on, they will be playing on Sunday.”
What are your thoughts and predictions for the 2019 season?
“I have high hopes for this year. I think this defense is going to be lethal. If you notice how last year ended, and then add the high-profile guys that they have, I think you have a recipe for success. I think Kerryon Johnson and Kenny Golladay are awesome franchise players, and they will lead the Lions to great things. And I’m still a believer in number 9. I’ll go 10-6 with their first playoff win since before I was born.
By the way, for whoever is paying attention, we’re 2-0 with me in attendance. So, if anyone wants to guarantee a win or two, airfare sponsorship's are most welcome. Go Lions!”