Thanksgiving and football, football and Thanksgiving—a perfect pair. The one is for gathering together with people you like, ritually overindulging and, generally speaking, a pretty predictable evening. And, come to think of it, so is the other.
I'm a fan. I send weekly football emails to a small group of friends and we pick results for three games a week. So far this year, the non-Denver Broncos teams I've enjoyed watching most (and have thus forced upon my friends) have been the early Arizona Cardinals, who were disconcertingly successful with two different quarterbacks, each originally considered a punchline in his own way and, more recently, the Buffalo Bills, whose wins feel somehow like losses (see, for example: PSY and the Buffalo Jills perform "Gangnam Style" at halftime in their "home" win a few days ago—in Toronto). So strongly associated with the idea of losing are the Buffalo Bills that NPR turned to legendary former head coach Marv Levy for advice to the Mitt Romney camp on losing gracefully.
LEVY: What I did after the first one - we lost that first Super Bowl game, and on the flight back, a four-line poem went through my mind. And when we went back to that team meeting, I posted it on the bulletin board outside and it went: Fight on, my men, Sir Andrew said. A little I'm hurt but not yet slain. I'll just lie down and bleed a while and then I'll rise and fight again.
What I'm saying is that I like an underdog story.
But as I'm getting psyched to enjoy a technological marvel of a beer, eat some sustainable version of a Thanksgiving meal and watch a game featuring that fascinating, will-trade-house-for-World-Series-ticktets sporting city of Detroit, I am prepared to make a case that, like the Oakland A's are in baseball, the Detroit Lions might be GOOD's unofficial team in football, at least for today. A few reasons:
- Detroit was never New York, but it was once the picture of success, then it wasn't, now it's digging its way out of a bit of a hole
- The city is a little misunderstood after a long period of struggling
- The Lions have never won a Super Bowl, but they did have Barry Sanders (and they did win NFL championships before the Super Bowl existed)
- The team went through hell and now they're steadily improving; third in their division in 2010, second in 2011 and a promising future
In a much bigger way than Dallas is right now, Detroit is America's team because Detroit is America's city. It's a symbol of the transition in which we find ourselves.
Recall for a moment that before he ever spoke to a chair in a clumsy attempt to slam the president, Clint Eastwood was actually accused by some of shilling for Democrats and offending Karl Rove in a commercial that was kind of for Chrysler but mostly for Detroit:
Like the city, the team suffered from the effects of devastating mismanagement—general manager Matt Millen continued to generate ill will in the city even after his dismissal from the team. How appropriate is it that in 2008, the team went 0-16?
Today, they're last in their division—but with four more wins and a lot more hope to finish higher than they had in 2008—and they're playing a very good Houston Texans team. Underdog city playing a frontrunning team with pretty easily the stupidest name in professional sports. This is an easy call.