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Motor City awash in ‘Honolulu Blue’ as Lions create magic in Detroit

To borrow words from the late, great Marvin Gaye, “What’s going on?”

Oh, I’ve certainly heard. My hometown is in a state of emergency – uh, euphoria ‒ over those gritty Leos. Never mind the Arctic blast that recently blew through Detroit. The people are warmed by Lions Fever, which surely hasn’t come around every winter but strikes now like Halley’s Comet.

The Lions will have a chance on Sunday to win a championship game for the first time since 1957.

No, I didn’t witness the 1957 blowout of the Cleveland Browns at Briggs Stadium, which was situated four miles from where I grew up on Detroit’s west side. But it’s in the history books. And I find it interesting that to advance to that crowning finale, the Lions had to win a playoff game at San Francisco.

To get to this season’s crowning game, Super Bowl 58, the Lions have to beat the 49ers. Hmmm. Maybe there’s some sort of cosmic force – on the other side of the “Bobby Layne Curse” – working with all that grit Dan Campbell has preached about.

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In any event, there’s another chapter in Detroit sports history being written by the current Lions that has moved longtime followers. Win or lose on Sunday, the Lions have already claimed a beloved place of lore. That I know because of the passion I’m feeling from relatives, old classmates and longtime friends through text messages, calls, videos and social-media posts.

And, to borrow from another classic Motown tune, I’ve heard it through the grapevine that in this run-up to another huge title game, the Motor City is awash in ‘Honolulu Blue.’

‘Honolulu Blue’ is everywhere in Detroit

Honolulu what? That’s the specific shade of blue belonging to the team – and its people.

Thus, the Spirit of Detroit monument downtown on Woodward Avenue is wearing a blue Lions jersey. Office towers, like the Renaissance Center and DTE Energy, are lit up in blue. The Old Main building on Wayne State’s campus? Blue. And it’s a thing now for people to use blue lights to illuminate their porches. What in the name of Lem Barney?

There are blue cocktails served in honor of the Leos. And blue popcorn.

Then there’s the hair. Amon-Ra St. Brown, the special Lions receiver with great hands, christened the playoffs by dyeing his hair Honolulu Blue. It has sparked a local trend. Even a longtime fan in hospice care in Saginaw, about 100 miles north of Detroit, now has blue hair.

Talk about Lions pride. No, Stephen A. Smith, the Lions haven’t saved the city from decades of deterioration. Much of that, longtime residents will tell you, is linked to economic factors that include the city not getting a fair share of federal and state recovery funds following the devastating 1967 riots; massive downsizing of the auto industry; a significant population exodus and government corruption. But the football team has surely enabled some unity among the masses.

That’s what a sports team is capable of when it blossoms like these Lions have. Ford Field was a madhouse last weekend for the victory against Tampa Bay, like it was a week earlier for the playoff opener against the Rams. And I mean madhouse in a good way, amplified by the deafening roar.

There were grown men crying as they celebrated victory. Serious, emotional stuff.

So many Detroiters have supported the Lions through thick and thin (hello, 0-16), which is why it’s a shame the franchise has already capitalized on its new prowess by raising season-ticket prices for next season.

Of course, the cloud-nine feeling has been there before. I had moved away by the time the Detroit Pistons had their “Bad Boys” championship run, winning the first two of their three NBA titles in 1989 and 1990. Yet a vivid memory from a visit home during that period was the rallying cry, “Deee-troit Basketball.” The serenade, originated by PA announcer John Mason, wasn’t reserved exclusively for games; it caught on throughout the city.

Which brings to mind the “Ja-red Goff! Ja-red Goff!” chants from fans at Ford Field, which apparently began when ex-Lions QB Matthew Stafford returned earlier this month with the Rams. And at a recent Red Wings game, fans broke out the Goff chant at Little Caesars Arena.

Campbell knows the strong connection between the people and their Detroit teams. When he took over as Lions coach in 2020, during his opening press conference, he referenced “biting kneecaps.” But he also declared something else that may have been overlooked.

He said he wanted to have a team that the city would be proud of. He never forgot the love and passion he felt during his Lions years as a tight end, which included being on injured reserve during the 0-16 campaign in 2008.

Then again, the “kneecaps” declaration was enough to win over a particular fan base for a team that had been pushed around too long.

Take it from my sister. She is a huge Campbell fan. It’s the authenticity that connects.

A few months ago during training camp, when I told her I was scheduled to visit that day with Campbell, her eyes lit up like something from back in the day, when she was all crazy about The Jackson 5.

Fast-forward to this week: Sister went to the salon and had her nails done. Naturally, the fresh coat of polish is Honolulu Blue.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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