What's the difference? One team plays football and the other baseball. One has a fairly new stadium and the other continues to play at a facility well over 100 years old. But there are many more similarities.
Both cities were once thriving metropolises. Business boomed, tourists flocked to their attractions, and being downtown at night was where it was at. The money poured in and everybody was happy. But over time it all went poof. Businesses couldn't get out of town fast enough (along with thousands of law-abiding fearful citizens), no tourist in their right mind would visit either place, and wandering around after dark outside of the few "protected" areas could be life threatening. This is what happens when political corruption and incompetence is allowed to run rampant for years. Gangs, murders, drugs, robberies, muggings, carjackings, blight, you name it. Add it all up and it's not a pretty sight. Detroit even went officially bankrupt. Who would have thought that could ever happen just a couple decades ago? Besides having the Big Three American auto companies in their back yard, Detroit even controlled the water supply for a large portion of southeastern Michigan coming off the Detroit river. Millions of gallons were pumped out, and millions of dollars came back from consumers. How can you screw all that up? But they did.
The Detroit Lions are one of only 4 NFL teams to have never even made it to the Super Bowl, let alone win it. Though the Lions have been around since the infancy of the NFL, the other 3 are expansion teams. The "new" Cleveland Browns (the former Browns moved to Baltimore and have since won the Super Bowl), the Houston Texans, and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Lions last won something of note way back in 1957, fittingly enough the very same year Ford's ill-fated Edsel made its debut -- and a decade before the first Super Bowl was played. They've been a lemon ever since. Going on sixty -- count em -- 60 years of futility.
But that pales in comparison to the Chicago Cubs. They haven't won a World Series since 1908. Four years before the Titanic went down. It seems like such a long time ago and my memories are vague. I was only a little boy not far removed from the bottle. But you could check with my editor. I think he was a cub reporter at the time.
In the interim both cities have won other championships. The Detroit Tigers won a couple World Series', though their last one was in 1984 -- thirty years ago. The Red Wings have won several Stanley Cups. The Pistons won three NBA titles over the years.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls were killing everybody during the Michael Jordan era. Six titles, I believe. The Black Hawks are no stranger to Lord Stanley's Cup. Besides being the reigning champs, they've won 3 out of the last 6.
But the biggest difference between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Cubs comes with expectations. In Detroit, the gullible fans always think next year will be the one. It never is. This madness is fueled by their hyper-koolaided media peddling the snake oil to the legions of suckers that buy into it year, after year, after year, after year. You'd think they'd learn eventually. They never do. At the dawn of training camp the usual Pollyannas are telling their readers and listeners how great the Lions will be this year -- again. They look for their beloved puddy-tats to improve on their 11-5 record of last year. It ain't gonna happen. Their offensive line is brand new, the secondary unsettled at best, they lost their two best pass rushers, have one rookie running back and another coming off an injury (who wasn't that good in the first place), and a much tougher schedule. Yes, Matthew Stafford will get his passing yards and Calvin Johnson will continue to take a beating catching a lot of them in double and triple coverage. An amazing guy, that Megatron. Here's hoping he can still walk, talk, and think straight when he's 40. Better than 11-5? They'll be lucky to go 8-8.
On the other hand, Chicago Cubs fans have long since known better. Sure, they continue to love their team and root, root, root for them to win every game. But unlike the Lions lemmings a few hours east on I-94, they have come to grips with the reality that their team is destined to be a perennial also-ran. And that's OK with them. The Cubbie faithful are content just going out to Ye Olde Wrigley Field and watching their loveable losers. No high expectations, because they understand their team doesn't have a prayer of winning a title. They get it. Lions fans don't. They remain in their delusional world of grandeur.
Maybe that's why nobody really mocks the Cubs. They're just the long-time loveable losers. But over the years the Lions have been cannon fodder for many comedians. That's because they and their media keep trying to portray them as contenders every year when everybody else knows full well they are not. The sarcastic backlash when they inevitably crash and burn is to be expected. Throw in a parade of clown coaches, 8 years of the incredibly inept Matt Millen running the franchise, and a boy named Suh that became a serial stomper, and punch lines should come as no surprise.
Even this year the Cubs are very much in the wild-card hunt for a National League playoff berth. But in their own division they're nowhere near as good as the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Lions may or may not be in the hunt for a wild-card berth come January. But they're nowhere near as good as the Green Bay Packers in their own division as well.
Neither team is championship caliber, and hasn't been since forever.
But the north-siders in Chitown get it. They don't expect to go to a World Series.
Yet the ever-sappy Lions fans will remain convinced -- again -- that this is their year. Right up until the last play of their last game proves it's not -- again. And then they'll either say they got robbed or reflect back on a bunch of coulda, woulda, shoulda moments over the season.
A quote generally attributed to showman P. T. Barnum (though not technically accurate) hit it right on the head way back in the 1880s. There's a sucker born every minute.
More so in some towns than others.........