With the news that the Lions have been granted a 24-hour extension to the sellout deadline (typically only approved when there is a deal in place with a sponsor to purchase the remaining seats), it is a virtual certainty that Lions fans within a 75-mile radius of Ford Field will be able to see the first home game of the New Lions. I have to say, it’s a source of incredible pride for me as a fan—as hard as the bitter winds of 0-16 blew, the little blue flame was not extinguished.
At ProFootballTalk, I saw this post about the blackout, and scanned the comments. There, amongst thirty or forty nincompoops pointing out one typo, was this little gem:
I live here in Jacksonville and I just read about 10 different posts that ask what's going on down here? The fact of the matter is that people believe they don't have to buy tickets to have their own franchise. They believe that sitting at home watching the game is helping just as much as attending the game at the stadium. There are also a lot of younger people who already believe the franchise has been lost. We can attribute that to 15 years in the league and no SuperBowl. Its tough to even bring up the Jaguars here locally because people don't think they'll even be here much longer. Its a sad time. I remember when the AFL"s Jacksonville Bulls were here. I sat in the same stadium enjoying every minute of it. Now, many years later, I am thankful that we have a team as extraordinary as the Jaguars. It must be unfathomable about what we're experiencing here right now but its nothing that can be fixed overnight. 17,000 Unsold Tickets is PRODIGIOUS!! That's a sign as to what's to come. Again, from someone that lives here, its a sad, sad day.
Somehow, this fan's tale of woe doesn't exactly bring me to tears. "We can attribute that to 15 years in the league and no Super Bowl"? Seriously?
The Jaguars were incepted in 1996, made the playoffs in 1997, and in fact have made the playoffs in fully six of their fourteen years of existence. The Jaguars have even artificially reduced the capacity of their stadium to try and avoid the Blackout Reaper, to no avail. This is not the fault of a team's inability to perform. It's the fault of overoptimistic expansion into a fairly small TV market with no real downtown; it's the fault of putting a new team in a state with two other teams and three major college football programs.
It’s the fault of a "fan base" that has no love in their soul.
With Lions fans, our team is part of who we are. I have vivid memories of my whole family gathered around my grandparents' dining room table; a monstrous Thanksgiving spread being casually picked at, while three generations' worth of ears strained, necks craned, and eyes furtively glanced at the TV in the other room, trying to keep tabs on the game. Being a Lions fan isn't something that changes based on what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow--It's genetic, it's inherited, it's inherent. It's part of who we are; it pumps through our veins.
I've often been called a sucker and a fool, a victim and a dope. I've been called a moron and an idiot, "part of the problem", and even a traitor. My unwavering support of my team has brought all sorts of ridicule upon my head. But you, my friends, you folks know what it means to be a true fan, to simply cheer for your team to win, despite all their failure to do so. You folks know why I chop the wood, load and the sled, and poke and prod and feed and fuel the fire.
Most importantly though, you've come! You've sat around the fire with me, thawed out frostbitten fingers, and enoyed a warm drink and a hearty laugh. You've befriended me, and you've befriended each other. You've helped spread the word, you've helped tend the fire, and now look. LOOK! The home opener will sell out! Despite all that's happened, despite the wind and the ice and the bitter, bitter cold, despite having every reason to simply abandon hope and wait for lighting to strike, Lions fans have worked and worked to keep the little blue flame flickering--and now, a fire roars!
I cannot wait to literally gather with you all on Sunday; to see and hear and feel and yell. I will be there, friends. And with luck, I'll see the beginning of a new era, the beginning of new hope, the beginning of a wonderful time to be a Lions fan--and the end of the losing streak.