In a National Football League season that began with optimism, loyal Detroit Lions fans once again have descended deeply into doom and gloom.
Avid team backers have a standard answer when questioned about their favorites: "Same old Lions." The "same old" Lions franchise goes way back. Its last NFL title was won in 1957. Since then, the team has won only a single playoff game. Fans have been treated to just one winning season in the past 14 years.
Halfway through the current campaign, the Lions have lost seven games and won one. In effect, their season is over. Only a highly unlikely miracle would get them into the playoffs.
Ford family members (yes, the auto guys) have owned the club since 1963. They have long been accused of having too much patience with inept team management. Response to the current losing season, however, has been anything but patient. Family actions are bordering on firing everybody. And a Lions fan, probably with tongue in cheek, has launched a movement to fire the Fords.
When the Lions record hit 1-6, Head Coach Jim Caldwell fired three top assistants. After a disastrous seventh loss in the league's annual game staged in London, England, Martha Firestone Ford fired the team president and the general manager. Caldwell has been spared, perhaps because he is a new guy in the organization or because there aren't many folks left to fill in as head coach should he be sacked.
Fan Jeff Tarnowski last month announced it was time to can the Fords. He started a Go Fund Me campaign to raise $1.4 billion to buy the Lions. CBS Sports reported initial enthusiasm was high, but initial contributions didn't measure up. Early donations totaled $930. Tarnowski says he will give the money to charity if a purchase fails to materialize.
Tarnowski has a way to go. Michigan's population is about 9 million. One amateur accountant calculated it would take a donation of $150 for every man, woman, and child in the state to raise enough cash to make a serious offer for the Lions.
Would the Ford family accept a serious offer? Not a chance. Martha Firestone (yes, the tire guys) Ford is 90 years old, but she is said to be very energetic and dedicated to changing the Lions losing ways. Forbes magazine says she is worth $1.38 billion, so a shortage of personal cash is not a problem. Mrs. Ford's four children are vice chairmen of the team, and one is being groomed to assume the owner role.
William Clay Ford bought the Lions for $4.5 million 52 years ago. The club may have lost games, but it undoubtedly made big money over the years. The team has produced a tidy return on Mr. Ford's investment. Win or lose, Lions ownership will continue to be a family affair. The team will be playing at Ford Field for a long time to come.