I did something today that I haven't done in over a decade.
I bought an official Detroit Lions jersey sporting the name of our newest first round acquisition, Ndamukong Suh.
"What?" many of you may ask.
Yes that was me.
Yes that was me, too.
You see, over the years I've acquired sweats and hoodies and caps and mugs and jackets, but I haven't bought a jersey since Barry left.
Over the years, I've been buying generic Lions gear because I still held onto the idea of Lions football and still passionately supported the team, but the realist in me knew that under its horrific administration, the team would never win.
Over the years I became a cynic.
We would continue to draft busts, we would continue to play coaching roulette, we would continue to pass the buck, and we would continue to be the laughing stock of the league.
I had loyalty, but I didn't have any faith, and that's an empty place to be as the fan of any team.
So I held onto my Barry Sanders jersey like a security blanket, wearing it out for every game as if it would somehow conjure up the old magic; an act that was more akin to curling up into a ball and sucking my thumb.
And as the years rolled by and the Barry Sanders era became just a faded memory, my jersey became more of a tombstone memorializing a franchise long gone.
The younger fans started telling me "great old school jersey man!" and I would regale them with Barry stories of yesteryear, proud that I had come up during these times, though sad that they had been so brief.
Hell, I didn't want to be old school.
I wanted to be new school, but like the city of Detroit itself, the Lions were a vacant shell, with rows of abandoned houses slowly decaying to the point where it was hard to imagine that they had once been vibrant and alive.
And so it was easier for me to attach myself to the organization and the city, rather than any specific player or house.
Jerseys are expensive, and it's not like I'm a wealthy guy.
I didn't mind supporting the team with my occasional five or fifteen dollar donations, but I couldn't justify spending over a hundred bucks on a jersey for some guy that probably wouldn't even be on the team in a year or two.
I may be many things, and I've been accused of being overly loyal, but I'm not a sucker!
And when you attach yourself to the individual failures, it just gets harder to take.
It personalizes futility.
And though all the losing has been hard, it's easier as one large collective loss rather than a conglomeration of a billion individual ones.
The Barry Sanders jersey was a reminder of a happier time, but it was also my denial.
It was my shield.
But yesterday, without hesitation, I bought an Ndamukong Suh jersey.
Not because I'm naive enough to think he will be an all-time great (though he might be), not because I think the Lions are somehow going to win the Superbowl this year, and not because I've lost my reverence for the old school.
I bought a new Lions jersey because I have faith again.
I bought a new Lions jersey because I didn't feel like a sucker for doing it.
I bought a new Lions jersey because, finally, sensible moves are being made by the Lions' front office, and it's clear that the team is putting in the research, the hard work, and due diligence to provide a winner in Detroit.
I bought a new Lions jersey with the full knowledge that players get injured, that even the most promising players sometimes bust, and that the Lions still have a long ways to go until they can be mentioned with some of the more successful teams in the league.
Mostly, I bought my new Lions jersey because it's time to put the old one away.
It's been a dear friend, and I'll still pull it out from time to time when I'm feeling old school.
But lord knows we're long overdue for a little "new school" in Detroit.