The Lions 2023/2024 season reached its crescendo three days ago with a gut-wrenching loss that left many not quite knowing how to feel. In the words of a teary Dan Campbell, “It stings.” We all feel it.
The season – and particularly that last game – was so emotionally charged in so many ways, it has required some reconciling.
At Detroitisit, we are feeling it too. We needed to pause a moment to write this article. An article that won’t recap the season and the wins and the misses, but that focuses on how this one season of football impacted the city and its people so deeply.
The Detroit Lions made history this year. They had 14 wins and two playoff victories. They had their first playoff win in 32 years and their first division win in 30 years. They appeared in the NFC championship for the first time in 32 years. It was by far the best Lions season many of us have ever witnessed.
The team fell four points short of a spot in the Superbowl.
We all know this. We can look up any number of stats and there is no shortage of the sharing of opinions on everything from Dan Campbell’s choices to the player’s performance and everything in between.
But there’s another story here worth telling. Because, along the way, as the Lions picked up momentum and as time and play went on, this season served to greatly impact the people of the city and the way others see Detroit. And this season will forever be the year that shift took place. It changed things.
Over the last five months, Detroit morphed into One Pride. Hats, t-shirts, and billboards, began calling out the GRIT that defines Detroiters. People began believing and hoping – together. The upswell of emotion, and energy and excitement has been palpable in Detroit.
We witnessed a team of talented – and young – players and a coach of just three years unite toward a single mission. We watched them play as a team and as brothers. We shared in the wins and the losses as a city. The team came together, and so did the people of Detroit.
The Lions were the underdog and people across the country took note of what was happening here and jumped on our train. We welcomed everyone. And the Lions moved us from the depths of despair of years past, to become ‘America’s Team.’
In Detroit, people of all ages, orientations, and backgrounds packed Ford Field and the streets of Detroit for the games, chanting, high-fiving, hugging, cheering, and believing as one. Instead of walking through Eastern Market on a Saturday and nodding at people with a small smile, we yelled “Go Lions” at each other with huge grins and fist pumps. Businesses collaborated to don Lions gear and show their pride. Families came together to share in it. Friends convened. Restaurants and bars thrived and reaped the benefits of the thousands of people converging downtown. The city changed.
And the timing of this is indeed impeccable. Detroit was an underdog for so long and has been flipping that script over the past ten years. And our football team came along and created another driving force toward that change. The connection between Detroit and its sports teams is profound and this has been beautiful, and powerful and magical.
And right on the tales of it comes the next – and arguably biggest – event in football to Detroit. The esteemed NFL Draft will bring in over 300,000 fans from 32 teams across the country from April 25th to the 27th, creating an expected economic impact upward of $150 million. An estimated 60 million viewers from around the globe will watch on TV.
The city will continue to ride its football train. And Detroit’s new chapter in this revitalization script – this story of grit and hard work and moving forward – goes on.
In the words of Aiden Hutchinson who was recently seen wearing a shirt with the Latin words “Resurget Cineribus” — To Rise from the ashes – “Detroit is the city of perseverance. It is a city born of steel, diesel, and blood. In a city like this, in a culture like this, you learn that failure is just an opportunity to improve.”
While the Detroit Lions fell short of the 2024 Superbowl, the season was one of the biggest wins for the city and its people yet. We move forward from here – and “here” is a pretty terrific place to be.
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