Column: Line Drives — Being a Lions fan not easy

[This is my column in the Jan. 8 issue of The Commercial Review.]

Colts fans have it easy.

Winning seasons. Playoff victories. Super Bowl championships.

As a Lions fan, I got to experience one of those — a winning season — this year. And also in 2011.

Sunday, I was eight minutes away from knowing what it’s like to have my favorite team win a playoff game.

But, the referees took that away from me.

In the blink of an eye, the potential to witness the Detroit Lions win in the postseason vanished in the wake of one of the most controversial plays anyone will ever see.

Midway through the fourth quarter in Dallas, Detroit was in a position not many expected them to be in. The Lions were leading the Cowboys 20-17 in the NFC Wild Card.

Facing a third-and-1 inside Dallas territory, a referee flagged the Cowboys for a pass interference call on a throw from Matthew Stafford to tight end Brandon Pettigrew. The flag would have given Detroit a first down and a chance to extend the drive and possibly the lead.

Referee Pete Morelli announced the pass interference call. But after some deliberation with the other officials, the flag was picked up, much to the dismay of everyone who isn’t a Cowboys fan.

It’s one thing to wave off a flag after the referees confer. But to announce the penalty and then pick it up … how does that happen?

And that wasn’t even the only head-scratching moment of the game.

After the flag was thrown, Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant rushed the field without a helmet on to argue with another official.

Entering the playing field without a helmet like Bryant did is an automatic 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

No flag was thrown.

Of course there wasn’t.

I’m a Lions fan, why would something go in our favor?

The next series of events was typical of the Detroit Lions.

Sam Martin shanked the ensuing punt — it traveled just 10 yards — and then Dallas scored the game-winning touchdown its next time down the field.

It was later determined by the NFL that on the Dallas’ scoring drive, there was a holding penalty on the Cowboys’ crucial fourth-down play that also wasn’t called.

The penalty would have given Dallas a fourth-and-16, likely forcing them to punt thus giving the Lions the football while still in the lead.

Instead, the non-call kept the go-ahead scoring drive alive.

Something like that would only happen to the Detroit Lions — one of four teams to never play in a Super Bowl (Cleveland, Houston and Jacksonville are the others); a team that has had a winning record in just 32 of its 81 seasons (and had double-digit win totals seven times); a team that has just two playoff victories in nearly six decades.

The Lions’ last postseason victory came in 1991 against the Cowboys, and before that Detroit had not won a playoff game since its championship-winning season of 1957.

It’s been a rough 29 years for this Lions fan.

All I want is to know what it’s like to be a Colts fan — make the playoffs in 12 of the last 13 seasons, win four division titles in six years and win a Super Bowl.

But nope.

I’m a Lions fan, and Lions fans can’t have nice things.

Sunday was the first Detroit Lions playoff game I got to see in my lifetime.
I wasn’t able to watch the Lions play the Saints in 2011, and I don’t remember the game in 1991 when I was just 6 years old.

With the odds stacked against Detroit — which seems to be the case lately in more than just sports — the Lions had a lead very few people thought they’d have. Myself included.

And as the time ticked away and the Lions got closer to a divisional round matchup this weekend against Seattle, the yearly Lions’ fan slogan almost became a reality.

“This is our year.”

Instead, I was left with the phrase we’ve used just as much.

“There’s always next year.”


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