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Riding the Lions Rollercoaster
October 18, 2013 - Eric Benac
Ever since I was very young, I've been a fan of the Detroit Lions. As anybody in Michigan knows, that has been a heartbreaking sentiment for decades upon decades. The last time the Lions won the NFL Championship was 1957 and they have never won a Super Bowl.
Of course, the Lions were always middling when I was a kid, but at least they had Barry. Sanders was just about single handily responsible for keeping the Lions faces out of the toilet bowl in mediocre season after season.
After Barry left, it seemed like they were left with just kicker Jason Hanson, one of the finest kickers to play the sport. But, when your best player is a kicker... ...you end up with results like an 0-16 season.
That 2008 season was both an embarrassment and a miracle.
At the time, it was much more embarrassing than a miracle. I remember my friend Kevin (die-hard Packers fan) wearing a shirt that read "Lions: Winning When it Matters." It showed the results of the Lion's 2008 four preseason games, a preseason that saw the Lions go undefeated.
But then again, I remember Lions fans walking around campus with shirts that read something to the effect of "Keep the Dream Alive! 0-16" before the season was over. Many fans were happy to see the Lions snag up some kind of record, no matter how dubious.
After so many disappointing seasons, "Fire Millen" had become a common chant at Ford Field for years. And after 2008, Ford got the point: Millen was canned.
This was, of course, the Miracle: Ford had gotten the point. Getting through to the Ford family about the Lions has been akin to explaining brain surgery to a rhesus monkey: time consuming, potentially life threatening, and ultimately futile.
Without Millen, the Lions started the healing process by drafting Matthew Stafford for the 2009 season. He was not quite the dynamo he is today: he led them to a 2-14 season, just barely better than 0-16.
But 2010 saw the Lions go 6-10. This, in most circumstances, is a completely mediocre record for an NFL team. However, it was the first time they had won more than two games since 2007 and the first time they didn't finish last in the NFC North.
And of course, 2011 saw them go 10-6 and pick up a second place finish in the NFC North and their first playoff game since 1999.
Had it really been that long since the Lions got the chance to lose a first round playoff game (which they did)? It didn't seem like it, but it was true.
The Lions were back! Time for a crackerjack 2011 season, that saw them fully loaded with big names like Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh. Surely they were headed to the Super Bowl?
Nope: they were headed to 4-12.
Being a Lions fan is a bit like riding a roller coaster: the constant up and downs seem thrilling at first, but ultimately you become numb to the rapid changes. What else would the Lions do but throw down a crap season immediately after getting into the playoffs?
And now, the Lions seem to be making a comeback similar to 2011's 10-6 season. They have already won as many games as last year and only took six games to do it. With high powered players like Bush, Bell, Johnson, Stafford and Suh they once again look posed for promise.
The constant rebuild since 2008 has seemingly led to the highest powered, most potentially effective Lions team since the halycon days of the NFL Championships.
If they keep playing with this kind of power, they could easily make the playoffs and push even deeper into the playoffs series than they have in decades.
Then again, I wouldn't be shocked if the Lions lost the rest of their games this season. Just riding the rollercoaster!
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