I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’m a diehard Lions fan. I have been for years. Since I was 8. Here’s a funny story about that: the year I got into football, 1991, the Lions were good. They went 12-4 and won a playoff game before losing the NFC Championship Game to Washington. So I thought the Lions were a good team. And 22 years later, I’m still waiting for that next playoff win. The rest is history.
Anyway, I bought season tickets in February 2012 because I was thrilled about the 2011 season. For about half of the NFL, a 10-6 season with a first round playoff loss is nothing to be excited about. For the Lions? We may as well have had a championship parade. We made the playoffs! It’s amazing that the greater Detroit area actually even functioned the day after the Lions clinched their playoff spot (their Christmas Eve destruction of the Chargers at Ford Field).
As anyone who follows the Lions knows, 2012 was a massive disappointment on every level. In keeping with tradition, the team flat out sucked. The coach showed that he didn’t even know the rules during the Thanksgiving game (we won’t get into that any further). 4-12 was the final record. But like a sucker, I got tickets again for this year anyway. Because hey, there’s always hope…
So on Friday night, I watched some of my DVD of the 1997 game against the Jets – I told you I was a diehard. That was the game where the Lions clinched a playoff spot, Barry Sanders went over 2,000 rushing yards for the season, and, much bigger than the game itself, Reggie Brown suffered an injury that caused one of the scariest moments I’ve ever seen in a football game. As he went to make a tackle, a Jets’ offensive lineman was blocked into his head. This caused him to crumple to the Silverdome turf and lay motionless for about 15 minutes before being strapped to a gurney and taken away in an ambulance. NBC’s cameras showed a number of horrified fans and players alike crying. The paper stated a couple days later that he nearly died on the field – miraculously, and very fortunately, Reggie was walking again within weeks.
It really was a game of extreme highs and lows between Barry’s 2,000 yards and the playoff berth, combined with Reggie’s injury. This game also featured another really strange moment that I’ve never seen since: the referee threatening to penalize the Lions because of the crowd making too much noise while the Jets were in the huddle at one point during the fourth quarter. Let’s just say it didn’t work. The noise just kept coming as Barry Sanders closed in on and then broke 2,000 yards and the Lions eventually ran out the clock, on their way to the playoffs (in which, of course, they lost in the first round).
But Reggie… a name that now has a lot of meaning to Lions’ fans again…
(to be continued)