On the even of Detroit Lions training camp, July 28, 1999, Barry Sanders, the greatest running back in NFL history retired by faxing a letter to a Wichita newspaper. It was a horrible time to be a Lions fan, the best and sometimes only reason to watch the Lions for years, had just walked away, in his prime.
As we sit here on the even of another Lions training camp I always reflect back to that morning when the news broke that Barry would not be joining the team that year. The team may have made the playoffs, but in standard Lions fashion, lost in the first round and would then go into a tailspin that 12 years later, the Lions are still trying to come out of.
The 90’s we’re a wonderful time to be a Lions fan because of Barry Sanders. Not Wayne Fontes or William Clay Ford or Chuck Schmidt or Scott Mitchell or Herman Moore or Bobby Ross or ANYTHING other than Barry Sanders.
The Lions would make the playoffs every other year and lose, 1991 being the only season with hope, but getting demolished by a fantastic Redskins team in the NFC Championship games still remains the closest this franchise has ever been to a Super Bowl.
But every Sunday I would sit there and watch the greatest runner the game has ever seen, even if he won’t admit so himself. It didn’t matter the final score, Barry would always do something magical and it made the fall Sunday’s seem worthwhile.
So, as the Lions start to trickle into the Allen Park Training Facility tomorrow morning and get their physicals and do what they can to manage during this horribly hot summer and the 2 a days they have coming up I will take some time to watch Barry’s various highlight videos on youtube and think back to those fall Sunday’s when he would spin and juke and make grown men look silly.