LOS ANGELES — As my Spirit Airlines flight taxied toward the runway on its way to Los Angeles the pilot shattered the random talking with an unusual announcement of his own.
“I see there are a lot of Lions fans on our flight today,” he said. “I am not a Lions fan. My team did not make the playoffs. But I am rooting for you guys. The Lions deserve this playoff run more than anyone. I am a Lions fan for the rest of the playoffs. I hope you go all the way.”
That lightened the mood of the plane as passengers clapped and shouted “Go Lions.”
Our pilot friend is not the only stranger rooting for the Detroit Lions to win the Super Bowl. More than half the country is cheering for the Lions according to Bet Online, a sports betting sight that used data and analytics from the platform X, formerly known as twitter.
With the Dallas Cowboys out of the playoff picture the Lions are officially America’s team heading into Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3 pm) at Ford Field.
A total of 27 states are rooting for the Lions. The list includes states as far away as Arizona and Nevada and as close as Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. The Lions swept every state in the Southeast, except Florida. They are mostly rooting for the Lions opponent from Tampa.
The Lions are dominating the race. The San Francisco 49ers are second with seven states hoping they win the whole thing.
The Detroit Lions are easy to root for. Coach Dan Campbell is the type of guy non athletic stooges would run through a brick wall for. The Lions are also tough in the trenches and quarterback Jared Goff silences critics both home and away.
Lion’s fans have made news also. They are the loudest home base in the league and routinely surge for stadium takeovers across the country.
We’ve seen grown men cry after victories and people of all ages cheer until they can speak no more.
“I really feel for all these Ford Field fans who have been waiting for a championship since their grandparents were driving Edsels,” Former Detroit Free Press sports columnist Mike Downey told the Free Press. “I want their team to get over that hump this time like a big F-150 truck and never look back, go all the way finally, no detours, no wrecks.
And finally Downey said.
“Time to put a trophy in it.”
I brag from time to time that I never root for teams, mostly because of my decades spent in the press box where cheering is not allowed. We are taught to be objective and not to let fandom cloud our judgement.
I plan to step outside my usual self for the Bucs game. I am in Los Angeles to help my daughter move into her new apartment. But I plan on taking a three hour break Sunday for the Lions game and watch the game at Blue Dog Beer Tavern in Sherman Oaks. I am not sure that I am going to cheer on the team. But I will wear Lions gear that a friend bought me because I told them I did not own a Lions T-shirt, jersey or sweat shirt.
I got driven to Dunham’s and was told: “You are not leaving this store without a Lions shirt.”
My friend purchased a Detroit Lions sweat shirt and it is the one I plan on wearing Sunday. And maybe I will twist and shout during the game. You never know what might happen if the shots are flowing.
As we landed at LAX our pilot had some parting words.
“I am not only rooting for you,” he said. “But I hope you go all the way and win the Super Bowl.”
Forward down the field.
For more from the author Terry Foster, check him out on Twitter here: @terryfosterdet
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Original Photo Credit: © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK