Root, Root Root for the Home Team?

SPORTS LEGEND: Fans of the Detroit Lions began rooting for the Detroit Red Wings during a particularly bad Lions loss.

The Detroit Lions made history last season, although not the kind of history you want to make. One season after the New England Patriots became the first team in the National Football League to go 16-0, the Lions became the first team in the National Football League to 0-16 (in both instances, there had been a previous team to go undefeated/winless, but that was when the NFL played 14 games rather than 16).


However, poor play is sadly not a new thing for fans of the Detroit Lions. Besides the Hall of Fame career of Lions running back Barry Sanders, Lions fans have not had much to cheer for the past, oh, five decades or so since winning the NFL Championship in 1957. Since then, the Lions have made only nine playoff appearances in 50 plus years, with only one playoff victory to their name (and, as a result, zero Super Bowl appearances).

In the beginning of the 2001 season, though, things were particularly odd in the world of Detroit sports.


The Pistons had just lost their star player, Grant Hill, in 2000, and were coming off a 32–50 season in 2000-01 (although the 2001 season would be a bit of a return to greatness for the team – fans did not know that in early October, though, of course).

The Tigers had just finished a terrible season, narrowly missing out on losing 100 games (66-96), and there was little hope for the future (and, indeed, the 2002 Tigers went 55-106).

Yankees Tigers Baseball

The Lions actually were just coming off of a winning season in 2000-01, barely missing the playoffs via a last minute field goal to beat them in the final game of the season. However, the Lions quickly opened the 2001 season with a twenty-five point drubbing in the first game in Green Bay and a ten point loss at Cleveland (who had gone 3-13 the previous season).

So coming into the third game of the season (their first game at home) on October 8, 2001, Detroit fans did not have much to be happy about.

Except, of course, the Red Wings.


The Red Wings had won the Stanley Cup in 1997 and 1998, and were a very good team in 1999 and 2000. In 2001, they were upset in the playoffs by the Los Angeles Kings. So the Red Wings’ ownership responded by going out and getting All-Star goalie Dominic Hasek (the defending Vezina Trophy winner) as well as veteran wingers Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull to add to an already formidable team. The odds-on favorites to win the Stanley Cup in the 2001-02 season, the Red Wings did not disappoint, winning the trophy in five games over the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Red Wings had already won their first two games of the season by the time the Lions hosted the St. Louis Rams (who would go on to win the NFC that season before losing to the Patriots in the Super Bowl).

The game was effectively over by halftime, with the Rams up 21-0 (they would win 35-0).

Then a funny thing happened, the Red Wings were not scheduled to play until October 10th, so it was not like the fans were following the score on the scoreboard (it’s not that unusual for hometown fans to cheer for their hometown teams via scoreboard watching), however, during the second half, the fans began chanting, “Let’s Go Red Wings” over and over again until practically the entire stadium was filled with cheers for the Red Wings, who, again, were not playing that night.

Just another sad display in the history of the Lions, and sadly, this story is…


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2 Responses to “Root, Root Root for the Home Team?”

  1. I remember this game fairly well, as it was the Lions last Monday Night appearance. Dennis Miller was in the booth, as I recall, and at one point suggested that Lions fans would like to see Al Delvecchio under center.

    I’m a little surprised to see this as a legend. In that period of Detroit Sports, it was very common for “Let’s Go Red Wings” to be chanted at just about any sporting event.

    When the Wings didn’t win the cup for a few years in the 2000s, it was replaced by “Fire Millen,” which, despite his firing, will remain for me the quintessential Detroit sports chant.

  2. For Detroit fans, Nathan, it might be well known, but for the rest of the sports world, it’s surprising to see exactly how much the Detroit fans have suffered! 🙂

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