Edson: A Lifetime of Rooting for the Hapless Lions

The little boy had just turned 4-years-old a few days earlier.

On the small black & white TV in the living room of his house he watched small images dancing around inside the set in jubilation.

The little boy’s dad began dancing with his mother. Something happened inside that TV set that made the parents – at least the dad – very happy.

The date was Dec. 28, 1957 and the Detroit Lions had just won the NFL championship with a 59-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

It was Detroit’s fourth appearance in an NFL championship game in the last seven years.

While his parents danced, the little boy stared at the TV. He’s been staring at it for 60 years since then, waiting for the Lions to recapture that magic.

That little boy was me.

After Detroit lost to the hapless Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, my mind raced back to all those Sundays I had spent following the team in the decades that followed.

Had I wasted all those fall Sundays in my life?

Was I just a blind follower of a franchise that promised so much but delivered so little?

The sad answer is a big YES.

Having being raised an eternal optimist I always figured that “next year” the Lions would finally deliver.

I followed the NFL draft to see who they would pick.

I poured over their schedule to figure out how many wins they could get in the upcoming season.

I watched some games in person but most of them in front of the TV set on beautiful fall afternoons.

What I saw wasn’t a great team but great individual performances by Hall of Famers like Lem Barney, Charlie Sanders and Barry Sanders. That was enough to keep me coming back.

Not once did I swear off the Lions. Not once did I figure I was wasting my time. That’s because I figured it was part of my job as a sports editor and columnist.

But once I got out of that job 17 years ago, I ran out of excuses. I didn’t have a good reason for following this Lions team. But by then, it had become a bad habit, even an addiction.

It was fueled by fantasy football and an excuse to see who was scoring points. When the NFL Red Zone channel came along, my addiction got even worse.

It’s come down to this – I just turned 64 the day before Christmas and I realize that the Detroit Lions don’t matter anymore.

Now I’ll gear up for baseball season, watching the Detroit Tigers and taking part in my baseball fantasy league.

Now I’ll gear up for a wonderful summer with time spent on Beaver Island and Mackinac Island with my family.

Now I’ll gear up for my favorite time of the year – fall.

My only problem is, I won’t know what to do with myself. All I’ve ever known in the fall is football and the Detroit Lions.

Oh well, by then the Lions will have drafted some can’t miss prospects and gotten an easy 2018 schedule. And I will have forgotten all about those wasted 60 years… I hope.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.