On January 14th, the Detroit Lions hired new GM Brad Holmes. Almost a week later, on January 20th, the Detroit Lions announced the hiring of new head coach, Dan Campbell. 3 days later, the news every Lions fan knew deep in their hearts was coming arrived. Matthew Stafford had asked for a trade. This, coupled with the rumblings of Deshaun Watson wanting out of Houston, and the cryptic press answers from that fool in Green Bay who needs to always make sure everyone is talking about him, set the stage for the most explosive NFL offseason, probably ever. And then late Saturday night, a week after the news of Stafford and the team mutually agreeing to part ways, the bombshell was dropped.
There will be many pieces from now until March 17th and beyond dissecting who “won” this trade. And I could give you some analytical figures about why I think certain arguments hold more merit than others. But they’ll all be wrong. Because this trade has one bona fide winner. Me.
To understand what I mean, first you have to understand a bit about Lions fans, and also a bit about me. You might already be aware of this, but the Detroit Lions are a miserable team to be a fan of. They have won exactly 1 playoff game in my lifetime. Which is also the only playoff victory they have in the Super Bowl era. They have won their Division only twice since I was born in 1987. Their miserable play and constant failings caused not only one of the greatest running backs of all time to walk away from the game in his prime, but a Top 10 all-time WR too.
Due to the soul crushing existence that is being a Lions fan, or any Detroit sports franchise really, many of us have a secondary team to root for. For some, this means bandwagon jumping. For others, it is following a favorite player. Other’s still may have a completely different reason. For me, it’s a combination of these things.
And those are?
For example, in basketball, I tend to root more for individual players outside of my Pistons. I cheered for the Warriors not because I’m a Golden State fan, but because I am a Draymond Green fan. (Most of the players I root for are former Spartans.) On the other hand, my secondary MLB has been the Dodgers ever since doing a book report about Jackie Robinson in the 4th grade. For football, it tends to be that I find myself rooting AGAINST teams, especially the Packers and the Patriots. Because, duh. That can get tiring after a while though.
By working in the arts I have moved all around the country. So when I found myself in California when the Rams moved back to LA in 2016, I decided to abandon the bandwagon thing and root for the Rams as a second team. There were the team closest to me, I liked their new phenom head coach, and most importantly, they had the best damn throwback Uni’s the game has ever seen. And even though I have since left California for the snowier pastures of Upstate NY (complete with a newfound Bills fandom), and even though the Rams have changed their beautiful jerseys for some awful abominations, I still find myself drawn to cheering for the Rams.
Get back to the point!
In the week between the news of Stafford wanting a trade and it happening, many scenarios & possibilities were bandied about. And outside of the pipe dream that was a straight swap of Matthew Stafford for Deshaun Watson, there was really only one place I wanted to see No.9 end up. You guessed it, the LA Rams. But not just because I think he makes the Rams an instant contender. And not because I thought the Lions would get the insane return they actually ended up with. I wanted to see Stafford in LA for the entirely selfish reason of wanting to still cheer wholeheartedly for him. Because he’s precisely the type of player that should be.
When your franchise is as pitiful as Detroit’s, it’s easy to place the blame anywhere and everywhere. Matthew Stafford never did that. He gave his all for the Lions, and he gave his all for Detroit. Detroiters as a whole respect the hell out of anyone who “goes to work” and no Lions player since Barry Sanders better represents that attitude. But we also respect the hell out of anyone who actually buys in and sees the city for what it is.
It’s a rare sight in professional sports for a fan base to wish the best for a player when he wants to leave. But all of the chatter surrounding Stafford’s trade request was “he deserves to go win somewhere,” and “he gave us everything we could ask for.” It was all the same talk I heard when the Tigers traded Justin Verlander to the Astros. And not only was that the chatter, but it was shown in other ways too.
So, I’ll leave the “trade analysis” to other pundits. There will be many of them. Instead, I’m going to bask in the fact I can continue to root for my favorite quarterback of all time. He may not have brought playoff success that the Lions so desperately craved, but he did provide heart and consistency to a team and city that so passionately cherishes those things.
Thank you Matthew Stafford. Good bye, and welcome.
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