The bars and restaurants were thinning out by the time I finished writing following the Lions playoff clinching victory over the San Diego Chargers Saturday night.
A couple wearing Calvin Johnson jerseys and Santa hats walked by. Three buddies walked briskly to their car near Comerica Park. They didn’t need to say a word. You could see it in their eyes. They were thrilled to be Lion fans. I was happy for them.
But then I saw it. It was the sight I really wanted to see. A kid leaped across the street on Monroe near Fishbones. He waved his hands in the air and threw his head back as he did a funky victory dance through Greektown. That kid was me a million years ago when the 1968 Tigers clinched the pennant at Tiger Stadium against the New York Yankees.
I did a similar dance and a similar shout as I walked with my Aunt Margo on Michigan Avenue after watching the Tigers clinch their first pennant in my life time. It was an exelerating moment for a kid who loved his hometown cats. I am certain this little boy, who must have been nine years old, felt the same glee. His hometown cats were headed to the playoffs and nobody can stop that — not Green Bay, not New Orleans, not Dallas.
“I am so happy for these fans,” Hall of Fame tight end Charlie Sanders told me as we watched part of the fourth quarter together. “Oh my Lord. They deserve this.”
Lion fans did not deserve the decade known as Matt Millen. They do deserve this. They are long suffering, but they are also long loyal.
They always believe even when there was nothing to believe in. They will fight you tooth and nail about their team even when their team is toothless and worthless. They get angry (who can blame them?) but they are some of the most loyal fans in the world. That is why it was great to see players acknowledge that by slapping high fives with fans after the game. It meant a lot for these people to share this moment with the players they love.
Merry Christmas Lion fans. You deserved this. And many happy returns.