Before the Pontiac Silverdome’s last game, the Detroit Lions took down the team’s championship banners, which were hung around the very top of the Silverdome. The team did this to keep potential memorabilia collectors from grabbing them, but the banners disappeared for much longer than one last game. It would be almost 11 years before the Lions officially recognized their championship heritage.
On Sunday, the Lions unveiled fifteen banners to celebrate their achievements, for the first time since moving to Ford Field. It was something that many fans had hoped for, and the team finally came through.
The banners celebrate the Lions’ four NFL championships with silver banners, the Lions’ eight division championships with blue banners, and the Lions’ playoff appearances with three banners on the other side of the field.
One very nice touch is the use of accurate Lions logos in each banner. The Lions’ original logo was used in the championship banners and early division titles/playoff years; the Leaping Lion from my childhood is on the three recent division banners and a banner with those playoff years, and the new logo is on the banner honoring last year’s playoff berth. It always bugs me when a team changes their banners to match the current logos or color scheme. In this day and age with every logo available, honor what you won with. I’m happy to see the Lions honoring their history with the right team logos.
The Lions even got the conference logos correct for most of the banners, as the updated NFC logo is on the most recent banner, and the old NFC logo is on the others. In the playoff banners, the old NFC logo had three stars, the current one four. When the NFL realigned into four divisions per conference, the logos were changed to add a fourth star later on, as the stars signified the divisions. (Also, the NFL logo was changed to have eight stars, to represent the eight divisions.)
However, for the divisions won before 1970, there should be no conference logo – as there were no conferences then. In 1970, the NFL merged with the upstart AFL, into one big NFL. This merger created the Super Bowl, then between the NFL and AFL champion, and added teams like New England, Oakland, Buffalo, and San Diego to the league. However, since the league grew to 26 teams, and was already set up to end in an NFL/AFL matchup, the NFL split the league into two conferences. The NFC consisted of the former NFL teams, and the AFC consisted of the former AFL teams (plus Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Baltimore, to even out both sides at 13 teams). Before that, the Lions were in just the NFL, split into three divisions.
If anything, the Lions should have no logo, or an NFL logo on those early division banners. But, since the logos didn’t exist, and the team may have wanted to keep the NFL logo on championships only, the NFC logo might have been put on for visual consistency over historical consistency.
The Lions are finally a complete team again. A great team, an undefeated 1-0 record, a stadium in the city of Detroit, and the reconciliation with the team’s past glories. All is finally right in Detroit. Time to move forward – and hang some more banners at this time next year.
Gordon Fall has been around the Detroit sports scene for his entire life and even entered the world with a Red Wings hockey stick in hand. With a variety of connections around the Detroit area, Fall will be presenting the unspoken, yet optimistic truth of our city’s sports scene.