When Lions coach Jim Schwartz attended a Red Wings playoff game recently, something struck him as he sat in the upper reaches of Joe Louis Arena. At about eye level were the Wings' 11 Stanley Cup banners.
"To see all those banners and know the consistency that you have to play with to do that year in and year out, that's what we all aspire to," Schwartz said. "You don't aspire to seeing one lonely banner hanging up and then a lot of flags and stuff like that."
Well, one lonely banner would be a start for the Lions. They have never appeared in the Super Bowl. They have won four NFL titles, but only one playoff game since the 1957 championship.
The Lions, coming off the first 0-16 season in NFL history, are the only losers in Detroit sports. Every other pro team has won or played for a championship in recent history (and Michigan State just made the NCAA men's basketball title game at the Lions' home, Ford Field).
The Tigers went to the World Series in 2006.
The Pistons' streak of six straight Eastern Conference finals just snapped. They won the NBA title in '04 and went back to the finals in '05.
Then there are the Wings. They have won more NHL championships than any other American franchise -- four since 1997. They will win yet another if they beat the Penguins in this year's Stanley Cup finals.
"I think the thing you take most away is that consistency of high standard of excellence," Schwartz said. "You can't help but be impressed."
The Wings like to call Detroit "Hockeytown." But as much as Detroiters have a passion for hockey, they might have an even greater passion for football. If the Lions ever win the Super Bowl, after all their years of futility, the city would explode in celebration.
Schwartz heard all about it at the Wings game. He was not anonymous.
"I thought I'd dress in jeans and a T-shirt and if I didn't wear my Lions pullover that I'd be OK, but obviously not," said Schwartz, who bought a Wings T-shirt. "But that's cool. ...
"People are very enthusiastic. You can't help but be this time of year. It's like, 'Coach, we're behind you, we love you, whatever.' I say, 'Look, make sure you're saying that six months from now.' "