Local couple and other fans see football history in the making
TRI-CITY AREA — The success of the Detroit Lions this season has been something to remember.
With a NFC North division championship in hand and their first play-off win in over 30 years (24-23 over Matthew Stafford and the LA Rams), die-hard Lions fans, both young and old, are celebrating their post season success.
Among those long time faithful fans that suffered through many miserable losing seasons and dashed dreams of having a winning NFL team in Detroit are Jim and Diana Nolin of Imlay City.
The Nolins are celebrating their 40th anniversary of being season ticket holders and hard core fans of the Lions, having weathered just about every storm to see the boys in Honolulu Blue and Silver.
Their four-decade journey started at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1983 when the couple decided it was time to become season ticket holders in 1984.
Both Diana and Jim agree Diana is the hard core fan. Jim is pretty much along for the ride, and memories.
“I started out as a college football fan, but quickly changed to the NFL and Detroit has been my team. Through thick and thin,” said Diana.
The adventure has produced years of heartache, frustration and embarrassment, with some winning moments sprinkled in for good measure.
Perhaps one of the highlights was a play-off win over Dallas back in 1991, the last post season win for the Lions up until January 14 of this year.
Other highlights have been becoming friends with several former Lions players including Lomas Brown and Herman Moore.
“I used to bake them cookies back in the day,” Diana said with a chuckle. “Lomas is a great guy, except he sold a Barry Sanders jersey of mine at a benefit auction. I was bummed, but he made up for it.”
Boy did he! Brown snagged a Sanders game-worn jersey after a game, had him autograph it and he gave it to Diana. The framed jersey now proudly hangs in the Nolins’ home.
The Nolins paid $300 for their first two season tickets at the Silverdome in 1983.
They were able to go to the stadium, look around at different locations and settled on a pair of seats at the five-yard line.
“They had some ok teams,” Jim recalled. “They were 8-8, 9-7. Not horrible. We got a kick out of seeing Barry Sanders play, along with some others. They’ve had some good individual players over the years.”
After 20 years in the Silverdome, Jim and Diana, and the rest of the Lion faithful fans, were excited for the move to downtown Detroit to Ford Field.
“It’s a different type of crowd now,” Diana said. Added Jim, “We used to be entertained by all the fights at the Silverdome. We don’t see much of that at Ford Field. It’s a different clientel there.”
With the move to Ford Field, the price of seats went up as well. Especially this year, after all the success the team has had.
“We were told our seats were going up to almost $5,400 for next year,” Jim said. Diana said the price hike almost made her rethink holding on to her tickets.
“Here we are, having gone through everything the team has. We’ve been right there with them and they do that to the season ticket holders? I couldn’t believe it. They have some success and they make us pay for it.”
Despite the drastic price hike, the Imlay City couple decided to hold on to their season tickets for next year.
“When I was thinking about it, I thought to myself–now watch. We give up our seats and then they’ll have a great year,” Diana said with a laugh.
“Now look at them! We are so glad to have them still this year. It’s been wonderful and so exciting for those of us who have been though so much. And the organization too.”
The Nolins have held pretty tight to their tickets and have missed only a few games over 40 years. Thanksgiving is always spent at Lions games as the diehard fans giveup their turkey dinner for the Lions.
“There were days where we ended up eating bologna sandwiches on Thanksgiving,” Jim recalled. “There were some times when we went to a family members home (in Oxford) after the game too.”
One wouldn’t have to look hard in the Nolin home to see mountains of Lions swag and keepsakes.
While laughing, the couple recalled having shirts, sweatshirts, hats, jewelry and even lucky Lion socks. They were recently gifted with a Lions jacket honoring their 40 years of faithful attendance at games.
“In the old days we got to go to the Quarterbacks Club the day after games (at the Silverdome),” said Jim. “We got to know a lot of players there and (Coach) Wayne Fontes. They were all great people.”
Now, you can find the Nolins sitting in section 108 at Ford Field, about 16 rows off the field, to get the best view of the field.
“The guy that is on the TV boom, he was always in the way when we sat closer to the field,” Jim recalled. “Our seats now are just right. High enough to see past them and we still are pretty close to the players.”
Knowing they have “gold in their hands” this year, the Nolins are holding on to their play-off tickets.
“I might have cried when they won over the Rams,” Diana said. “I’m hoping I cry a lot more before this year is over. They are doing great!”
Don’t bother asking the Nolins to sell their tickets. I tried already!
UPDATE: The support of the Nolins and thousands of other Lions fans paid off, with a thrilling win over Tampa Bay Sunday evening. The Lions (14-5 overall) now advance to the National Football Conference Championship game in California. Detroit will take on San Francisco Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m.
The winner advances to the Super Bowl against the winner of Baltimore vs. Kansas City.
Although they won’t be there in person, the Nolins, and hundreds of other fans in the Tri-City Times area, will be doing everything they can from a distance in cheering their team on to victory.