A disillusioned Detroit Lions fan finds hope again
👋 Hey, Joe here. For the first time in about 20 years, I actually feel like a Lions fan.
- It's been a long road back, but I can't deny the once-familiar excitement I'm feeling for Thursday's season opener against the Chiefs at 8:20pm on NBC.
Flashback: My childhood obsession with the Lions is easy to explain: I was 8 years old in 1989 when the Lions drafted Barry Sanders, the greatest running back in NFL history.
- I followed him religiously, listening to games on the radio when the TV broadcast was blacked out, praying he'd rush for at least 100 yards.
- My fandom started to fade when some turned on Sanders for retiring on his own terms in 1999. The ensuing Millen era — marked by ineptitude, disrespect of former players and an odd obsession with drafting wide receivers — was too much to stomach.
Between the lines: The old fan in me started to wake up at the end of last season when Detroit went to Green Bay and beat the snot out of the Packers just to spoil their playoff hopes.
- It felt like the mid-'90s again, when I hated stars on other teams like Brett Favre and Emmitt Smith with everything I had.
State of play: This city has been dying for a winning team — and these Lions look for real.
- Yes, they're starting to build talent. But they've also shown the toughness and heart that resonate with real Detroit sports fans.
What's happening: The Chiefs were expected to win by nearly a touchdown when the week began. But a closer game is now expected with star tight end Travis Kelce's uncertain injury status.
What they're saying: Lions talk is dominating casual conversation across the city.
- "No, he's out," the butcher at my local market reassured me about Kelce's status after I overheard him dismissing the Chiefs Wednesday.
The bottom line: Last week, I dug out my old Sanders jersey from storage. I can't remember when I wore it last, but this season, I'm going to need it.
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