The Day the Lions Won the Super Bowl

The Day the Lions Won the Super Bowl

The day the Lions won the Super Bowl, we were so happy. You should have seen us. Our smiles were 120 yards wide, our backs erupted in goosebumps, our eyes danced in little ponds of silver and Honolulu blue confetti.

I watched the game with my dad, my grandfather, and my uncle. These were the men I had watched football with since I was born: 33 years ago. And for those not familiar with Detroit Lions football: that’s 33 years of losing. My dad and my uncle had seen the Lions lose for 61 and 59 years, respectively. My grandpa, now 92, had actually been there, as a twenty-year-old-man, the last time the Lions won a championship, in the year 1955, at Tiger Stadium on Michigan Avenue—an old, Irish, red-brick of a street. Those years were filled with Sports’ loss and sadness and tough feelings. That’s what now made it an impossible thing to believe, really, that the Lions were now Super Bowl champs. The football champions of the world!

After the clock ran out, the media and a bash of jersey colors celebrated in the middle of the field—I could barely see any green grass, there was so much body and confetti—and then they, NFL admins or whoever, walked real lions out onto the grass. The real-life lions were distinguished and strong. Big manes and bigger claws. Clear-eyed and assured, the way we’d always wanted to be, us fans, really, in the deepest part of our football-watching souls, which now we were.

Simultaneously, when the clock went zero:

My dad hugged me.

My grandpa pulled my shoulders and kissed me on the forehead.

My uncle gave me a fist bump followed by a slow-motion release.

And then the ceremony began.

A stage was rolled out. Microphones were introduced. A reporter in a red suit invited The Local Kid Hero to step onto the stage. You weren’t human if you didn’t love the Local Kid Hero. Nicknamed Simba, at the age of 24 he was already the greatest player to have ever played for the Lions. Simba was from Detroit, an All-American at Cass Tech as a running back. At Michigan State, in his freshman year, he made the odd jump to quarterback to replace an injured senior—Brett Macadamia, halfway through the season—and he never looked back. The Lions took him with the #1 overall pick in the draft. And then, in only his second season, this season, Simba had been named the league MVP for having 79 touchdowns and 23,000 yards. Did I mention he had zero mistakes? Local Kid Hero was a miracle.

What more to say? Watching Simba run was like watching someone invent running. It was both like that and time-traveling to the future when, perhaps, running had been taken to the next level, beyond anything the contemporary imagination could possibly muster with regards to running as an action, as a verb. The moving and throwing of feet and knees. Pumping air with the heart and the elbows. That was Simba, really, a revolutionary, at least in our confettied eyes.

My dad said, “Wow. That kid. He just makes you smile, makes you proud to be a member of, like, life.”

My grandpa said, “He really goes to the next level. It’s like he’s playing a different game than everyone else out there. Got eyes in the back of his helmet… right in between the stripes.”

And my uncle said, “That throw he made in the third… and the way he ran around before he did it. That was a game-changer, man. That changed the game. I can’t believe this. This is like a dream!”

Then Simba, The Local Kid Hero, held the Vince Lombardi Trophy in his arms, cradling it like it was a little baby, a little cub even younger than himself. By this point, the real-life lions had been escorted off of the field. I missed them and their placid eyes and the way they didn’t seem to care about any of the people. They brought me joy, but in a different way than football. Perhaps it came down to the way they made me think that the world was so much bigger than the living room I was standing in. Just outside the window, maybe not now, because it was February, and even though there wasn’t snow on the ground, there wasn’t much life moving around, but in the Spring, there would be, crickets chirping in the grass, living things mulling around.

The red-suited reporter cupped one ear while holding a microphone up to Simba’s face. The reporter asked, “Simba… Can you hear that? Can you hear that crowd?”

The camera cut to an aerial shot, which panned out far and wide. Everywhere in the stands, fans stood and roared and raised their clenched palms into the air, as if clawing at it. The sound was Big. One giant Lion Roar of a roar.

The camera focused back on Simba, and the reporter asked him another question, “How does it feel to be Simba, to be Superhuman? You threw for five touchdowns today, and you rushed for four more, most of which was accomplished in the second-half, during GAMETIME. A Super Bowl record 9 combined touchdowns in one game… How does it feel to be you? We all want to know.”

Simba took a big gulp and looked up at the confetti in the sky and said the following, “Honestly. Those numbers are just numbers. What happened today, that took every player on the field, on our team to make that happen, to lead us to a Super Bowl victory. 53-man roster and our trainers and our coaches and our families and our friends. Yes, and we needed every single one. This was a team effort.”

The reporter nodded and said, “Simba, is there anyone else you’d like to thank at this moment?” The reporter then winked at the camera. The reporter’s teeth were borderline disingenuous. They looked like frozen pillars of salt. Like styrofoam.

Simba said, “You knew this one was coming,” and then he raised the trophy up above his head and yelled into the microphone, “This is for you DEE-TROIT! This is for the best fanbase in the world. Wow. Wow! All those years! I’m one of you, and I know what this feels like. The fact that we can bring a trophy like this, to a city like ours, that, well, that means everything.”

And then Simba looked directly into the camera, directly at us, and he said, “This is for you!”

I lost feeling in my biceps. I had to massage my toes together. My bottom lip started to shake. I was excited and scared to cry. The uncontrollable blubber that it would be. But I did it. I weeped. I weeped while a drone camera traveled around the stadium to capture even more of the roar, from every available angle.

When things settled down the reporter lifted the mic up to Simba one more time and Simba said, “I have just a few more thanks to give out here. Thank you to my parents. Every game. Every practice. Every day of my life. Today’s win is our win. I love you. I love you so much. My agent. Everybody. The family. And then probably, most of all, I can’t leave this out, I have to thank God. God is the creator. I wouldn’t be here at all if it wasn’t for God. None of this would be happening, without God. So, thank you, God.”

My uncle said, “I can’t believe all those people there, going crazy! It’s like they’re all Lions fans… like us.” And then he walked over to the bar and poured three shots of whiskey.

My Grandpa said, “The 1955 game has nothing on this.” And then he dipped a chip into some dip.

And my dad laughed to himself, but not in a pleasant way. He laughed in more of a snarky way. I was surprised to hear that sound come from him, it was an ugly sound. And it was weird to hear in a moment like this, so I said to him, “Whoa… man. What’s up? Are you okay?”

He smiled and waved me off before saying, “It’s nothing… No, really. It’s nothing, buddy…”

And blue and silver light sketched itself across his face, across his palm as it led his meaty fingers through the air. Across his cardigan. His cozy-wear that he liked to put on for watching TV.

I said, “What? It sounds like something…”

He gave me a pensive look, and then relinquished. He said, “It’s just the God thing gets me every time. These guys are always thanking God. It’s just funny to me. Like, what kind of God do they believe in? Like, is God up in heaven making decisions about what’s going to happen in a football game? What kind of God is that? That’s borderline hilarious to me, personally, ludicrous even…”

I didn’t know what to say at first. I felt taken aback. I put my hand on top of the back of the soft, brown couch. I wanted to keep my composure. I didn’t want this to happen. I’m not even a religious person, but it felt off, him laughing like that, making his comment the way he did, so out of place among all of my other emotions, my joyful, purer emotions.

He could see my reaction, so he added, “See… never mind. I shouldn’t have said anything. I should have just kept my mouth shut…”

Once I gathered myself, my first inclination was to give it to him a little bit—to show him he was being shallow. I wanted to say: Dude… the Lions won the Goddamn Super Bowl. Why do you even care who Simba thanks? But I didn’t say that. Instead I reasoned. I said, “I don’t think it’s like that. It’s not like God showed up for this one game. You know, for him, for any athlete… maybe, it’s like God has shown up every day, made them believe in those millions of hours, all those practices and all the discipline that turned into good fortune and all that. And also, you don’t know where people are coming from, what they’ve struggled through, and what it now means to them to have this kind of security and success, in the face of it…”

But my dad didn’t look at me. He looked at the TV. Out of the corner of his mouth he said, “Yeah, I can see what you’re saying…”

It was such a dismissive response. Whatever.

So, I looked at the TV then, too.

It was a commercial break: For a limited time only: Available Now: Purchase a brand-new Detroit Lions Super Bowl Champion T-shirt. The image of a static t-shirt gyrated 360 degrees for a few seconds before it faded out.

And then the next one: Save Money on Car Insurance. And there was a clown driving a car, and the clown was distracted by a store that was for clown shoes, and then the clown drove straight into the bumper in front of him, the bumper from a car that was driven by a mime.

And then there was a last one.

This one we had seen previously, as it was shown during a break in the first quarter. All four of us had thought it rather entertaining when we first watched it. A guy walks out of a tall apartment in New York City or somewhere ritz like that with glass and stone and lights on the buildings. All of a sudden, it starts to rain. A few drops fall right on the guy’s head. He squints his eyes. He appears puzzled, so he sticks his tongue out to catch the next few drops. He squints harder. He says to himself: “Oh my God, Is it?” And then he says, “Yes. Yes it is!” Here, he begins running around in circles while shouting and hooting to everyone around him. He yells: It’s raining beer! It’s raining beer, everyone! It’s raining Bud Lite! Next, there is a camera shot of everyone in the middle of the street sipping on a cold, frosty pint of Bud Lite while the beer drizzles down the side of the glass elegantly, a beautiful, bubbly sweat.

In the first rendition of the commercial there had been several scenes that worked as a montage of how the raining of beer would have played out in the world, if the raining beer did not stop that night, but continued: all silly parodies of semi-famous historical moments that definitely made the commercial worth seeing that first time. But this time, in the end, it is the cut version, the post-game version, and it jumps to the last scene.

A man is gazing out at an ocean of beer from a wooden ark, his face an emblem of deep consternation. His robe blows in the wind, and a collage of clouds reflects in his eyes. He stares for five seconds before shaking his head, turning around and walking inside of the ark. Once inside, the camera shows a whole room full of animals, all sitting in La-Z-Boys, all, apparently, awaiting his return. He surveys the animals and says, with resignation, “It’s still coming down…”

The joke is that you think they’ll be upset, all of the animals, because of the endless beer, because, perhaps, their homes are gone, life, as they knew it, in all its distinctive pleasure, has ceased, but instead the animals erupt in celebration. They are all smiling and drinking.

The next and last shot of the commercial is of a polar bear and a lion holding their beers up to each other, the frost the same ghost as it ever was, and the last sound heard in the commercial is the clink that their glasses make when they touch.

I cheersed then my shot of whiskey with my family.

And I felt a deep sense of love looking into the eyes of my father, and my uncle, and my grandpa.

It was so good to be alive and to celebrate this glorious day.

The day the Lions won the Super Bowl.



About the Author

Elijah Sparkman is a writer based in Detroit. He has work published by or forthcoming with CHEAP POP, BULL, and Edge Effects. He is a Memoir Reader for Split Lip Magazine, and is the Literary Editor for Clearline, an environmental fashion magazine. Instagram: elijahsparkman20


Image by Herbert Aust from Pixabay