The Detroit Lions sent an e-mail to season ticket holders yesterday, breaking the sad news that Owner and Chairman William Clay Ford, Sr. passed away.
Bill Ford, as he was known to friends and colleagues, was also the grandson of Henry Ford–a man whose vision for the automobile and its assembly-line production had enormous and immeasurable global impact. Bill Ford served on Ford Motor Company’s board of directors for nearly 60 years.
The news of Ford passing conjured up an awful lot of memories for me personally. My father worked for the Ford Motor Company for the first 28 years of my life. Some of the money he made working for Ford contributed to my education.
In the eighties, my dad and a friend had Detroit Lions season tickets. Back then, the Lions played at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. Bill Ford was influencial in the construction of the Silverdome, and moved the Lions there in 1975. From 1975 till 1997, the Silverdome was the NFL’s largest stadium–seating 82,000 fans.
My dad took me to the Silverdome to watch the Lions quite a few times. In a bar in the stadium, called The Main Event, we met then Detroit Piston Darryl Dawkins. That’s one big dude. It was on one of those trips to the Silverdome that I first saw cans of beer on ice in a sink. Of course, cans of beer on ice in a sink would go on to play a fairly significant role in my life.
(By the way, this is me perilously close to the flambuoyant Tubgaters at the Lions tailgate party in Eastern Market, Detroit.)
The Pontiac Silverdome remained home for the Lions until Ford Field was completed in 2001.
Ford Field is a state-of-the-art facility located right in downtown Detroit. Bill Ford had sway in both its construction and its location, and due to its location, Ford Field is a major contributor in the effort to revitalize the Greater Detroit Area. Super Bowl XL (Why they didn’t use ‘The Extra Large One’ as its slogan is beyond me.) was awarded to Ford Field, and that never would have happened without the vision and efforts of Bill Ford. The Super Bowl brought an estimated $260 million into the Metro Detroit area. Wrestlemania 23 was also held at Ford Field, and say what you want about professional wrestling, but it makes money–truckloads of it.
About four years ago, when I started to feel that the Lions were perhaps building a quality product (A fan can dream.), I decided to buy a Lions season ticket of my own. I rarely go, simply because Detroit is a four-hour drive from my adopted city of Toronto. However, I am able to sell the tickets I don’t use for a profit over the internet–using a slick interface provided by the NFL in conjunction with Ticketmaster. It’s nice to have a ticket whenever I decide I want to go though, and I certainly ain’t giving up a 17th-row, 47-yardline season ticket anytime soon.
As a season ticket holder, I have limited access to another state-of-the-art facility that’s construction was influenced by Bill Ford–Allen Park, the Detroit Lions headquarters and training facility. Here is a photograph I took of the world’s most evil athlete signing autograph after autograph for delighted kids at Allen Park.
Bill Ford had that facility built in 2002. It is located in the Allen Park suburb of Detroit, which is home to many of Ford Motor Company’s offices.
As owner of the Detroit Lions for over fifty years, Bill Ford has had a big influence on the shape of the NFL, and going way back to his grandfather’s work with the automobile and the assembly line, the Ford family have arguably had an influence on every one of us. (Think of oil, gas, roads, the evolution of manufacturing, the workers’ movement, and on and on.)
On a personal level, I’ve had at least some sort of contact (relationship, even) with the Ford family over the course of my entire life–so personally, I’d like to let the surviving members of the family know that my thoughts are with you.
(photos credited to Megacity Madman Images)