DETROIT -- During Chad Sweet's 33 years, the Detroit Lions
have rarely given him anything to cheer about.
So on Sunday, he drove more than 60 miles from his home in
Tecumseh to a downtown bar to join a pregame march demanding that
the Lions fire president Matt Millen.
Like hundreds of others, he dressed in orange, like fans of the
Cincinnati Bengals, who beat Detroit 41-17 in the Lions' final home
game of the season.
And like the rest of the crowd, the bar and the rally became an
outlet for watching years of lousy football.
"All of my life we haven't had a whole lot to root for," Sweet
said. "We never really get over the hump. A lot of it seems to be
ownership related or management related."
The march, sponsored by a local sports talk radio station, drew
about 500 people at its start, but the crowd grew to about 1,000 as
the fans walked the five blocks to Ford Field.
Along the way, they chanted "Fire Millen" and "Ho-ho-ho,
Millen must go." Many wore "Fire Millen" T-shirts and orange
hunting gear. They carried signs that said "Commitment to
Ineptness," and "Fed Up." One wore a hat reading, "Blame Ford
First," a twist on one of the automaker's slogans.
Many urged the Ford family to sell the team, but few thought the
march would have an impact.
"I don't think this is going to change anything, not the way
the Fords are," said Rich Lebert, 24, who carried a Millen doll
hanging in effigy from a stick. "But we have to do something so
that they know we care."
Lions chief operating officer Tom Lewand said before the game he
wouldn't comment on the march. "I didn't see it, and it wasn't
part of our gameday operations," he said.
Steven Beaton, 32, said he couldn't understand how Detroit's
basketball and hockey teams can be so good, yet baseball and
football languish near the cellar.
"We've got two good teams here and the other two are
horrible," he said. "That's got to change."
The 19-3 Pistons have the NBA's best record this season, and the
Red Wings are among the top teams in the NHL at 22-9-3. The Lions
have the league's worst record during the past five seasons at
20-57. The Detroit Tigers finished 71-91 this year.
Beaton said the Lions have had a great fan base for the past
five years, but he cautioned, "I don't know how long it's going to
At the previous home game, fans displayed "Fire Millen" signs
and chanted for his dismissal. The scene turned into a circus of
sorts when one fan ran from section to section, dodging security,
with a "Fire Millen" sign, before he was tackled as he ran up
steps toward the exits.
The anti-Millen signs and chants have surfaced at home and away
games of the other Detroit sports teams, as well as at University
of Michigan and Michigan State basketball games.
On Friday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Pistons forward
Rasheed Wallace joined fans in the chant during a late timeout
against the Chicago Bulls. Even when the Pistons played in
Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday night, a fan in the upper deck held a
"Fire Millen" sign.
Lions owner William Clay Ford gave Millen a five-year contract
extension last offseason after four miserable seasons. Ford allowed
the former linebacker to fire coach Steve Mariucci after two-plus
seasons. Mariucci was fired just after Thanksgiving.