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In 'South Detroit,' Lions fans old and new rally behind team

Windsor city councillors celebrate raising the Detroit Lions flag at Windsor City Hall on Jan. 18, 2024. (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)
Windsor city councillors celebrate raising the Detroit Lions flag at Windsor City Hall on Jan. 18, 2024. (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)

You don't have to be a football fan to appreciate how the recent success of the Detroit Lions is having a positive impact on Windsor.

With the once-derided Lions playing a second NFL playoff game Sunday for the first time in a generation, Windsor is eager to join the pride.

"We're not Detroit — we're South Detroit. We're showing our brothers and sisters over the border that we're supporting them. There's a lot of Lions fans here," remarked Ward 3 Coun. Renaldo Agostino at a special raising of a Detroit Lions flag at Windsor city hall on Thursday.

"The only thing we're all united on," Agostino exclaimed. "This is football country... This is a unique time for us, and we better be on board."

Chris MacLeod, chair of the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association, gestures in support of the Detroit Lions during a Zoom interview.
Chris MacLeod, chair of the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association, gestures in support of the Detroit Lions during a Zoom interview.

Chris MacLeod, chair of the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association, gestures in support of the Detroit Lions during a Zoom interview. (CBC News)

The event was described as a "salute to our neighbours to the north," and attracted other city councillors: Angelo Marignani, Kieran McKenzie, Ed Sleiman, and Jim Morrison — who dressed for the occasion in branded Lions clothing.

"As you can see, I am a Lions fan. I've been going for a lot of years to the Lions games," Morrison said. "I was dreaming that maybe this would happen in my lifetime. And here it is! It's happening."

"You know, what's really great is how this is bringing Detroit and Windsor together, and we're not thinking of all the bad things that are happening everywhere."

The upcoming battle against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field at 3 p.m. Sunday represents the end of a long streak of football futility: The last time the Lions had a game in the second round of the playoffs was 32 years ago.

Kyle Reid, manager of Lefty's on the O in downtown Windsor, shows his support for the Detroit Lions.
Kyle Reid, manager of Lefty's on the O in downtown Windsor, shows his support for the Detroit Lions.

Kyle Reid, manager of Lefty's on the O in downtown Windsor, shows his support for the Detroit Lions. (Michael Evans/CBC)

Chris MacLeod, chair of the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association, described the upcoming game as "history in the making for our U.S. neighbour," as well as "a catalyst for downtown and regional economic vitality."

"We're excited to welcome visitors and fans to Downtown Windsor. This surge in economic activity will be a testament to our two-nation destination and the strong cross-border relationship between Detroit and Windsor," MacLeod enthused in a news release from the DWBIA.

MacLeod noted that many Windsor businesses have extended their hours and staffing in anticipation of more customers on Sunday.

As for MacLeod's personal fandom, he admitted to CBC News that he's a "bandwagoner" — he'll cheer for the Lions, but he doesn't follow the team and didn't watch their victory against the Los Angeles Rams last weekend.

"I think it's great when we see success with the underdog, right? You know, Detroit's got a long history of struggling. I think we kind of see ourselves... It's fun to get on board when they're doing well, and be a part of the excitement."

The flag of the Detroit Lions flies at Windsor City Hall on Jan. 18, 2024.
The flag of the Detroit Lions flies at Windsor City Hall on Jan. 18, 2024.

The flag of the Detroit Lions flies at Windsor City Hall on Jan. 18, 2024. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Kyle Reid, manager of Lefty's on the O, said he thinks the Buccaneers will emerge victorious on Sunday — but he's still happy to throw his support behind the Lions.

"You see the traffic. You see the jerseys. (The fans) come out to Lefty's. They go to the Loose Goose. There's a couple places downtown that are great to watch games."

Reid said he doesn't consider himself "a big football fan," but it's hard to turn away from what the Lions have done this year. "You want to call me a bandwagoner? Absolutely... Go Lions!"

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 14: Detroit Lions fans react during the first half against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs at Ford Field on January 14, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 14: Detroit Lions fans react during the first half against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs at Ford Field on January 14, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 14: Detroit Lions fans react during the first half against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs at Ford Field on January 14, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

"This Sunday is gonna be big," promised the Thirsty Butler in Walkerville, where the restaurant is offering drink and food specials on game day.

Meanwhile, in Windsor's east end, Average Joe's Sports Bar declared: "Let's be real. It's all about football... Let's get loud and have a great time."

But there's a reason other than cheap chicken wings why you might want to patronize Windsor establishments on Sunday, instead of trying to cross the border towitness the game in person — exorbitant ticket prices.

With one playoff win, the cost of a seat at Ford Field has exploded. Detroit Lions tickets that once averaged in price at $123 (according to TicketSmarter.com) are now starting in the range of $500 to $600 (according to Ticketmaster.com).

And with Sunday's game being a ripe opportunity for scalpers, unofficial ticket prices in the four figures are not unusual.

Windsor resident John Foot pauses in the middle of a haircut to share his thoughts about the Detroit Lions.
Windsor resident John Foot pauses in the middle of a haircut to share his thoughts about the Detroit Lions.

Windsor resident John Foot pauses in the middle of a haircut to share his thoughts about the Detroit Lions. (Michael Evans/CBC)

"I've seen people trying to get tickets — putting posts on Facebook, that kind of thing," MacLeod said.

"You know, the DWBIA just recently ran a Taylor Swift ticket promotion downtown, before Christmas. And look at what Taylor Swift tickets are going for! I think these (ticket prices) are the ultimate in supply and demand... If you have something that's in short supply, then the market will tell you what it's worth."

Jan 14, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (97) celebrates after a 2024 NFC wild card game against the Los Angeles Rams at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 14, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (97) celebrates after a 2024 NFC wild card game against the Los Angeles Rams at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 14, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (97) celebrates after a 2024 NFC wild card game against the Los Angeles Rams at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports (Lon Horwedel/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters Connect)

Windsor resident John Foot said he has never watched a full Lions game in his life, and has "no particular interest" in the team's success.

But even Foot thinks he'll be tuning in on Sunday to catch the end of the big game. "I think it's great so many people in Windsor are fans, and it has come to this."

"I think it's lovely for the city. The bars are going to be full. the restaurants are going to be full... Yeah, I will (watch the Lions). I'll watch them all the way to the Super Bowl."