Reflections On The Detroit Lions Turkey Day Classic

The Core Belief

November 25, 2010 isn’t only Thanksgiving for the Zola/Bennett/Pingle/Conway Clan. It’s a day of family, togetherness, turkey and ritual. Some families play cards, some share wine and talk about the familial events of the past year. We, the Zola/Bennett/Pingle/Conway clan watch the Detroit Lions. And this year, we introduce the latest family member Aron Wolf Zola to the time honored ritual that stretches back to the radio and 1934.

The Detroit Lions are currently the laughingstock of the National Football League. Since Tobin Rote filled in for the legendary Bobby Layne during the 1957 NFL Championship game, the Lions have been to the playoffs exactly 9 times. The team owns the record for the most consecutive road losses with their current 26; they broke their own record of 25 last week. The franchise is so historically bad star running back Barry Sanders quit on the team a decade back sighting all the losing as “killing my enjoyment of the game.”

That comment sent my mother and Uncle Mike into find a voodoo priest mode so they could put a curse on the House of Barry Sanders for eternity. However, millions of Lions fans were in line before them. Predictably, only ESPN applauded his move and motives. Fortunately, Barry stayed retired so the Northeastern Centric sports network never got to see Sanders in a New York or New England uniform.

Such is the lot of Lions fans. We have seen the only death on the field of play in NFL history – Charles Hughes – and no less than two players paralyzed during the course of games in the 1990’s. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, William Clay Ford Jr and his son Bill (the owners of this moribund excuse for a football team) went and hired know it all announcer and former 49er linebacker Matt Millen to run the team. Millen took his shovel and quickly went to work producing the worst 8 years in Detroit Lion and NFL history, including the only winless season since the league instituted the 16 game season in 1978.

Honestly, this development should have come as no surprise. This generation of Ford’s can’t run a car company right. Why should we expect them to do anything else other than run something as simple an NFL franchise into the ground? Interestingly, there is one semi bright spot: the traditional Turkey Day classic. The Detroit Lions actually have an almost winning record on Thanksgiving, going 33-35-2. (The best winning percentage the Kitties own is in the NFL Championship game where they are 4-1 or .800. However, these championships all came before 1969 and are NFL Championships, not Super Bowls or World Championships.) But the Honolulu blue and silver have lost the last 6 games straight. (We had a winning record before the Millen era but drafting 3 consecutive wide receivers in the first round of the common draft when you have no offensive or defensive line tends to insure losses, even on Thanksgiving Day when the football gods HAD a tendency to smile upon the Motor City Kitties and their faithful.)

Tomorrow, the Kitties will face the New England Patriots and are listed by Las Vegas as 6 ½ point underdogs AT HOME. I assume the boys will be competitive as they have been all year but they’ll lose. Fortunately, the lesson of being a Lions fan will be lost on my nephew Aron: he’s but 4 months old. However, I do worry this Lions fandom thing will send him to therapy for longer than Woody Allen.

(Hat Tip: The Toilet Paper blog.)

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