Recap - Lions 20, Bears 10
It’s getting down to the end of the football season and there are only 3 stadium visits left for me in 2018.
We are well into the Christmas holiday season and the temps are dropping every day, so it makes sense that I would take a trip this time of year to one of the coldest parts of the country to attend football games. That was sarcasm. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I booked this trip for December. But at least one of the stadiums is indoors!
An early morning flight from Newark got me into Detroit around 9:45. This is my second trip to the Motor City since 2015. I checked into my hotel around 10:30. The Detroit Foundation Hotel was really unique – it is a converted old firehouse with a wonderful bar/restaurant called The Apparatus Room.
There’s really not a lot to do walking around the streets of Detroit in freezing weather with the ground covered in snow and I really didn’t have enough time before the game to head out anywhere – so I got a coffee and walked over to the COBO center for a while. I headed over to Ford Field around 2:30 for the Saturday 4 PM start. Getting in and around downtown by car can be a bit of a chore at times. Taking the Detroit People Mover is an option if you are too far to walk and don’t want to drive.
On my walk to the stadium I passed Comerica Park – home of the Tigers. It was kind of surreal and a little depressing to see the field empty and covered in snow and all of the statues in the outfield with icicles hanging off of them. Being in the heart of downtown off Brush Street, there isn’t a lot of maneuverability around the stadium for such a large crowd, but the lines through security and the gates weren't terribly slow. The downtown location and lack of open parking makes tailgating before Lions games fairly sparse. There are a number of pre and post-game options for grabbing a bite or a drink in particular the Detroit Beer Company and the Hockeytown Cafe.
Once inside the stadium, it was a lot more comfortable and warm than it was on line.
The main concourse is a massive meeting place with easy access to the seating area and all of the concessions and shops. There were live bands playing in parts of the concourse pre-game as well as photo ops with team mascot Roary the Lion as well as the Lions Cheerleaders.
(Here is a video from a game in 2011 when Roary took out Chiefs all pro back Jamal Charles in game 2 of the season resulting in a torn ACL and Charles missing the rest of the season)
A really nice feature of the stadium is the incorporation of the old Hudson’s Department Store Warehouse. Hudson's was a prominent department store chain in Detroit for decades and their flagship store was built on Woodward Ave in 1920. With the decline of Detroit as a city in the '70s and '80s came the decline of Hudson's and the eventual folding of the business. Most of the building was torn down except for the warehouse which was incorporated into Ford Field and now serves as office space, luxury suites, the press box, restaurants and lounge areas.
Another nice feature is the Lions “ring of honor” which commemorates the former great players.
The Lions are one of the longest running teams in the NFL. They were founded in 1930 and have been playing their home games in Ford Field since 2002. The Lions are part of the brutal NFC North division with the old school, smash mouth Packers and Bears. These three teams have been pounding the crap out of each other for over 75 years! A tradition in Detroit since 1934 has been the annual Thanksgiving Day game. Football has become almost a big a part of Thanksgiving tradition in the US as turkey! So, there is a lot of history and many great players who have earned their spot in this ring of honor including Barry Sanders, Alex Wojciechowicz, Bobby Layne, Doak Walker, Joe Schmidt, Jack Christiansen, “Night Train” Lane and Yale Larry.
Being one of the early legacy NFL franchises, the Lions have and 'old-timey' traditional fight song called Gridiron Heroes that gets played every game with many of the fans singing along.
The lower level concourse is laid out almost like a city street with lots of interesting ‘store fronts’ for the food concessions, merchandise stands and interesting art work and displays. In the main rotunda, Ford cars were on display as well as a really impressive huge silver and blue Christmas tree.
The food offerings at Ford Field are the best I've seen so far outside of Atlanta. There are many local Detroit favorites with concession stands throughout the concourse. The Michigan Craft Beer House has lots of great regional beers on tap including Lake Brothers and Old Nation. Slow's BBQ and Mercury Burger Bar are among Detroit's favorites. If you're into Mediterranean food, La Shish has you coveted with shawarma, falafel sandwich and tabouli. The best may be Hopcat with a huge beer selection and insanely good crack fries.
The Lions offenese looked strong under the steady hand of QB Matthew Stafford who threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to TJ Jones with 6:10 left in the first half after the Bears chose to punt on fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 45. He threw an 8-yard pass to Eric Ebron for a 20-3 lead early in the third quarter after Darius Slay's first of two interceptions in the game. On the day, Stafford was 25 of 33 for 237 yards with no interceptions.
Bear QB Mitchell Trubisky threw a 9-yard TD pass to Benny Cunningham to make it 20-10 with 2:32 left. The Bears got the ball back 25 seconds later on their 6 and moved the ball to the Detroit 25 before Slay's second interception ended their comeback hopes. The Bears have lost six of seven, sealing a third season with double-digit losses. The Lions improved their record to 8-6 keeping their wildcard hopes alive.
After the game, I headed up Woodward Ave which, being a holiday season Saturday night , was jumping with people, some decked out and others more casually dressed. Most of the bars and restaurants were packed. I walked up to Campus Martius Park which was adorned for the holidays with a beautiful Christmas tree, Christmas music playing over loud speakers, a pop-up beer garden and an ice skating rink. Even though the lines were long, I felt compelled to skate. The scene was really fun and festive. This trip was such a contrast to my last time here in Detroit. After skating, on the way back to my hotel, I stopped at the Spirit of Detroit statue and tried out the ice maze they had set up across the street.
Tomorrow, for the 2nd time in 3 years, I am taking an early AM Greyhound bus from Detroit to Cleveland. That’s exactly two times more than I would suggest anyone do that in their lifetime.
Fans - B - Maybe because it was a Saturday game and most folks didn't have work the next day, or maybe since many fans were in the Christmas spirit, they were much more friendly and outgoing that I would expect from Detroit fans
Features - B+ - Nice main concourse, Great layout of all the stores and concessions, Nice displays of Lions history
Location - A - Right off all the action on Woodward Avenue , right near Comerica park - Well lit, active and safe
Food - A - Lots of great quality options for food & beer
Game - C - Bears played sloppy - hung in there but the Lions were much better. Not a lot of drama or great plays
Overall Experience - B+ - Really nice place to watch a game. Nice and cozy inside the dome despite the cold and snow outside.