My dad did the same thing to me with the Jets: got me hooked early on a losing team.” I laughed and said, “Yeah, my dad’s to blame, too.” It’s a fine fatherly tradition, passing your favorite teams down to your children, but it’s not always the nicest thing to do, especially if one of those teams is the Detroit Lions, who haven’t won a championship since 1957—yes, sixty years—and, in all that time, have emerged victorious in only one playoff game.
Generally, as a father, you do everything in your power to keep your child from suffering: Why would you willingly impart your love for a team like the Lions, who seem bound, above all, to break your heart?
When it came to my dad’s passion for Detroit he never had a choice, and neither, really, did I—after all, he himself had played for them, joining the squad as “last-string quarterback” to write about the experience in what would become the book “Paper Lion.” My sisters and I never had much of a choice with any of our other teams, either—whomever my dad had played for and written about, they were it—and, as a result of his participatory adventures, George Plimpton basically had all the sports covered: hockey with the Boston Bruins, basketball with the Celtics.
It was always thrilling to huddle with my dad in front of the TV in his cluttered office and see the Celtics win a championship, or the Bruins, but somehow it was his team that never seemed to win—“those poor old Lions,” as my father referred to them—that bonded us closest together.
In part, I’m sure, it was all those Thanksgiving games: the great relief of excusing ourselves from dry turkey and stuffy conversation to relax for a moment together and watch our favorite team do battle, even if the chances were strong that our team was losing that battle badly.
My dad would have been crushed, of course, if I had chosen to follow a ball club other than one of his own, but, like any good father, he would have supported it.