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Lions not making fans in peninsula

June 26, 2011
MATT?WELLENS (mwellens@miningjournal.net) , The Mining Journal

Chris Fritzsching has one of the cooler jobs in football, one that many coaches across the country wouldn't mind holding.

Fritzsching is the director of youth football programs for the Detroit Lions. This summer, it's Fritzsching's job to travel across the state of Michigan holding youth football camps for boys and girls ages 6-14.

While many in the Lions' organization are benched due to the ongoing NFL labor dispute between the owners and players, Fritzsching still gets to take the field teaching the fundamentals of the game, though its with guys like former University of Michigan and Miami Dolphins wide receiver Ron Bellamy and former Lions linebacker Richard Jordan instead of current players like defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh or quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Article Photos

MATT?WELLENS

Still, the kids don't mind - especially those who got to go where Suh and Stafford couldn't on Tuesday when the camp was held on Ford Field.

"This is so much fun," said 12-year-old Jordan Higgs of West Bloomfield to Associated Press writer Larry Lage.

As I read the article and prepared to slot it onto the page of Wednesday's paper, I thought to myself, 'This does sound fun. I seem to remember the Lions would be holding a camp in the Upper Peninsula, too. "

Sure enough, my memory served me correctly when I read more into the story and saw St. Ignace on the list for Saturday and today.

My heart dropped knowing there was no money and little reason for anyone from the Mining Journal sports staff to visit St. Ignace to cover a Lions' youth camp, however.

Then, a smile was soon put back on my face by Fritzsching in the next paragraph, though my laughter wasn't because the Lions were venturing out to the Eastern U.P.

"We want to teach them character traits of the game, such as goal-setting, accountability and passion," Fritzsching said to the AP. "And, we're going up to the U.P. to convert some Packers' and Bear's fans into Lions' fans."

Whoops. Mr. Fritzsching probably should have just stopped at "passion," because what he said after "And" was just plain stupid.

First off, I don't think the Lions have to worry about too many Bears' fans in the U.P. after Jay Cutler quit in the NFC Championship.

Second, if the Lions hope to win over Packers' fans in the U.P., they'll need to at least leave the shadow of the Mackinac Bridge. Those people are already Lions' fans.

It's the people in Marquette, Menominee, Iron Mountain, Kingsford and Houghton the Lions should be visiting if they hope to win over some new supporters.

The truth is, unless you're from downstate, its tough to connect with professional sports teams who are more than 400 miles away, especially when there's another team only within a throw of Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers that is collecting bling.

It can be done, though, as the city's three other professional sports teams rule the U.P., despite teams in Milwaukee and even Minneapolis being much closer.

Winning does help the Red Wings', Tigers' and Pistons' cause, obviously. Even in Wisconsin, there isn't much love for the Brewers and Bucks, who have had as much success as the state's non-existent NHL team.

On the field, the Lions appear to be on the right track with their recent success in the NFL draft.

Detroit may even be the second best team in the NFC North right now and don't be surprised if they top the Packers in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.

A Turkey Day victory over the reigning Super Bowl champions and a few winning seasons won't be enough, however.

The Lions need to show the rest of the U.P. - not just St. Ignace - that it matters to the franchise like the Packers showed this spring.

The estimated 5,200 fans that packed the Superior Dome for the Packers' Tailgate Tour should have been a wake-up call to the Lions' front office, but it obviously was not.

If the Lions hope to control their very own state like their professional counterparts, I advise they pay the rest of the U.P. a visit sometime.

Until then, we'll keep wearing green and gold and all that silver and blue can remain downstate.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is mwellens@miningjournal.net.

 
 

 

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