Column: Glorious Ford Field Should Have Additions

Artists' Rendering of Ford Field

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Joey Lafferty -

Ford Field, by all accounts, will be a state-of-the-art NFL stadium.

If the end result of current construction is anything like the computer generated renditions seen all of the Internet and on television, then future undertakings by other sports franchises to erect new homes will have a very high standard with which to compete. The Detroit Lions of 2002 and beyond will play their home games encases in a shrine worthy of the sport's best. Ford Field will be revolutionary. Grand. Sleek. Worthy of widespread acclaim. A recent Lions pregame report showcased the new stadium, noting that Lions' games will now be the spectacle of all spectacles when it comes to Motor City Sundays in the fall. No longer drawing city residents out twenty some odd miles to Pontiac, the Lions will now play in the city they have always been named to represent... Detroit. So now Detroit, a proud city striving to make current talks of revival into a reality, will have at its heart this fabulous palace. A symbol of sorts. The problem, you see, is that the organization for which this centerpiece is being constructed is the Detroit Lions. While Lions fans certainly look forward to adopting Ford Field, a more homely 65,000 seater relative to the bloated, difficult to fill Silverdome, we must admit this is a team whose history doesn't quite evoke the sparkling adjectives used to describe Ford Field. Thus, I feel it is my duty as a Lions' fan to suggest some ways to make the new dome as exciting as possible, while keeping true to the history and spirit of our beloved Lions.

Other new NFL stadiums that have opened in the past few years have made sure to combine modern conveniences with reminders of the past. Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, for example, showcases oversized models of the four Lombardi trophies won while the Steelers occupied Three Rivers Stadium. A wise move, no doubt, never allowing disgruntled fans to forget past franchise successes. Nothing to keep 'em putting up with potential poor future seasons than reminding them of the good ol' glory days. I propose that the Lions swipe this fine idea, although using it to maintain a happy fan base in a slightly different way. Anyone who has gone to any sports event knows the aggravation of finally getting into the venue, only to be kept from reaching your seats because of the mob of people crowded just beyond the gates. This is often because someone calling the shots has decided it would be a good idea to greet incoming fans with paraphernalia stands and concessions the moment they make their way in. Not at Ford Field. No, no. The corridor that will await Lions' fans as they enter through the wonderful glass doors will be known as Layne Lane, the name a quick reminder of the last time the franchise enjoyed any form of success. However, as a symbol of the scant overall success of the organization, Layne Lane will be one huge, empty hall. Yes, wide and empty corridors, bare walls. Fans won't be tempted to pause, take a trip down memory lane, or get sentimental in any way. Besides, when Lions' fans do that, tears and flashbacks generally follow. Instead, Layne Lane will allow fans to get through the turnstiles and to their seats without interruption. Concessions will be located elsewhere throughout the stadium, but not here... because this corridor represents the history of the Lions. Cold, bare, and empty.

Ah, but everyone has heard that Ford Field will be a place loaded with festivity. Sunday football games surrounded by entertainment in many forms. Don't worry, there will be plenty to do at my version of Ford Field, all forms of fun invariably linked to team history. If you take a right after entering the front doors, take a left coming out of Layne Lane, you'll enter a theme park of sorts. One attraction, "Fontes' Fun House," offers a variety of rides for the entire family. The favorite, I expect, would be "Wiley Wayne's Golf Cart Adventure." Here, the entire family can make figure eights (there are space considerations, mind you) in golf carts used by the legend himself. Cigars are provided, and paying customers who successfully navigate the small course within specific time limits can actually win millions of dollars in prizes. A bit excessive a prize for doing very little than steering around a golf cart, but let's face it: Fontes earned the same for doing little else. Furthermore, if someone can actually prove to William Ford that a debilitating back injury really can be sustained while driving a golf cart, he agrees to pay Fontes' compensation demands. All x-rays paid for by the tax payers, of course.

Also in the theme park section of Ford Field, the oldest living Lions' fan (57 years old, records show... hey it ain't easy being a Lions' fan) will run a game similar to one often seen at real theme parks and carnivals. Instead of "guess your weight," however, this one is called "guess how many years you've been a Lion fan." You see, he's lived it, he knows when the wrinkles and gray hairs start appearing, and damn it if he can't see the despair in your eyes. The closer he comes to guessing your actual years of Leo-supporting, the more you pay for next season's season ticket. Hey, I know it's supposed to be fun (not price gouging), but you don't think the Fords are going to put up this kind of show and get nothing back, do you? Oh, and if you actually like the "guess your weight" game, don't fret. There will actually be a chance for fans to play the role of the guesser, as at another game booth you are shown random shots of Scott Mitchell throughout his tenure as Lions quarterback. If, after being shown three different pictures, your guesses are within a total of ten total pounds of Scottie's weight in the three photos, you win an actual, game worn Scott Mitchell jersey. You see, it turns out Mitchell's jersey size increased each and every week, sometimes during games after a hefty half-time smorgasbord, so they have more than enough to go around. If and when they do run out, there are plenty of now useless Aaron Gibson and Stockar McDougle jerseys laying around to keeping fans happy.

Finally, another favorite is sure to be the "Ross Toss" station. Here, you pay five dollars, and for your money you get the chance to put on a Lions hat- Ross style (placed on crooked and bill straight as a board)- with the oversized, ridiculous looking headset worn by Ross on the sidelines every Sunday on top of it. You are then shown, in a makeshift replay booth, various Lions penalties that took place during Ross' tenure (rumor has it that there are enough of those to actually maintain the "Ross Toss" game for decades without showing a repeat). When enough steam builds, you get to take off the headset and slam it onto the ground with as much force as you can muster. A weak effort earns you the right to be scolded by Ross via an overhead PA system with one of his many insults, most notably "That's IM-BAR-SING!" Get it right, which only occurs when you break the headset, and you earn cash! You must by now be thinking: "All this money, both from the Fontes and Ross games? No way with the Fords running the show." Don't worry, any money earned must be deposited at the cashier's counter that leads you out of the theme park and into the seating area. The sign over the register reads "Donate here to put Deion on Layaway." If you don't know what this means, you're not a Lion fan.

The emptiness of Layne Lane is replaced with a few relics as those turning left into the stadium and veering right out of Layne Lane enter the "Detroit Lions Hall of Fame." Because, when leaving, Barry Sanders took each and every shred of physical evidence that proves he was once a Detroit Lion, the only things available to help celebrate the history of the greatest player in the history of the franchise are looped copies of his post-career commercials. Any thoughts of playing video of Sanders' greatest runs would be immediately halted, Sanders most assuredly suing for defamation of character, claiming he has been blackballed from many potential acting gigs because of this linkage to such a sad franchise. As a result, we will get to see, over and over, Barry doing his best Pachino (well, closer to Keanu Reeves) while plugging Coors beer and investment firms. Other than that, there isn't much to use in filling a Hall of Fame, so instead we would have memorabilia commemorating the successes of Lions' players elsewhere during their careers. Perhaps Robert Bailey could loan our Hall one of his Super Bowl rings from the Dallas or Baltimore days (hey, maybe we could have an essay writing contest explaining why Bailey seems to win a Super Bowl everywhere he goes except Detroit). We could celebrate Lomas Brown's fabulous year with the Giants, the Crockett years in Denver, Don Shula's career coaching wins mark. If you're a Lion fan, you know the endless list. A little depressing, I know, but you can't fill a Hall of Fame and not put something in there.

Finally, on the back side of Ford Field, opposite of Layne Lane, will be a timeline museum of sorts. Here, instead of diagrams detailing the ascent of man, or the history of America, will be a chronological history of the Barry Sanders' years titled "101 Ways to Piss of Barry Sanders." Here, Lions' fans would start at the year 1989, traveling down a corridor filled with photographs, audio and video clips (none actually showing Sanders himself, of course, because of said lawsuit potential) detailing the many ways management went out of its' way to run off its' biggest star. Everything from the unsigned linemen to Ross' bland offense and demands to "only run north and south" would be documented and detailed. Who knows, if we can convince Millen and Mornhinweg to join us in making this trek through the Barry experience, they could learn from history and discover how to treat good players (after the James Jones situation, it looks as though they really need it).

Well, there you have it, an entertaining, history respecting Ford Field. Who says you can't have it all? Ford Field, unless something goes terribly wrong between now and August 2002, is going to be the NFL stadium for years to come. However, Lions' fans shouldn't allow management to ignore, or worse, distort, history when constructing the new dome. Make it nice, but for the love of mediocre football, keep it honest! Either way, we'll be there, but I for one would enjoy it much more it is historically correct. Then again, I'd trade it all for a decent team!

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