The Detroit Lions begin the 2021 season this Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field.
The place is likely to be packed. Folks will roll in wearing Lions jerseys, Lions leather, and with Lions optimism or pessimism, all depending on the fan experience with this team and the level of hurt that lies inside the belly.
However, I am going to ask you to watch Lions football games in a new way.
Watch with a higher level of sophistication.
Watch with an eye toward the future.
And then, watch the different units and see if you can find a ray of light in failure that might lead to a brighter future.
The Lions are a bad football team, and there will be plenty of bad moments on the field. The good news is the Lions finally have a team of movers and thinkers in place that know how to build a good future.
You must do the toughest thing a fan must do. You must wait for the flower to bloom. That’s a tough thing to ask of a fan base that has witnessed one playoff win since 1957 and last won a division title in 1993.
General Manager Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell just planted the seeds for the future. It will take time for it to blossom.
Sadly, many of you were not born the last time the Lions won a playoff game back in 1991. It really happened. I know because I was at the sold-out Pontiac Silverdome during the 38-6 thrashing of the Dallas Cowboys. Experts back then said the winner of this game would become the future of the NFL. It didn’t quite play out that way.
Dallas went on to win three Super Bowls in the next six years. The Lions hosted Super Bowl XL as hometown hero Jerome Bettis and the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrated a victory against the Seattle Seahawks.
This is how Lions fans usually watch football games.
The Lions lose. The fan base becomes angry, throws a brick through the television, and curses the team on sports talk radio.
Or the Lions win a game. Fans go out and buy a Barry Sanders jersey, get too excited, and make Super Bowl plans.
Neither way will be allowed this season. You are going to see plenty of losing this season. And that’s OK. If you see the Same Ol’ Lions on the field bungling through the game with 150 yards in penalties and making huge mistakes at the most inappropriate time, then throw that brick through the television.
However, if you see a team that grinds and plays with the same enthusiasm as coach Dan Campbell and simply loses to a better team, then be happy.
But the future is bright in Detroit.
Watch the progress of offensive tackle Penei Sewell. See if quarterback Jerrod Goff is the “quarterback of the future” or simply a stop-gap until the Lions find somebody younger and cheaper. Look for progress with the defense. Was 2020 all about that bad scheme of coach Matt Patricia? Or are these players just bad?
It is up to you to find out. That is why I ask Lions fans to watch games with a keen eye toward the future. Watch games as a less emotional and more sophisticated fan. This season might not look pretty, but it could be a building block toward a sweet future.