Lions’ Tate calls out fans who left early

Golden Tate doesn't understand how long fans of the Lions have been suffering.

Golden Tate doesn’t understand how long fans of the Lions have been suffering.

Golden Tate is new to Detroit, so he is excused. This time.

Tate, the Detroit Lions’ big free agent signing of the offseason, has only been in Detroit officially since last March, when he fled the Seattle Seahawks to bring his pass catching services to the Motor City.

So Tate can be given a one-time-only free pass for calling out the fans after Sunday’s big win over the New Orleans Saints.

Tate was magnificent in the game, which is becoming nothing new, and he continues to meet or exceed team expectations weekly, giving the Lions instant returns on the five-year, $31 million contract they gave him to leave the defending Super Bowl champs.

Against the Saints, Tate caught 10 passes for a career-high 154 yards, not the least of which was a 73-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown—a score that brought the Lions to within 23-17 late in the fourth quarter.

But it was what happened prior to Tate’s electrifying play that caused the receiver to bristle a little bit after the game.

The Saints had turned a Matthew Stafford interception into a field goal, making the score 23-10 with about five minutes to play.

On the sidelines, Tate apparently let his gaze wander, because he took note of the gaggle of fans that headed for the exits after the Saints took that 13-point lead.

After the game, in the glow of the Lions’ stirring 24-23 win, Tate took a shot at the paying customers who left early, in comments to Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News.

“I will say this — we really do not appreciate the fans leaving after that interception. We need you guys out there, but thanks for the ones that did stay. Did we play perfect? Not at all. We found a way to win.”

Golden, Golden, Golden.

I get that you don’t want to pay for the sins of past Lions teams, but when your franchise hasn’t won a championship since 1957 and only one playoff game since then, you can’t represent the team and say anything about the fans. Can’t do it.

You can’t say diddlysquat about a fan base that’s been paying for 57 years of heartbreak. You can’t breathe a word of indignation or disappointment. And you certainly can’t dog them for leaving a game the Lions were trailing by 13 points with five minutes left, on a day when the offense looked like it was playing in molasses all afternoon.

But again, Tate is new.

At least he doesn’t puff his chest out and squawk that his team should get a pass because, hey, they weren’t even alive in 1957—like so many of his predecessors in Honolulu Blue have done, and on teams that were, in the end, losers.

Still, Tate should watch it in the future with the jabs at the fans, who can be a sensitive lot.

Detroit sports fans not only don’t appreciate being scolded, they demand that their athletes take every loss as hard as they do. Just ask Prince Fielder.

It’s a dangerous arena when you venture into the fan-bashing business. Granted, catching 10 passes for 154 yards and triggering a raucous comeback with a breathtaking touchdown gives you some leeway, but you’d still better be careful.

But Tate, I’m sure, didn’t mean any harm. He hasn’t been a Lion for long, but it’s apparent that the dude doesn’t hold back—on the field or off.
I love how Tate plays football. He’s sort of a poor man’s Steve Smith, the rancorous receiver who played for years in Carolina and who is now with the Baltimore Ravens.

Tate leads the NFL with YAC—yards after catch—and he might be among the league leaders in yack, as well.

But most of what comes out of Tate’s mouth is positive in nature. Even Sunday’s scolding of the fans was done amidst a paragraph of positivism. It was maybe even a throwaway line.

Still, no one associated with the Detroit Lions can say anything negative about the fans, ever—not until the team actually wins something. And I’m not talking about an occasional playoff “run” that lasts 60 minutes, at the most. The postseason appearance in Philadelphia in 1995 barely lasted a quarter.

This is a fan base that sells out Ford Field with ridiculous regularity. I think the last Lions home game that was blacked out was against Washington in 2010.

All this support, and what have the fans gotten in return? One playoff win in 57 years.

So the Lions fans ought to be bowed down to, not scolded. They can leave a game whenever they want. Heck, they don’t even have to bother showing up at all, if you want to know the truth. The Lions fans have cobbled together 57 years’ worth of free passes that should be respected by anyone within the organization, from the players to the secretaries.

No Lions player should call the fans out—until the next championship is won.

But we’ll let Golden Tate have his mulligan. This time.

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