Thoughts on the Cleveland-Detroit rivalry



Pittsburgh gets most of the sports hate in this town thanks to the Steelers, but 2.5 hours the other direction sits Detroit, a city that collectively may be Cleveland’s biggest rival.

With Detroit sitting across the border in that state up North, it’s reason enough for Northeast Ohioans to harbor some hatred, but throw in the fact the Pistons were the a consistent roadblock for the LeBron era Cavs to overcome, and the rise of the Tigers meant the AL Central champion would have to go through Detroit as opposed to the corner of Carnegie and Ontario and the plot thickens.

In college I had the misfortune of gaining a best friend from that state up North who rocked his Tiger’s hat proudly, believed in the “legend” of Mr. Big Shot, and hung a Barry Sanders poster in the corner of our living room. Perhaps the only reason we stayed friends was that he wore Sparty Green on Saturdays instead of Maize and Blue.

Luckily for me there were four other Cleveland fans in the house to pile on our poor buddy. Some of the most strenuous moments in all of our friendships resided over drunken debates between the collective sports successes of the two cities we supported.Maglio’s homer to send the Tigers to the World Series or LeBron’s game 5 in The Palace?

Grady Sizemore or Curtis Granderson?

Who has it worse? Browns’ fans or Lion’s fans?

Hitsville, USA or Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame?

Pistons’ seven straight Eastern Conference Finals or seven years of LeBron?

Kid Cudi vs. Kid Rock?

And the list goes on and on.

Both cities have proud people that have fallen on hard times in recent years. I’ve witnessed Detroit fans try and infiltrate The Q with chants of “DEEE-troitttt Bassketballll” to have Clevelanders respond with “DEEE-troitttt ____ our balls”. Along with “Let’s Go Tigers” chants at Progressive Field answered with “De-troit’s bankrupt”.

While both of those instances make Cleveland appear nasty and spiteful it truly all is in good fun. Ask any tribe fan who’s worn his Indian’s jersey inside Comerica and I promise you he won’t tell you a tale of warm and cozy welcome. That’s part of sports and that’s part of rivalry. The games are more fun when you can’t stand the other team or their fans as opposed to a cozy love fest.

GLC Barge

The Great Lakes Classic Barge. [Photo/]

However, lost in much of the hatred between the two towns are the Browns and the Lions. This partially has to do with neither team having a recent history of success but also the fact the teams play each other so little. The two teams compete in the annual preseason Great Lakes Classic (GLC), but play just once every four years in the regular season with this Sunday being the first since 200

Aside from the ’09 game the only other memory I have from a Browns-Lions game is Lion’s center Dominic Raiola taunting the end zone I was sitting in by pointing at us and aggressively grabbing at his crotch – a horrifying site for a young boy sitting in the third row or for anyone not named Dominic Raiola. That game back in ’09 was the highlight of Brady Quinn’s career, throwing for 300 yards, 4 TD’s, and 0 INT’s, but the game is remembered for the Browns being called for pass interference on Matt Stafford’s Hail Mary with no time remaining. The penalty gave Detroit an untimed down from the one yard line and allowed Stafford, who had separated his shoulder the play before, to find Brandon Pettigrew for the winning score.


I wish the teams played more often so that instead of only me having that disgusting memory of Raiola the whole city would hate this asshole.

I wish Phil Taylor and Ndamukong Suh had hysterical twitter wars, and instead of battling for the little bronze barge in the pre-season we had memories of Phil Dawson kicking a game winning field goal and sprinting to the Lions sideline to reclaim what is ours.
With the current division alignment in the NFL this is impossible. While I understand the importance of historical rivalries in the NFL like Lions/Packers and Packers/Bears, I wish city rivalries could stream across all sports.

Part of what makes college and high school rivalries1 so great is they sprawl across the entire athletic department and into the community. I recognize this isn’t completely feasible to do because not all cities have teams in the same sports, but imagine a baseball division that included the Indians, Reds, Tigers, and Pirates and a football division to match with the Browns, Bengals, Steelers, and Lions. Throw in the Brewers and the Packers and now we’re really talking.

I doubt this dream will be realized any time soon, so for now we’ll have to cherish the one crack we get every four years at Detroit’s football team. I won’t be feeling bad for “poor Lions fans” on Sunday I’ll be rooting aggressively against the same jerks who have fond places in their hearts for guys like Miggy Cabrera and Rasheed Wallace.

You can be sure I’ll be talking trash to my buddy Jordan before, during, and after the game — assuming it goes well — and you can be sure I’ll be over using the words “Great Lakes Classic”, but most of all you can be sure I’ll be standing tall in that same end zone where Raiola once gestured just praying he gets called for a penalty so I can give him a taste of his own medicine.

  1. Hudson 42 Solon 14 []
  • FearTheRoo

    I hate Pittsburgh sports teams much more than Detroit. Probably because I live in PA and have to deal with them on a daily. They are easily the most fairweather/bandwaggon fanbase in the country. Best example is the Pirates. Nobody cared for 20 years, then all of a sudden this past month they are all lifelong fans. I guess I have a low tolerance for that because Cleveland fans have been through so much and still stand by our teams. Nothing made me happier than seeing the Cardinals knock those idiots out!

  • Nicholee

    Yes!! Thank you!!! I went to college in Western PA and all I got to hear about was how great Pittsburgh fans were – yet my senior year, when the Steelers actually didn’t make the playoffs, I watched their fanhood plummet off a cliff. All the while I’m wearing my Cribbs jersey through thick and thin. I don’t think I saw a single Pirates jersey.

  • NoVA Buckeye

    I feel like this rivalry is just so forgotten by the current NFL format. This is the 1950s equivalent to the 1970s Steelers-Cowboys rivalry and shouldn’t be taken for granted each time the two teams meet.
    Plus, who doesn’t love trophy games?

  • FearTheRoo

    Yup. Most have disappeared this season after the 0-4 start. Yet, they’ll beat the Jets tomorrow and the “fans” will come storming out of the hills.

  • TSR3000

    I grew up in the D and was raised a Cleveland fan. I still live here. Detroit fans hate Chicago and we hate Pittsburgh. Det/Cle is a secondary rivalry at best. Obviously the UM/OSU thing is real but that transcends the two cities. Go blue.

    Both are great blue collar cities and I think we should focus more of our hate on the east coast teams and pitt.

  • Ding

    I thought that ’09 game was in Detroit

  • UnknownMiner

    Pretty much everybody hates Pittsburgh. It’s because of their fans.

    I have buddy who told me with a straight face that the NFL “has it out for the Steelers, man.” He also steadfastly defended Hines Ward and James Harrison as not being dirty players.

  • saggy

    Of course, you must know, the “Go blue” in your reply negates everything else you wrote. In fact, on my computer is just looks like this:

    “$)*#@)D J9(0d Cleveland 0(@37Wde ( (# )(# Pittsburgh md300 3d03d0m 309jdmn033. Go blue.
    oijeowinnf, wfowe34 oei%( noef wmwe.”

  • saggy

    everybody hates Pittsburgh because they win a lot. and they are dirty, unapologetic bad asses. or at least they were. Stupid yinz.