November 23, 2008, - 1:30 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
**** SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATE/Correction ****
It’s football Sunday in the latter third of the NFL season, and as I write this the Zero (wins) and Ten (losses) Detroit Lions are the losingest team in the NFL and on their way to becoming the most losing team in NFL history. Their likely only shot for a win is today against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
So, should the Detroit Lions lose their traditional Thanksgiving Day game? It’s been a tradition for many years, and one of the least exciting football games for almost all of those years, too.
The Lions’ performance over the last couple of decades–especially abysmal now–has led to talk of the Lions giving up that game in favor of more exciting, well-matched teams.
A few weeks ago, on FOX NFL Sunday, comedian Frank Caliendo joked,
Hey, Detroit Lions, the Pilgrims called, and they want their day back.
DebbieSchlussel.com Jedi Master of Photoshop David Lunde asks:
How do Detroit (Lions) football fans put up with such a lousy football team year after year? They do seem like the most loyal fans on the planet.
But that loyalty is starting to wane for the men in silver and Honolulu blue (or as I call it, “Hono-loser blue”).
And it’s not just the team’s very bad record, this season, on top of losers most years before.
Detroit-area interest in the Lions has been affected not just by the team’s historic losing status, but by the horrid depression-like economy we have here. In fact, in many ways, the history of the Lions is emblematic of the history of Detroit and the failing auto industry. It’s a fitting coincidence that the team is owned by the Ford Family, which has managed and run the team the same way they did Ford Motor Company: into the ground. Lions part-owner and VP William Clay Ford was recently a failed Chairman of the company and the family–major shareholders in Ford–still calls a lot of the shots.
Until now, the Lions have maintained a stranglehold on the Turkey Day game. When Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones initially tried to wrest it away, he didn’t manage to and only got an also-ran game out of it. [CORRECTION, 11/24/08: I'm wrong on this, see update, below.] But sports fans and commentators are calling for an end to the Lions Thanksgiving Day game.
We, here in Detroit, wouldn’t really care much. Detroit Lions fans–the few who are left–are forsaking the games in droves. They’ve been blacked out by the NFL policy of not televising games that aren’t sold out or mostly sold out. Our economy is very bad, and we don’t have the money to waste to prop up overpaid billionaire owners (the Fords) and their multi-millionaire mercenary employees (the Lions players who mostly don’t live here in the off-season and will play for whomever pays them more) in their tax-funded, Ford-owned half-a-billion castle (Ford Field), on which Michigan taxpayers got and continue to get no return, since we funded it and they own and play in it.
It’s kind of funny to see the Fords struggling to sell out Ford Field, even though its capacity is significantly reduced from the Pontiac Silverdome, a move that was done so that games would more easily sell out and be televised.
The NFL is going to have to start talking tough to players and paying lower salaries with the next draft. Fans don’t have the money to pay $20 for parking, $60 per person per ticket, and $12 per person for a hot dog and a Coke. I envision certain NFL teams having to resort to the common marketing tactics of minor league baseball teams and failing NHL hockey teams: packages of nosebleed section tickets coupled with a hot dog and a coke for $15 or less. With parking, that’s still expensive in this economy, especially for a losing team in a boring lopsided game.
On the other hand, we Michigan taxpayers gave the Fords a free stadium, and they make so much money in NFL TV and licensing rights, they really don’t care much about winning. For them, it’s a toy, a place to have a cool suite to entertain their friends in on Sundays in the fall.
So will the NFL finally dump the Lions T-Day game and forgo an unearned pro football bailout for Detroit? Well, the Fords still have their claws firmly in the NFL–with their “Built Ford Tough” sponsorship of FOX’s NFL Sunday pregame show–and thus, they still have a significant amount of juice to keep the game.
In fact, their reach is so strong that FOX used to do their pregame show live from here for the Thanksgiving Day game. My friend, the brilliant orchestrator Scott Ackerson, who produces the show, used to invite me to hang with him and the crew of Terry, Howie, etc. (but I always declined–I hate big traffic and big crowds, and with the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade, there’s a lot of it). But this year, Scott told me they’re not coming to town, and they didn’t last year, either. With the Lions having as much talent as a WNBA team, it’s simply not a game they want to helm live from the rustbelt capital. It’s just a ratings loser–for both them and for the NFL.
I hear the suits at NFL HQ on Park Avenue are, at least, considering pulling it, though, again, it’s not likely anytime soon because of the Ford Family pull.
So, should the Lions lose the Thanksgiving Day game? Do these turkeys still deserve a Turkey Day showcase? Or is Detroit so down in the dumps that yanking the Lions Thanksgiving Day gridiron contest of flak jackets, would be piling on?
What do you think?
**** UPDATE/Correction, 11/24/08: Reader Menachem’s football knowledge trumps mine, indeed, and I stand corrected:
I have been reading you for many years (10+) First time I had to correct you. The Cowboys Thanksgiving tradition goes back 40 + years and was the Idea of the legendary Tex Schramm, GM of the Dallas Cowboys. The Lions afternoon game has something to do with a parade / celebration a yearly tradition in Motown . I guess he wanted to replace the Lions and the game was added.