Will we see the Lions?
A poll of online readers at The Oakland Press showed nearly 3 out of 4 are more excited about the division-leading Tigers than the hapless Lions. You'd think that was natural, a team is in the hunt for a championship.
But that's higher than normal, because football has always gotten Detroiters riled up and the Lions have long been an area of intense interest, even in the off season, even when Wayne Fontes was coach, even when Matt Millen ran the team.
I know the Tigers are in first place, but they've been there for a while (at times the 3rd best team in the league). But they're not that exciting, really; they keep having these losing streaks to take away momentum. They're not selling out, forcing the Tigers to run numerous ticket specials.
So how will the Lions fare when it comes to putting bottoms in the seats? If a first-place pro team struggles, what could the worst-place team do?
Throw in the economy and (as fellow Lowdowner Jeff Kuehn pointed out) a possible 0-6 start, and the Lions could only have nine games on TV (the eight road ones and Thanksgiving). And what if Thanksgiving doesn't sell out?
We love our football, but could this cause long-term damage to the finances and stability of the team. Despite it's on-field performance, the team has been fairly consistent, selling out every Ford Field game until last year and maintaining a front office with a strong marketing team and good community involvement.
But could we get to the point of small crowds with tens of thousands of empty seats. If the Lions aren't on TV, it's easy to forget about them. And the Detroit papers have given up on delivering Monday's paper, pushing the Lions further away from fans.
As much as I've liked the Lions over the years, I've also hated some aspects of the NFL, especially it's damn-the-fans approach to television coverage. Blackouts are the worst thing they can do, because it takes away marketing the league and the sport. Not only do you not get to watch the Lions, but you don't get another game.
Perhaps the national economic downturn will lead to other cities have this problem and perhaps the blackout rules could be amended. I doubt it, but I know it will be a test to remain faithful to the team if things don't get better.
Of course, one thing would help — a win or two early on and some good play throughout the season.
Giving up three touchdowns early on every week will only ensure everyone gets their yards raked on Sundays.