The release of the Detroit Lions' upcoming schedule may be one of the most nerve-racking, and to be frank, usually disappointing football-related release of the year for me. Like many other thousands, I am a fan of the NFL who lives outside of the USA. Like most of those fans, the release of the official 2012 football schedule will have been a huge moment, but not for the normal reasons. While Michigan locals will be busy debating how hard the schedule is, what will be the defining games or even which matchups they most want to see, us internationals are checking in to see how many games we can (legally) see at all.
Barring the exorbitantly expensive Internet options like NFL.com Gamepass that require an Internet connection far superior to what we get in little old New Zealand, the only way to see the Lions, or anyone for that matter, play football live is to watch on the local ESPN broadcasts. However, unsurprisingly, this only picks up the big games, the nationally televised matchups on Sunday and Monday nights (or rather, Monday and Tuesday afternoons on the other side of the world). This means that all of our NFL information is coming from websites like Bleacher Report, ESPN, SI or NFL.com, as are most of the game footage and highlights.
As you can probably guess, this has made supporting the Detroit Lions a difficult task. Although the Lions always had one nationally-televised game at Thanksgiving, outside of the USA local decision-makers often preferred to show the other game live and get around to the Lions if they had space. After all, when the Lions were playing, the results always seemed to be a foregone conclusion, and offensive fireworks only occurred when their defense took the field. Therefore, fans like me were reduced to watching the highlights every week on NFL.com or shuffling through endless websites to find some hand-taped footage of games. Needless to say, this was often an exercise in futility.
You can imagine our excitement then, when in 2011, the Loins were rewarded with a home game on national television against the Chicago Bears. This was shattered, however, when I later discovered that in New Zealand, ESPN had decided to show a baseball playoff game rather than the Lions. I did see the Lions lose to the New Orleans Saints twice in blowout losses, which continued my streak of live Lions losses. In fact, I have yet to watch Detroit win a game on live television. That is the plight of the international fan.
It is no surprise then that the 2012 Lions schedule was greeted with delight by me. Five nationally-televised games to watch, including some high-quality opponents like the Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers. Surely, the Lions will be able to win at least one of these games and bring my live losing streak to an end.
It also allows Detroit Lions fans from around the world to join with the locals in enjoying our team's success. No more following amazing comebacks, like those against the Oakland Raiders or Dallas Cowboys, by boxscores and game updates, and no more recording SportsCenter shows to get a 30-second highlights package of the Lions. We can feel a greater part of this team's resurgence rather than looking in from outside.
So, in conclusion, the next time you sit down to watch the Detroit Lions suit up and go out to play on yet another lazy Sunday afternoon, spare a thought for all of us passionate fans from around the globe. We will be waiting in anticipation for the next time the Lions hit the bright lights of night football. See you there.