Since Ford Field opened in 2002, Eastern Market has been the place to be for tailgating on Lion’s game day. On those Sunday afternoons in the fall, the parking lots throughout the market are bathed in Honolulu blue with vehicles and tents everywhere painted or trimmed in the team’s colors. The fans milling about waiting for the game to start are proudly wearing Lion’s tee shirts, sweatshirts or jerseys with their favorite player’s name and number. Cycling around the market, I was amazed at the variety of vehicles featuring the home team colors. I spotted buses, motor homes, golf carts, scooters and cars across the area sporting the team’s blue and silver colors. There was even a working Lions hot tub set-up with bathers enjoying a cold beer.
The atmosphere riding around the market before game time reminded me of a gathering of family and friends for an afternoon barbecue at a local park. Grills were fired up and smoking; steaks, chicken, and other meats were sizzling away alongside vegetables, filling the air with the sweet smell of barbecued food. In some sections of the hazed over parking lots, people were lined up filling their plates from the variety of foods found on giant-sized barbecue pits. The younger crowd’s pre-game nourishment of choice seemed to be bratwurst, burgers and beer, in no particular order.
In addition to the barbecue smoke and rich smells of the food, there was a lot of other buzz in the air. Music was coming from everywhere, including two different bands set-up on opposite ends of the market, both blasting music from their respective sound systems. One featured heavy metal music, reminiscent of the band Black Sabbath. The other was cranking out Detroit style rock-n-roll. Adding to the mix were small sound systems scattered throughout the gatherings playing all types of music. I also heard pre-game statistics and predictions coming from radios tuned to local sports stations.
There was a lot of movement in the crowds as well. Decked-out Detroit Lions golf carts were zipping around, and believe it or not so were little electric-powered coolers one could sit on and drive. Quite cool! Footballs were flying through the air as dads played catch with their youngsters, and college age kids were throwing long bombs to each other across the parking lots. Beanbag toss seemed to be the activity of choice for those tailgating. Most of the closed-off streets in the market and parking lot lanes had many toss games going on. Judging by the cheering of those watching, you’d think the Lions finally won a game!
Close to the 1 p.m. kick-off time, fans holding tickets began to pack away their grills, tents and other belongings before heading over to Ford Field to watch their beloved Lions. It seemed everyone left at once, setting off a mass exodus as hundreds, maybe thousands, of those tailgating at the Market made their way down Gratiot Avenue to the stadium. Once there, it was like a freeway that’s suddenly reduced to one-lane, with thousands of Honolulu blue-clad people all trying to funnel their way into stadium.
I understand the Lions finally won on this Sunday afternoon, beating the St. Louis Rams 44-6. A perfect ending for their loyal fans!