DETROIT, MICHIGAN - When the Detroit Lions had their first win in nearly two years - a 19-14 defeat of the Washington Redskins on September 27 - Harry Havisham was there to rejoice in the moment. In fact, he was the only fan in Ford Field that day, just as he has been since things started to tank badly last season.
Mr. Havisham, 41, was probably the only Lions fan to view the historic event. The game was not televised that day because the team failed to sell sufficient tickets before the NFL's 1 p.m. Thursday deadline. Havisham's ticket was the only one sold.
But, after Sunday's blistering 48-24 loss to the Chicago Bears, Havisham told reporters that he is ready to throw in his blue and silver team towel, even though some of the players' wives and children -- who had been absent for the most part since the final quarter of last season -- were there to share the game, along with a smattering of what he called "fair weather fans," sniffing in disdain.
"You don't understand!" Mr. Havisham said to reporters during his break at Blimpie Subs, where he oversees the lettuce-shredding operation. "For practically two years I've been sitting there all by myself. I've been waving my pennant all by myself. I've been doing the wave all by myself. Do you know what that feels like? Jumpin up and sittin down and sticking my hands in the air, pretending like there was other people there doin it with me?" Havisham's chin trembled a little, but he went on.
"I've been a season ticket holder for the last 20 years, but I'm through! I can't take another loss. When that game ended, I was so mad, I just threw my blue and silver beanie right there on the ground and stomped on it.
It's just been humiliating! None of my friends will talk to me during football season. And every Monday when I come into work, everybody here has a field day bustin my ass. Once they took my good luck 'We're #1" pointy finger out of my backpack and were dancing around behind the counter, poking me with it. It was ruined!" Scratching his sad little balding head, he speculated, "Maybe that's why the team kept losing -- because those guys wrecked my good luck pointy finger."
When asked why he hung on so long, Havisham answered, "Well, I felt sorry for the guys on the team. I mean, from where I sit, you can't see their faces, but I thought if you could, they'd be kinda sad. I mean, if it sucks for me, think of what it's doing to them! I figured they needed someone to be there for them."
Mr. Havisham admitted that he doesn't own a car, and usually takes the bus to the stadium. The only season tickets he can afford are "way up in the nosebleed seats." He pushed away suggestions that in an empty stadium, he could have taken any seat. "Oh, no way," he said, lifting his palms and stepping backwards, "Security won't let me! It's against the rules."
"I've wished I coulda, though," he confessed. "Most of the time, the vendors don't make it all the way up to me with their hot dogs and such. I have to go down to the main level, and sometimes the stands aren't open."
Havisham had to cut his interview short when a co-worker shouted from the drive-up window, "Hey loser, your break's up," as other employees flashed thumb-and-forefinger "L's" out the windows at him.
"I don't know, maybe I'll change my mind," he said ruefully, straightening his white Blimpie Subs cap as he turned to walk back to work.