In the Super Bowl era, as in the last 50 years, few would doubt the Green Bay Packers have, for the most part, been the class of the NFC Central, and now Northern division. They've won several Super Bowls along the way, while their competition has come up sorely lacking.
True, the Tampa Bay Bucs of the old Central division captured one. As did the fearsome Chicago Bears in the mid 80s. The Minnesota Vikings have made it to four Super Bowls, but came up short in the big game every time.
At the bottom of the barrel resides the Detroit Lions. They are one of only four teams to never have even made it to the ultimate game, let alone winning it. The other three are Jacksonville, Houston, and the "new" Cleveland Browns -- all expansion teams. Don't forget the "old" Cleveland Browns became the Baltimore Ravens and indeed won a couple Super Bowls. The Lions continue to flounder.
Yet a half century has passed and the Lions appear to be no closer to getting to a Super Bowl than they ever have. Over the course of all that time, they've won a grand total of ONE playoff game.
Former receiver supreme Calvin "Megatron" Johnson toiled away for a decade in Detroit and never experienced a single playoff victory. Is it any wonder he retired with his body and mind still semi-intact? A couple decades ago, Hall of Famer Barry Sanders did much the same thing. Had he stuck around while still in his prime, Sanders likely would have put the all-time NFL rushing record so far out of sight it would never be approached again. But Sanders had had enough of the losing ways. A sorry testament to the Lions organization indeed.
But despite their divisional superiority over the years, the Packers pose quite the enigma. They are a team "owned" by the fans, instead of a billionaire somewhere. Being a "small market" team, and with nothing else of note sports-wise going on in Cheeserland, the waiting line to get season tickets is long indeed. Let's just say that don't have any worries about not selling out a game any time soon.
At that, it is said these thousands of "owners" can buy in, but they can't sell. It's somewhat reminiscent of the old Eagles tune Hotel California. You can check in but never leave. Perhaps a bit scary in that regard, but the Green Bay faithful don't seem to have any problem with it.
Nevertheless, it poses an interesting question. If the collective fans own the team, then who, pray tell, gets to decide who the president, general manager, and other front office personnel are? Do they have annual town hall meetings with all the "share-holders" showing up to vote on such things? And if so, how do they weigh the votes if one person holds more "shares" than the next, which is inevitable in any business enterprise? Nobody seems to know, or at least aren't willing to talk about it.
Very strange, but it seems to work.
This year the Packers are highly favored to win the division title once again. Who's going to stop them? The Bears were bad enough during the Jay Cutler era. Now even he's gone. Superstar running back Adrian Peterson has scrammed from the Vikings and their maybe/maybe not quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is coming off a serious injury. They would project to be average at best in the upcoming season.
The Lions, the epitome of the little engine that "couldn't", remain in a state of disarray. Sure, they and their snake oil peddling media will continue to hype them, because that's what they've always done. What's truly amazing is the legions of suckers in Detroit that keep buying into the same scam year, after year, after year. By God, they love their puddy-tats. In most other cities fans would have been screaming bloody murder and boycotted such a sad sack franchise eons ago. Only in Detroit could they remain optimistic. Poor misguided souls. They knoweth not, and evidently never will. Clueless.
Let's not forget the last time the Lions were relevant happened way back in the Eisenhower administration. The late 50s. Leave It To Beaver was fairly new, as was I Love Lucy. Color TV was still on the drawing board. The ill-fated Edsel, ironically enough another Ford product, was about to make its debut. The NHL was still the "original six", and the NBA had a whopping nine teams -- exactly one -- the Lakers -- west of the Mississippi. Medical procedures were barbaric by today's standards and politicians were, for the most part, honest and forthcoming. Imagine that. Hard to believe -- I know -- but it really did happen once upon a time.
A lot of things have changed since then, and mostly for the better. Progress on several different fronts can be considered as no less than truly remarkable.
But the Packers are still the class of the NFC Northern Division, despite their head-scratching management decision making process.
The Bears and Vikings may have good games here and there but likely pose little threat to get back to a Super bowl any year soon.
The Lions remain -- well -- the Lions. Watch their faithful scream with delight when they win a few games. Then watch the same have to swallow the inevitable bitter pill of disappointment when they come up short -- again -- in the end.
And sure as it gets dark at night, you just know it's going to happen.
Some things are just destined to remain the same......