I can sympathize with Detroit Lions fans.
Really, I can. As I have written many times before, I have been a Green Bay Packers fan since I was a child.
If you aren't old enough to remember the time before Brett Favre came to Green Bay, there were many grim seasons for the Packers — occasionally interrupted by a season or two that transcended mediocrity — between the Vince Lombardi era and the Brett Favre era.
When I hear the phrase "long–suffering fan," I know precisely what it means. I've been one, and I probably will be one again, perhaps not with the Packers, perhaps with some other team that I follow.
It just seems to me that everyone, at one time or another, knows what it is like to support a team that never — or almost never — wins.
Your favorite team doesn't always win the championship; heck, it doesn't always make it to the playoffs. Football fans here in Dallas (who went into the season thinking the currently 3–7 Cowboys would become the first team to host a Super Bowl) have been coming to grips with that very reality this year.
I'm not talking about narrowly missing the playoffs, either. I'm talking about (seemingly habitually) finishing so far out of the playoff race that you feel like one of the jockeys who rode the horses that Secretariat left in the dust at the 1973 Belmont Stakes.
Around here, of course, football is king. But there are baseball fans here, and life has not been easy for them. Texas Rangers fans know all about that long–suffering jazz. It took them nearly four decades to reach the World Series. Winning one, apparently, is going to take awhile longer.
But even the Rangers' suffering pales when compared to the Lions'.
The Lions haven't had a winning season in a decade. They haven't been in the playoffs since 1999. They haven't won a division title since 1993. They haven't played for a conference championship in nearly 20 years. They haven't won one in more than 50 years.
They recently set a new standard for futility, losing their 25th consecutive road game. Fittingly, that milestone was achieved against a team that had lost all of its games this season.
The Lions' fans know how that feels, too. They went 0–16 a couple of years ago. Only one other team in modern NFL history has lost all of its games, and that was before the NFL started playing 16–game schedules.
When you consider their history, you have to wonder what could possibly entice anyone in Detroit to go to Ford Field where the 2–8 Lions will play the 8–2 New England Patriots tomorrow.
I mean, along with the fact that the Lions just plain stink, as usual, the temperature is supposed to be in the 30s tonight, and the predicted high temperature tomorrow is 48°.
The game is indoors, of course, but the elements won't be too pleasant, even if exposure to them will be brief — there's a 90% chance of rain in Detroit tomorrow, and, even if the only time one must spend in it will be the time it takes to get from one's car to the stadium, who wants to spend any time on Thanksgiving in a cold rain?
It is in just such conditions, however, that a couple of Christian leaders from Detroit are planning to hold a prayer vigil for the Lions.
Apparently, this began when Derrick Hills of the Communications Ministry called a sports radio show and "realized that something needed to be done to make a difference and to help our struggling team improve."
Anyway, tomorrow Hills and a Detroit–area Baptist minister are going to hold a prayer vigil for the Lions near one of Ford Field's gates. It's set for 11 a.m. local time, about 90 minutes before kickoff.
It's probably safe to assume that Detroit will not have reached its predicted 48–degree high by 11 a.m.; it is probably also safe to assume that it will be raining at that time. I'm thinking this prayer vigil could be a good test for the commitment of Detroit football fans to the local team.
"I believe that if we all can come together and pray that we can assist in making the Detroit Lions a truly competitive team who can one day become a Super Bowl champion," Hills said.
Now, I know that there are people who believe — some devoutly — in the power of prayer, but that seems improbable.