Nickelback, The Detroit Lions And The Sound Of Silence

Bigger Than the Sound pens an open letter to the long-suffering Lions about how to handle their latest public-relations disaster.

Dear Detroit Lions,

How’s it going? You don’t have to answer; I was just being polite. After all, everyone knows things are going pretty well right now. You guys are 6-2, putting up points like it’s nobody’s business. Calvin Johnson is a beast. Ndamukong Suh is terrifying. Matthew Stafford has avoided injuring himself while putting on his backward ball cap. For the first time in a long time, things are looking up in the Motor City — at least when it comes to football.

Anyway, I’m writing because I’m concerned. Not really about your chances of making the playoffs (they appear to be pretty solid), but about Nickelback . As you are probably aware, someone (presumably within your organization) booked them as the halftime entertainment at your annual Thanksgiving game, which this year just so happens to be against the undefeated, Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, meaning that for once, folks will be tuning in for reasons other than “tryptophan coma.” And, this, as you are most certainly aware, is a problem.

See, recently, one of your fans started an online petition asking you to remove the ‘Back from the halftime festivities, mostly because he is afraid it will give the national TV audience the wrong idea about your fair city (I know!). He has wisely brought up the fact that there is no shortage of artists who are actually from Detroit, and all of them would be a better fit than the hard-partying Canadian rockers . And he has called the very validity of your franchise into question, chalking the performance up to little more than “some sort of ploy to get people to leave their seats during halftime to spend money on alcoholic beverages and concessions.”

He is not alone in those suspicions, either. So far, more than 50,000 people have signed the petition. People are angry (“Haven’t the good people of Detroit been through enough?” one signee asks). Quite simply, this is a public-relations disaster on par with the Matt Millen era.

But here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be. For three days now, I’ve been leaving messages with your media relations department, trying to get some sort of statement from the team about this whole debacle. So far, I’ve yet to receive a reply. That’s not good, guys. Maybe you’re not super psyched to have Nickelback perform at what is arguably your biggest game since the 1991 NFC Championship, or maybe Bob Seger just wasn’t available, but the simple fact is this: You guys have to say something.

Maybe you just release a statement, explaining that your hands are tied and this whole thing is the fault of some Canadian sympathizer within the NFL. Perhaps you say head coach Jim Schwartz is a huge Nickelback fan (he sort of looks like one, really) and their performance was contractually obligated. You could even say Kid Rock personally recommended them, since that at least seems somewhat plausible. The bottom line is, your silence isn’t helping matters; it’s making them worse. Perhaps worse than they’ve ever been. And for a team that’s spent something like five decades disappointing its fanbase, that’s quite an accomplishment.

And here’s the thing: You don’t even have to say something nice. You could just come out and say “Deal with it, Lions fans. Nickelback are playing.” That one might not go over as poorly as you’d imagine, either. After all — and I say this as a Buffalo Bills fan — Lions backers have been through tragedies far worse than this. They watched as Barry Sanders retired. They’ve witnessed one playoff victory in 53 years. They’ve seen players die of heart attacks on the field and All-Pro defensemen suspended for gambling on games. They sat by as you drafted Joey Harrington, Roy Williams and Charles Rogers. They endured Marty Mornhinweg. Steve Mariucci. Wayne Fontes in Mickey Mouse ears. The list is as endless as it is psychologically scarring … and, frankly, a Nickelback performance would probably only rank somewhere in the middle of it.

So, really, it’s time to speak up. It would seem that Nickelback are locked in for halftime, so you might as well get behind them. In doing so, you’d manage to avoid what is very quickly becoming an avalanche of bad publicity. It may not be fair to Lions fans, but then again, neither was the 2008 season.

Sincerely,
James