The Lions fell to the Packers in Green Bay in 2005 partly because of Samkon Gado's "pass" out of the end zone. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
To some, it's hallowed ground. To others, it's a haunted house.
But what Lions coach Jim Schwartz earlier this week called a "cold, hard fact" -- his new franchise's 18-game losing streak in the state of Wisconsin -- can truly make only one man shiver as he prepares for another trip to Green Bay this weekend.
The Lions haven't won at Lambeau Field since 1991, four months after the collapse of the Soviet Union and four months before the team drafted a kicker out of Washington State named Jason Hanson. In between, the Packers traded for a fellow named Brett Favre, and for most of the last two decades, Hanson, now in his 18th NFL season, has known nothing but defeat in America's Dairyland.
The streak itself actually began at Milwaukee's County Stadium, where the Packers hosted this NFC divisional rivalry from 1992-94. Ask Hanson what he remembers about that first game in '92 -- a 38-10 loss on a snowy, 20-degree December day -- and he simply laughs.
"That I couldn't stand up straight," he said. "The field was frozen. I was in a turf shoe, and their kicker had these nine-inch cleats, and I remember thinking, 'Oh, I'm never gonna survive in this league.' "
'We'll get rid of it'
He has, of course, despite his franchise's better efforts to the contrary. But the streak has survived, too, with last-second field goals and second-half rallies and a few ice follies that require a Lambeau Leap in logic to believe. Barry Sanders rushing for minus-1 yard in that 1994 playoff loss? The windswept OT collapse in 2004? Samkon Gado's "pass" out of the end zone in '05? Ramzee Robinson getting flagged for a taunting penalty in last year's 0-16 finale? (That one still floors me, by the way.)
And while it's interesting that Schwartz chose to bring the subject up this week -- most coaches act like Sgt. Schultz when confronted with this kind of history -- you get the feeling Hanson, by now, has grown uncomfortably numb to the questions. For him, the streak is more than just a number, and yet that's the best way for him to explain just what it is.
"Most of the guys here don't care about it, because it doesn't mean anything to them," he said. "But for those of us who have been here ... it's one of those things where, 'They're not a good team, and here's one of the stats that says it.' Once we're good enough, we'll get rid of it."
'Where are we going?'
Until then, they'll be stuck admiring the view, one that begins with a game-day bus ride unlike any other in professional sports.
"You're driving through the 'Wonder Years' neighborhood, thinking, 'Where are we going?' " punter Nick Harris said. "And then you turn right and there's a football stadium in the middle of the neighborhood. There's so many cool things about it, and that's one of 'em: It's that town's team. It's a tight-knit community where it's 'our' team."
Of course, it is that -- literally. The NFL's only publicly-owned team has a waiting list for season tickets that's longer than this ridiculous losing streak. And for folks who've never experienced a football Sunday at Lambeau, it's a sight to behold, no question.
"There's not too many stadiums you go to where you see those orange hunting jackets or guys wearing raccoon caps to a game," Harris said. "There's a lot of stuff that's just unique to that place."
But a win Sunday for the Lions? Now that'd be really unique.
Lions at Packers
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.
TV/radio: FOX/WXYT 97.1
Records: Lions 1-4, Packers 2-2
Line: Packers by 13 1/2