The last time the Detroit Lions played a regular-season Monday Night Football game, Charlie Batch was their starting quarterback, James Stewart was the team’s leading rusher, Johnnie Morton was the team’s lone receiver with more than 500 yards and Desmond Howard was returning kicks and punts.
That team finished 2-14 with one of its losses coming in a 35-0 drubbing at the hands of St. Louis on a Monday night in October.
It’s been a long road back, but the NFL has finally decided the people of Detroit are “ready for some football” once more. And on Wednesday morning, Motor City citizens proved it, lining up outside Ford Field bright and early to claim tickets for an Oct. 10 game against the Chicago Bears.
The single-game tickets made available to the public were sold out in 45 minutes, just one day after the Lions announced their first preseason sellout since 2005, according to a story in the Detroit Free Press. According to Lions team president Tom Leward, more than 400 fans stood in line overnight waiting for box offices to open at 10 a.m.
Detroit’s fans haven’t always been so eager to pack Ford Field — the NFL implemented a television blackout for four games in 2009. The Lions lone 2010 television blackout came during a late October game against the Washington Redskins.
Lewand told the Free Press he’s excited, and it’s clear the public is equally excited — in large part because Leward is not Matt Millen.
“I think (fans are) voting with their pocketbooks. They’re making an investment in us and that’s an investment that we have to honor and respect, and now it’s up to us to deliver a return on that investment.”
Consider this an indicator of two things: 1) Detroit has already forgiven the Lions for the NFL lockout and more importantly, 2) the 2011 Lions are generating as much excitement as they have seen before any other season in the last decade.
And why not get behind the Lions? If Matthew Stafford can stay healthy enough to play pitch and catch with Calvin Johnson and Roger Goodell doesn’t drop the James Harrison hammer on Ndamukong Suh for play too violently, Detroit could surprise some people this fall.