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The 63 Year Struggle - Being a Lions Fan

There are few if any things in sports that have been as traumatizing as being a Lions fan. You hear a lot about tortured fan bases, but I challenge you to find a fan base that has been through more suffering than Lions fans. 

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Most organizations go through ups and downs. Years of success are often followed by a few down years or rebuilding years. That’s where the problem is with the Lions. Outside of a few, and I mean truly just a few seasons, the Lions have been rebuilding since 1957. That was the year of their last championship and yes that was before there was even a Super Bowl. The Lions have not even won a playoff game since 1991. 

It is impossible for me to understand how anyone can still be a fan of this sad organization. Yet, week in and week out, the people of Detroit continue to support this team, selling out every single home game (in a normal year). Fans buy jerseys and merchandise and support this team every single week. Ford Field is extremely loud on Sundays. These fans are passionate and deserve a real team to cheer for.

The Lions have wasted the careers of two of the most special talents in NFL History, Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson. Barry is the best running back in the history of the sport, yet the Lions were only able to win one playoff game in his stellar career. Megatron just might be the most physically gifted WR to ever play the game. Both walked away from the game years before their time. Like many other Lions fans, I’m just about positive that this would never had happened if the team was successful during their careers. These two guys gave the organization everything they had, until they simple felt that it wasn’t worth it anymore.

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Other organizations fall on hard times. They go through rough stretches. The difference is their rough stretches don’t last for 63 years. It is comical to even write that. 63 straight years of mediocrity (or worse) is almost impossible to do in pro sports, especially in the salary cap era. The NFL is the pro sports league where it is easiest to go from last to first. There is so much parity in the league. Most teams benefit from this. However, the Lions have never been one of those teams.

The Ford family has owned the Lions since 1964. It’s not a coincidence that the team has been a mess ever since. According to several sources with knowledge of the situation, William Clay Ford was given the Lions franchise, so he would stay away from the Ford Motor Company, which was founded by his grandfather. The last surviving grandson of Henry Ford was known around town as a terrible businessman and as Lions fans know, he was an equally bad owner. Blind loyalty was William Clay Ford’s biggest weakness and a reason the team has suffered for so long. Once Ford passed away in 2014, the team was taken over by his wife Martha. Martha was a bit tougher, but equally as clueless when it came to running a franchise. Now the team has been passed on to Ford’s daughter Sheila Ford Hamp. Personally, I would be shocked if this ends any differently than it did when her parents owned the team.

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Until the Ford family moves on from the Lions, I see no path to success for this franchise. Every successful sports franchise starts with good ownership. Owners often are forced to make tough decisions when it comes to management, coaches and players. It’s a whole different issue, when the problem is the owners themselves. I hope for the sake of Lions fans that things change one day. This fan base deserves much better than what this team puts them through each Sunday. No matter how bad things get for other organizations, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. The Lions have been stuck in this tunnel for 63 years and I don’t see them getting out anytime soon.

-Jason Sullivan

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