The Detroit Lions, whose roots date back to 1930, are just one of four NFL teams to have never appeared in the Super Bowl. (Pop quiz: Can you guess the other three?) Before this season, the team had only won one playoff game since Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. So Lions fans were rightfully delirious when their team won their division for the first time in three decades and ended their playoff drought this month, beating the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Buccaneers Bay. The team’s playoff run brought much joy and boosted local businesses around Ford Field, the team’s home stadium.
“On playoff day, it was non-stop.”
Buddy’s Pizza, a downtown Detroit restaurant, was packed Sunday.
“It’s really big for us and a lot of other bars and restaurants in the area,” said Andrew Stanek, manager of the restaurant near Ford Field. “Detroit Lions fans, through thick and thin and through all 60 years of hardship, remain loyal to their team.”
A few blocks away, at Harry’s Detroit Bar & Grill, a line had formed outside the restaurant and down the sidewalk.
Cesar Ramirez, assistant general manager of Harry’s, said the restaurant saw record sales during the Lions’ first playoff victory over the Rams.
“We’ve definitely seen a huge increase in our business,” he said, adding that the restaurant earned just over $60,000 on the day of the team’s first playoff victory, an increase by almost $40,000 for a typical day compared to the same period a year ago. .
“Everyone wants to work because they know it’s a money day,” Mr. Ramirez said.
The Lions’ win over the Buccaneers on Sunday propelled them to their first NFC championship game since the 1991 season. As they take on the 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., this weekend, Detroit’s bars are sure to be filled with Lions fans, hoping their team can make it to the Super Bowl for the first time and leave only the Cleveland Browns, Houston. The Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars are teams that did not make the title game.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Lions fans were all smiles as they waited to enter Ford Field. For those who couldn’t get tickets, there was a tailgate near the stadium at Eastern Market, a collection of shops and restaurants in a neighborhood of the same name.
Ron Crachiola, known as Crackman, was among those at the tailgate. Mr Crachiola said he started going to games with his father 60 years ago and they had witnessed far more defeats than victories, but never lost confidence. He said he wished his father, who died in April at age 95, could have watched the Lions compete for a Super Bowl berth. On Sunday, Mr. Crachiola wore a necklace with a photo of his father on it.
“For the city it means a lot; for me, it brings tears to my eyes,” said Mr. Crachiola, who turns 72 this week. “It’s always like a dream come true. I’m still on cloud nine. I sit there and just think: This is actually happening. We are two games away from the Super Bowl.
Businesses around Ford Field have benefited from the Lions’ playoff run, as well as years of investment in downtown Detroit, a part of the city that received increased attention after the city’s bankruptcy ago a little over ten years.
Detroit is vast – 139 square miles – and some neighborhoods, long dotted with empty homes and vacant lots, have seen little change despite the Lions’ success.
Still, some at Michigan say the team’s record is creating new bonds.
Tiffany and Don Gilling came to Ford Field with their children, Tripp, 9, and Kyden, 12, along with a friend, Justin Vidosh, and his 8-year-old son, Parker.
“I think it means so much to our city: the passion, the fun,” Ms Gilling said. “It brings us closer together.”
“My sons – that’s the best part – seeing my kids experience this and just having fun,” Ms Gilling added. “It’s something they’ll always remember.” It’s an essential family memory that we create, and it’s what brings me the most happiness.