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A Tale of Two Cities

I was out in San Francisco this past weekend for my cousin’s wedding, so I was forced to find a local sports bar to take in Lions game. It was a loud place, filled with 49ers and Raider fans coming out to support their respective teams. We found a tiny TV that had the Detroit/Washington game and camped out to watch our beloved Lions.

We had to put up with some awkward support from neighboring football fans rooting for other teams. “Lions fans, eh? Well, we hope you win one. You guys deserve it.” It was patronizing and somewhat insulting, but well-intentioned.

Much like the first half of our Week Two matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, the Lions looked good early. The offense was able to move the ball fairly consistently, and the defense looked much more confident than they have in the first two games of the season. Halftime rolled around with a 13-0 lead. So far, so good.

However, the early parts of the second half looked eerily reminiscent of last week’s failure to put away Minnesota. Interestingly, on a neighboring television set, the 49ers were having similar trouble protecting their 1st half lead over those same Vikings. As both games wound into the fourth quarter, Detroit and San Francisco were each nursing a small lead over their opponents.

If I’d had to bet on which team would hold on for the win, I must confess I would not have picked the Lions. With an 11 point lead, the Lions defense appeared to be using a deep zone which allowed the Redskins to move rapidly down the field and cut seven points from the margin. The offense managed to get a first down and take some time off the clock, but they were unable to keep the drive going. The Redskins would get the ball back for what most Lions fans feared would be yet another gut wrenching loss.

The rest of the crowd was aptly watching the last minute of the 49ers/Vikings game, as Brett Favre was diligently trying to get his team close enough for a last second miracle. I did not give the Vikings much of a chance, since time was clicking away and the 49ers pass rush was making things difficult for the future Hall of Famer. And then, it happened.

Favre dropped into the pocket, which was rapidly closing in on him. He stepped up to throw, eluding defensive end Manny Lawson by centimeters. His throw was lofted into the endzone, where Greg Lewis (who?) made a spectacular catch only barely keeping his feet in bounds. Wow. Pandemonium.

Seeing as we were sitting in a 49ers bar surrounded by 49ers fans, the reaction was not pleasant. It seemed as if someone had collected each of their puppies into a pen and simultaneously shot them. It was the end of Old Yeller multiplied by 100. Being a Lions fan, frankly, it felt like home.

But then, on the little TV we had showing the last seconds of the Lions game, we watched a strangely bungled hook and ladder play that ended with a Redskin being tackled, no time on the clock, and a Lions victory. Halleluiah. Lions win!

It was a surreal moment as two years of pain and anguish released from our bodies. There were no jumping high fives or shouts. We just grasped each other’s shoulders and whispered, “Thank God.”

In the midst of agonizing 49ers fans (and soon to be dejected Raiders fans) our little table was an island of relief and happiness. The same patronizing comments from earlier were again bestowed upon us. “Way to go, Detroit,” they would say. “Finally looking like a real team again.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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